Jul 27, 2012

ARTICLE: Teen Author

Nikhil Goyal, Teen Author, Shares Thoughts On How To Reform America's School System 

Despite the incredible accomplishment of writing a published book, many comments--aimed at Mr. Goyal and education--were negative. I just had to write my own.

Good grief, people, he didn't raise taxes or shoot your dog--he wrote a book. Fox Business invited him on their show, asked the questions they wanted to ask, and rushed him out. To criticize him for not sharing more ideas and painting a picture for you in the time that he had is ridiculous. Are we under the impression that he wrote a coloring book? I'm sure his ideas are described in detail.

How does the system improve without a drastic paradigm shift? I'm not talking about reforms and the next best thing. "No, that's crazy. Test the students. Fire the teachers. Cut budgets. Offer choice. It'll work!!" We can't tinker with the system--we have to overhaul it. Mr. Goyal made an excellent point--we have to reinvent the teaching profession...

Teachers and some posters of comments love to make excuses, searching high and low for reasons why we shouldn't change. They blame class-size, parents, schedules, standardized tests, curricula, etc. Yes, some of those things can hinder teaching, but they exist. I've noticed that many teachers complain because change means... well, change and an end to comfort. It's a new world, a new culture, new families, new technologies, and, most importantly, a new breed of student. Several countries understand this, so they made changes, from the top down, and settled in for a long process. Unless we're happy with the present system, the United States needs to rethink everything.

To raise the prestige of teachers, the universities need to be more selective, more rigorous, and more practical. With higher prestige, the relationships between parents and teachers will gradually improve. Also, the profession will feel like a profession, and teachers will find their hearts again, which greatly benefits the students. Schools need autonomy--they need to make independent decisions for their students, teachers, parents, and community. Teachers need to collaborate, creating lessons together and observing one another. Ideas shouldn't come from district "specialists." Formative assessments, differentiation, and feedback need to saturate a teacher's classroom. And, unfounded plans like NCLB and R2T need to disappear... 

It's easy to find success in other countries, in certain districts, and at certain schools. Instead of embracing that success and emulating it, we just point to differences. Or we criticize a 17 year old. That sucks, folks. The administration and many Americans are way off point on education. High-stakes standardized tests, rewards and punishments, competition for money, choice... none of these are going to work. They haven't and they won't. Defeatism and excuses won't work. Blaming parents, students, teachers, and schools won't work. Posting a negative comment at the Huffington Post won't work. Ignoring the research won't work.

So, in my classroom (fifth grade, fifteen years), I decided to stop making excuses. If I want my students to succeed and my parent-teacher relations to improve, I have to change, grow, communicate, relate, and facilitate. It's true... education can get messy, but it's a heck of a lot of fun, and it's worth it. If I ever get to the point that it's not, I need to move on. In the meantime, teachers, we need to fall in love with teaching again, enjoy the students again, and create the greatest classrooms--change will have to happen from the inside out.

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