You’re not crazy

By Posted in - Advocating for students & Blog & Reform and Re-imagining of Education on April 26th, 2014 1 Comments

Seriously, you’re not.

I don’t know if there’s something in the air or what, but I’ve had so many students, parents and teachers tell me stories lately about broken schools, I have to share it.

Know this: if something feels wrong, it probably is. There are a lot of people going through the same thing. So often we feel alone, wondering if we’re off base, if we worry too much. Too many students struggle and suffer needlessly, and you’re not crazy, even though systemic dysfunction would have you believe so.

The proverbial elephant in the room

Consider this…

Teachers often share with me that they don’t have a voice

They’re afraid of backlash for speaking their truth in the best interest of students. They tell me about getting glares, being shunned, “causing trouble” when trying to do the right thing. They may risk non-renewal or firing.

Parents often share with me that they don’t have a voice

They fear that if they speak up, their child will suffer somehow.

Many parents have gotten the run-around so many times they’re ready to explode.

A parent recently told me that the school was requiring their high schooler to take the ACT test– that the entire school “had” to take it. She wrote to the admin, “Since my son can barely complete 50% of the ACT exam, and with low accuracy, and is not getting needed accommodations, we would prefer for him to opt out of the 4/23 exam. Please confirm: We want to ensure there is No Penalty against our son for opting out of the April 23rd exam. The practice test had 75 questions. In the time provided, he got 34 correct responses.” After a few cryptic replies, she finally had to go in person to get a clear “no, he will not be penalized.”

Schools can’t force kids to take tests, but they certainly don’t tell you about your rights to opt-out either. In fact, a lot of people get angry at the thought of kids opting out, driven by a scarcity mindset and fear that funding will get cut. Either way, listen to your gut, keep advocating until your child’s needs are properly met.

You’re not alone

One parent wrote me about her situation, “He is quite behind and very disorganized and discouraged. He has a list of missing assignments. Some are missing, some not finished or finished and just not turned in. He is very discouraged with school, doesn’t seem to care. Feels he can’t improve his grade. Doesn’t want to make up missed assignments because he feels he is still going to flunk. I don’t know what to do. We all know he is smart, except him.” I hear a similar story with different words all the time. You’re not alone. Keep pushing forward.

Nonsense policies or rules

A parent recently wrote me about a situation they were dealing with, “This is RIDICULOUS!  Why are they concerned about things that are so trivial???? I am thinking about finding a different school. I feel very guilty for putting my son in a situation where he feels sad, stressed, angry  and “stupid.”” Too many people are wasting time with trite issues.

Rigidity

A lot of the families I work with deal with teachers who are so rigid that you wonder why they became teachers. Some simply don’t have the inner tools needed to properly serve students. Unfortunately, school leadership doesn’t always support teachers to develop their craft much beyond mandatory “staff development” and ineffective accountability procedures. If you feel like someone doesn’t get your kid, you’re probably right.

IEP, 504

Ever sit through an IEP or 504 meeting baffled by lip service and how challenging it is to help a student in need? 10 people crammed in a small room for 30 minutes to discuss the complex needs of an outside-the-box learner doesn’t cut it. Not to mention, parents often tell me they don’t feel like anyone even reads/honors these documents.

Just waiting for this school year to be over

I am deeply disturbed every time I hear a parent discuss this. We live in a country that provides free education to its citizens. We are really screwing it up when kids are suffering so much that families are just waiting for it to be over! And the upcoming year is a crapshoot. What an unnecessary disservice! School can and should be fun, engaging, and rewarding for all learners.

Shit show

When I asked one of my teacher friends how her year was going, she said, “this year’s been a shit show.” Bigger classes, less planning time, more paperwork, less autonomy, more time working from home, cut arts, less support, another new curriculum, no raise again, etc.. Teachers tell me similar stories all the time. Our kids deserve teachers who are taken care of. Period.

 

Hero

It’s hard for a system to question patterns or long held beliefs. If you’re trying to change things to ensure that students are getting what they need to write their own scripts in life, and you run up against barriers that baffle you, you’re not crazy. Standing up for the rights of kids to experience great education is the work of the humble hero. You are sane and students need you (I’m speaking to parents, educators, therapists, and anyone else interested in kids). Your voice matters, your willingness to stand up for effective education matters. It’s literally heroic.

We are the stewards of a wild new world and taming it can be exhausting and discouraging. Don’t give in. We are leaving this world to the children we love, the stakes are high. It’s a time of unprecedented change, which is terrifying and thrilling at the same time. There are tremendous problems we are leaving our children to deal with and massive hope, but education is key. People everywhere are stepping up and making a huge difference. It is imperative, vital, critical that we give our kids the type of education they need to solve the problems they are growing up with.

You matter. You absolutely, definitely, positively, matter. You are Joseph Campbell’s hero, on a transformative journey, digging deep, slaying dragons. Everything you do to make things better, matters, so keep it up. Keep raising the vibration and empowering our kids.

Thank YOU for being a part of the solution. Shine on.

 

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(1) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Jay Stott - Reply

    April 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Seth,
    Much of what you say is true, and I appreciate your inclusion of many voices. What is happening in education today is fundamentally political, and until people understand that, and become engaged at many levels, there will be more of the same. From choosing not to tax ourselves to improve things such as public education, to electing leaders (from your school board to the sitting president) whose vision of education ‘reform’ leads to the situations you describe, it is the political process that is driving these situations, and the only solution is political engagement by everyday people.

    On a positive note, there is a lot of political engagement happening at local, state and national levels, and many people are working together to try to create a better system. It is everyday people, parents, teachers, students, citizens, who will ultimately bring about fruitful change. But the challenges are huge, and not just systemic, so the more people who get involved, the better process we will have, and the better solutions we will reach. So I encourage people to ask tough questions of their representatives, from the local school board to national level candidates. Hold those people accountable for the system they are promoting, and if you don’t agree, vote for someone else.
    -JS

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