I’m running for school board in Beverly Hills – a non-paying job with minimal perks – and we have one week left before the elections. The experience of campaigning has caused me to reflect on the experiences of our kids. I see some similarities.
ME: I am expected to spend money on mailers and newspaper advertising which doesn’t contribute anything to the knowledge of the voters other than name recognition. Perhaps it lets them know who has the better graphic designer, but overall it’s a waste of time and money.
OUR KIDS: We load them up with busy homework that doesn’t add one iota to their knowledge or skills. We don’t let them know the concepts behind the problems or share how and when they will use this homework later in life. And we make them write essays, turn them in, and then don’t give them a response and corrections until weeks later when the essay is forgotten.
ME: As I go door-to-door introducing myself to voters, so many times I’m told that I’m interfering with their meals, or phone calls, or simply that they don’t have time to talk. Sometimes people won’t even take my flyer. One time I had someone slam the door in my face. Again, the school board is not a paying position, but does require in inordinate amount of time and self-sacrifice.
OUR KIDS: Do we set aside enough office hours and time for our students? Do we make them feel welcome and appreciate that they have come to us for help? Or do we have no arrangements to meet with them outside of class and when we do, we make them feel as if they are intruding on our time?
ME: In California we have the Brown Act, which prohibits board members from communicating with each other outside of publicly broadcasted meetings. Yet in our businesses we normally call our associates, brainstorm with them, bounce ideas off each other and allow the freedom to say outrageous things just to get to the good ideas.
OUR KIDS: Most classrooms are designed with desks in a row, putting our kids in isolation and not allowing them to interact with each other. And if they do, they are frequently reprimanded. We lecture to them without knowing if they understand what is taught and we send them home to work homework problems – again alone. My daughter had her entire semester English grade dropped a letter when she and her friends formed a study group to answer questions in preparation for a test. And the kids are continuously tested. They make mistakes and are punished with bad grades. There is no room for making mistakes and learning from them.
But I admit I have it easy. I don’t have to lug around a 25-pound backpack all day. I don’t have to listen to a lecture that goes in one ear and out the other because I’m not an auditory learner, and then go home and struggle with homework problems that I don’t understand. I don’t have parents who are uninterested in my school and make me wonder why I should go everyday.
What can we do to relieve our kids’ angst of school and make their educational experience better? What about starting by being nice to them. Just once, let’s listen without being judgmental and offering our advice and opinions. Just once, let’s not lambast them when they come home with a bad grade. Just once, let’s give them a hug and tell them they are special and loved.