The effects of the pandemic continue to negatively affect learning in our public schools, and recent reports indicate the nature of the problem is accelerating.
Districts in Arizona and across our nation have experienced an increasing loss of classroom teachers, substitute teachers and bus drivers. These losses have caused some schools to close due to insufficient personnel.
Beyond the staffing problems, there is a need to examine the state of our schools today. To get an accurate analysis, it is necessary to seek the opinions of experienced classroom teachers. During my 48-year teaching career, I have taught in various schools in five states and observed teachers in action in a host of schools across the nation.
Input from friends and former students who are teaching today increases my concern about the current state of our schools. I wanted to see if my concerns are relevant, so, I spoke with a friend who has taught in several school districts. The points she made matched my observations, which led me to write this column. For the last six years, I have taught as a volunteer at Butterfield Elementary, where the administration and faculty have proven diligent in battling these problems.
Our neighborhood school might be doing well, but the ecosystem of education extends far beyond our community, and we must be concerned about the state of public education locally and nationwide.
Rigor in education is useful but it must be matched by resources and training to support the teachers on whom the burden falls. Technology can be a vital tool in the education process, but it tends to cause public expectation of immediate feedback and assessment. If expectations are not met, the teacher receives the blame when the fault might lie with the technological process.
New educational technology and new curriculum require teachers to stay current on “the next new thing” in education. Are they provided the time and resources to do this?
The fourth and greatest concern involves the need for parents to maintain awareness of their child’s daily learning progress and partner with teachers to maximize educational opportunities.
An overriding concern is the need for an environment of respect for teachers. The concerns defined here are real, yet they can be overcome with cooperation between administration, faculty and parents all over our nation.
If children are our future, maximizing learning is the responsibility of all citizens.
Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has more than 44 years of teaching experience and volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.
This column was first published in the February edition of InMaricopa magazine.