What makes an education effective? Is it high marks on standardized tests? Perhaps we can measure success by graduation rate. Or is there something more? As a past and likely future educator, I believe the effectiveness of an education lies in finding a way to open a student’s mind to possibility. I recall the days of my twenties—assisting a classroom of threes, fours, and fives—witnessing the reaction of a child who suddenly “gets it”. It was in those moments where I found my feelings of accomplishment.
Today, I have a school-age daughter and keeping her engaged in her schoolwork is its own reward. With the pull of technology ever-present, my wife and I compete with the tablet for the little one’s attention. Most days, she finishes her homework on the bus or at Mom-mom’s house, before we see her. A quick review shows whether she gave correct answers or if we need to review. We can’t be there for tests, so we have to ensure her grasp is firm while sitting at the dining room table.
We are engaged in our daughter’s education. We contact the teachers with concerns. My wife volunteers at the school when schedule permits. We talk to our daughter about what she’s learning. Despite our best efforts, our daughter does not bring home 100s. What are we doing wrong?
Across the country, children complete homework with no input from Mom or Dad or anyone else. Kids go to school with neither lunch nor money and are too shy or embarrassed to eat “free” lunch. Somewhere right now, a child knows the answer but is not going to speak up for fear that he’ll be ridiculed or she’ll be deemed not-cool.
Kids need to feel safe and secure and that they’re a part of something much larger. If, as a nation and as a society, we would impress upon our children that education is imperative, perhaps we can get every kid engaged in his and her own learning. Could we somehow let them know that they are the future and they’ll be standing in our shoes one day? Can’t we teach them how important they really are and that the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders?
Maybe we can simply tell them they are ok; it’s ok to fail a test or get an answer wrong. There’s a larger picture and they are both the artist and the subject. Maybe we can teach them that one of the primary goals of education is the love of learning and that they have time to learn this. In the meantime, enjoy the journey. It gets lost too often in the deadlines and the finite grading scales.
This is my first post to edu|FOCUS. I chose not to tackle funding issues or the evils of homogenized learning and standardized tests. There’s plenty of time for all that. What kind of father would I be—what kind of educator—if I tell my daughter to take her time while doing her math and then I rush into the denser, deeper issues without first discussing fun?
Let’s make it fun to love learning. That’s an effective education!