[PART 3] Is Education Ready For A Make-Over Or In Desperate Need Of A Do-Over?

So, why are the majority of students learning early on to hate school?

That’s where we ended Part 2 of this series and where we dive right back into now. If you missed the first part of this write up, you may want to head there now. It’s worth your time.

In 2001, when I began teaching in a public school in the Florida Keys, I heard daily from students how school was a big waste of time and I saw first hand that they were at least half right.

Could it be that school is antiquated?

Let’s wrap that question in a different package.

Imagine for a moment that education is a phone.

The purpose of a phone is communication. A phone is a method of distribution or sharing of information. It also creates connection, community and brings people from all over the city, state, and world closer together.

Marilyn Monroe

Go back with me in time, not to the iPhone or Android you currently have within reach. Not even to the flip mobile phone you once might have had.

No, we’re not even thinking of Skype or FaceTime, so stay off the web and head back to grandma’s house.

Maybe even great-grandma for you if you’re in your twenties, you young thang you!

Walk down memory lane with me to the phone that used to, if it still doesn’t, rest on the wall or kitchen counter of grannie’s home.

The one that might have been portable and allowed you to walk from room to room and even step outside.

Keep traveling back in time to the phone that needed to be attached to the wall by a cable and had a handheld headset that was connected by a cord. Hello, Marilyn.

Ah, if you’re 20 and asking “Who?” that’s Monroe. Marilyn Monroe, an icon, for you young folks.

Rotary Phone

Remember the phone you had to dial in a circle, one number at a time? It made that cool noise but took forever, right?

Wow, when you think about it, the phone has come a long way in a very short time.

And if you try to get two 17 year olds to figure out how to use it, well, you end up with a hilarious video with more than 2.4 million views (as of this publication) and additional videos of parents filming their kids trying to dial a phone number on a device that, yes, is outdated and antiquated, that even end up in the New York Post. [19]

In 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell created the device that could transmit speech electronically, never would he have guessed that 131 years later his work would lead to Steve Jobs creating the iPhone, which many now consider their very connection to the world, not just a friend down the street.

Let’s face it. We have phone lines, nix that, fibre-optic cables running underground, above ground and under the great seas. We thought, at the time, that was cool and now look what’s up. Cell towers that allow 3G, 4G and in some cases 5G connections… no more wires needed.

Telephone Operators

Satellites that orbit, out-of-site above us, provide all kinds of cool features like instant GPS so we can get around cities in real time, know traffic patterns, and see 75% of the world mapped in living color. [20]

No more phone operators literally plugging in to answer every call. (Try explaining that job to your teenager!)

So, what does this have to do with the educational system today?

Well, it begs the question that if ONE SINGLE INVENTION - the phone - has changed so much in 131 years, isn’t it fair to say that education should have changed as much as say the phone of Alexander Graham Bell’s time?

Can we all at least agree that it - education - is a bit stagnant?

Education has undergone some drastic shifts and yet, here we are - frustration and dissatisfaction are all around.

We’ve heard from teachers, in Part 1 and saw the stats on many leaving the profession because they think they aren’t making a difference.

We’ve seen where we all rank, the USA in particular, on a global scale when it comes to the most recent test-based data [face.palm.smack.] in Part 2.

And how students often feel they are just putting in time when at school. This topic I could actually dive deep into but for this series we’ll keep it simple and hopefully agree that even students aren’t thrilled with school as it stands.

Not because they are kids, or because they want to sleep in but because they have to be there anyway, in the four-walls of a classroom, and they might as well get something out of it.

Check out this 90 second video that went viral in 2013 of a high school student, Jeff Bliss, who told his teacher what he thought in an honest, somewhat heated, but mostly respectful way.

Jeff Bliss was later interviewed, which you can check out in this two and a half minute clip and shares that he dropped out of school only to return when he realized his options without a degree weren’t in his favor.

All this to say there are possibilities for a good education in our current educational system for some students, in some schools, in some districts, in some states.

Some students absolutely rock the current system.

But we should take into account those we are leaving behind… especially when we’ve been waving a slogan like No Child Left Behind for a rather long time now. Circa 2002 when President George W. Bush signed the educational reform bill. [21]

So riddled with irony. That statement.

And what’s interesting to note is that prior to President Bush’s pretty massive educational reform bill, the one that previously happened in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson passed his landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Imagine if we waited 37 years for Steve Jobs to provide a new iPhone....

Generations of iPhones

So from teachers frustration, to world test scores that shout Houston, we have a problem to student’s speaking out about being bored to death at school we have a case for the need to make a change. [22]

But we still have one group unaccounted for.

Why are parents so frustrated?

For more than a decade, I’ve had parents walk into the Center 4 Learning, my tutoring center, unsure where to turn, at a complete loss on how to help their child and feeling unheard by the school system.

And if you want to see frustration in action, swing by a local PTA meeting at your local school and be a wallflower in the back of the room.

Not all parents are frustrated and certainly not in all districts, in every city, town or state, but there is enough posted on social media and written about in leading publications to see that moms and dads are not all that pleased.

More and more people are turning to homeschooling, yet that number, which reflects approximately 1.5 million students in 2016 is actually said to be declining. Could that be true or perhaps, more likely, people simply aren’t reporting that they are homeschooling their children? [23]

I know that I, myself, tutored a wide range of homeschool students and saw numbers exponentially increase from 2001 - 2016 in my rather small community.

But back to the school system....

From parents, to teachers, to students, there is a lack of something within our educational system and I’m on a mission to discover what it is.

Why does it even matter?

Well, two fold. The current and coming generations are affected by what we do and provide now in the form of education.

And second is a common phenomenon I see in adults that holds them back in life… due to how they’ve been, yep, you guessed it, educated! Many adults don’t want to do until they learn more, enroll in and achieve another certification, or read another book or gain more experience.

To make matters even worse, [gasp, as if that’s possible] I see so many adults all but waiting to ask permission to pass go in what they want to do in life from some unknown headmaster of the work-life-force.

That all was said a bit tongue-in-cheek but I am deadly serious when I say that we are a permission-based-society because of our upbringing in life and in the school system.

We are a fear-based society more and more because we are taught early on to not fail, to fear failure, to hide failure at all costs and god-forbid you do fail, you won’t make it to the next grade.

(This is said to students as early as 3rd grade. WT-Bleep!)

Our educational model needs to change, shift, be upgraded, dusted with a new foundation powder or all but made-over.

Now, this isn’t about blame.

This isn’t a time for teachers need to do a better job or students need to suck it up and get to work or parents should simply stop coddling their children rant.

I truly believe that a nation’s sole ability for GREAT-ness rests in its educational plan and what’s being taught in the classrooms across its nation.

So as I (we if you’re willing) dive into why our schools seem to be “behind” the time, let’s also sink into possibilities, solutions and the excitement that should always be present in learning.

When I became disillusioned with teaching, and had a major life change, I made a choice to leave and fill the need I saw.

I started tutoring.

That was my way to solve what I believed were front-line concerns.

Meaning, not long reaching concerns about test scores and red tape in my district, state, government or even the lobbying that happens by big test-making publishers in Washington, DC or NYC or Texas or wherever.

My first and foremost concern always was the student in my classroom, in front of me, in that moment.

Red tape, testing and all the hoopla be damned.

My eyes and ears were focused on that child, right or wrong. That’s how I rolled as a teacher. You can read more of my story here.

My solution was to help that child who needed help. Was it enough? Maybe not, but it helped that student in that moment and that, as an educator, was my sole job.

So in my book, tutoring rocked that student's world.

And soon my tutoring rocked the world of three more, than ten more, than twenty more, then 100 more, as they came to me week after week, month after month, year after year.

And even better, tutoring brought back that gleam in their eye, that excitement about learning, that creative oomph that had often been missing in my last years, watching hundreds of middle and high school students pile in and out of my classroom.

And for me, to me, that’s the point of learning.

To get that spark in your eye, to get excited, to think big, to dream, to create, to be curious and to have the FREEDOM to explore.

So, I gave my students that freedom back through tutoring.

Was it small scale?

Yes, but here’s the thing.

Soon others wanted to know what I was doing and exactly how I was doing it - tutoring that is - and making a difference.

Plus, how I could actually afford to leave my (not-well-paid) teaching job and actually make a better living tutoring.

So I showed one, then three, then ten and pretty soon I’d created a program to teach others how to start tutoring those children (and adults) in their communities, just like I was doing in mine.

For me, tutoring is a grassroots movement. And one, by all standards and findings, is only going to increase in this day and age of our current “leave children behind” educational model.

For those I help start tutoring, the way we work is not just an extension of passing a test or diving into core subjects.

Nope, tutoring is a way to bring back the fire in a student’s belly that is ever present when you’re excited, engaged and being creative in the learning process.

Tutoring is a solution I have found that works on both sides, in the growing crisis over education that plagues our country and much of the world.

Tutoring helps the child, soothes the parent’s fears, frustration and anxiety over their child’s education and creates a livelihood for the tutor - possibly you - which allows them to become debt free, excited about teaching again and able to enjoy their own life and family.

In my book, that’s a WIN-WIN-WIN. For the child, for the parent and for the tutor.

Tutoring is also a win for teachers, too. Teachers who start tutoring either to supplement their own income or find a way to make more money so they can leave their teaching position behind.

Teachers who want to rekindle the making-a-difference-feeling which lead them to the classroom in the first place.

Teachers who want to again have an impact that is not dictated by a ticking clock and an end-of-semester exam where the joy of learning simply has no place as there is no time.

But tutoring is also a benefit for the teacher in the classroom who is working under the current educational model, and is simply (crazily) unable to stop the class and give instruction to one student on a sticking point.

A point that without understanding, the student perhaps has no possibility of comprehending, let alone mastering the lesson, but as often a teacher’s hands feel tied, tutoring can be of benefit to all as the student can get those needed minutes of instruction outside the classroom.

But again, tutoring is an option, not a full-stop solution.

I hear the choir right now of “not all can afford tutoring” and that’s correct.

Tutoring does not negate that our educational system is ready for an upgrade or in need of that do-over.

Why are so many so disheartened?

I can only speak for myself and allow you to read about those teachers stories I mentioned and shared above, and the stories of parents I share within these virtual walls.

I can only encourage you to talk with your children’s teachers, your friends who are in the profession or search out the posts, stories and disillusionment that are all around, in every corner of the world wide web.

Does the web even have corners? Fun thought.

Just like it’s difficult for the human brain to imagine and comprehend exactly what infinite looks like.

It might be hard to imagine a solution to what is a concern and for many a problem but something I prefer to think of as a challenge. Or even better, a project.

And I get it.

Sometimes a challenge or project of this magnitude can seem like an insurmountable concern, but it’s one we need to talk about loudly.

We need to share ideas respectfully and one that requires more than a technology upgrade, new teaching method or additional data from a test score. In my opinion.

On some level, in my opinion, we are in need of an educational do-over.

So, let’s dream a bit. And no, that’s not putting on rose colored glasses.

Unless you consider this idea of dreaming up a new wave of how we educate to put me in with the likes of Salman Kahn, founder of Khan Academy; Sir Ken Robinson, author, speaker, doer of all things educational reform; Elon Musk of Tesla; Steve Jobs of Apple; Einstein of well, most of what we know about SO much; and Alexander Gram Bell, who we can thank for a lot, including that once infamous AOL You’ve Got Mail line!

Without his phone...no dial up…

Without each of their dreams, a new reality would not have been created.

So yes, I say we all start dreaming a bit. About a new education. A new model.

And, I want to hear from you.

Our best ideas come from the discussions posted right after these words, so type away and offer your non-rant, respectful idea on what needs to change and also on what needs to be created.

Or your thoughts, questions or comments about my now solution to help today’s kid today - tutoring. Interested? You can get started absolutely free right here.

I believe that learning should be a creative, fun process.

So, let’s play again.

Let’s get creative and find solutions so that our children can learn in an environment they no longer feel is a waste of time, while also prospering and feeling heard.

[And grow up into adults who aren’t trapped in a web of need-to-know-more and who-do-I-ask-permission-of-to-pass-go, mindset. Gosh, that was so me until recently. Ha, rhyme!]

Referenced in Part 3

[18] Video. Did That Just Happen. These two 17-year-old guys attempted to use a rotary phone… And it’s as hilarious. Facebook.com. January 10, 2019.
[19] Video. New York Post. Teens stumped by rotary phone | New York Post. July 26, 2018.
[20] Google Maps: Street View. Where We’ve Been. 2019
[21] PBS.com. Frontline: Testing Our Schools. The New Rules: An overview of the testing and accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. March 2002.
[22] LiveScience.com. Most Students Bored at School. Jeanna Bryner. 02.28.2007
[23] EdWeek Market Brief. Data Snapshot: Who Are the Nation’s Homeschoolers? Sean Cavanagh. 11.20.2017

Education Lady | Jill Stevens

Educator. Writer. Life Long Learner. Jill has a passion to help the next generation and improve learning across the board. She’s here to change the world, one mind at a time. Right now she does that through words with purpose and by training up remarkable, rockstar tutors.