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As our School Year Comes to a Close…

Here is the basic assumption upon which the rest of this blog is based: In the school-based educational complex (excluding the role of parents—which is primary), students are most important and are aided by two levels of servants. The first level of “student-servers” are the teachers/aids, and the second level of “student/teacher servers” are the administrators.

First, profound changes are taking place in the educative process that primarily impact our teachers— those who are that first line of “servers” for students. Those profound changes come in the form of the technology that is driving innovation, changing the way that students think and, as a result, changing the way that teachers teach.

Digital literacy has become the norm in our nation’s schools. As a result, teachers are beginning to take a different approach to education in order to accommodate the needs of 21st century students. They’re integrating technology into instruction by encouraging students to use computers for research or work with adaptive learning (Google it!) technology to grasp new concepts.

Clearly, technology isn’t just helping students evolve – it’s also changing the role of our teachers in the classroom. To be an excellent teacher now, one has to have mastered certain skills that educators in the past never even had to consider. Here are some examples: 1) instead of telling students what they need to know, they now allow students to question what they are learning and to think critically, allowing for more direct interaction with students; 2) teachers now must also be willing to collaborate with students in ways they haven’t before, giving them more one-on-one attention and encouraging them to actively engage in the learning process; 3) teachers have to adapt to a totally new perspective on learning, recognizing that 21st century education is not one-size-fits-all, but having the ability to tweak curricula, change lesson plans or open up discussions depending upon the needs and interests of students is essential in the learning process, rather than wholly separate entities; and finally 4) teachers now need to be facilitators of learning, helping students discover knowledge on their own, rather than simply imparting it and placing students in an active role that keeps them engaged and interested in a world that is rapidly changing.

Consequently, the results of a recent 2013 published study based on data from 1992 through 2009 in Wisconsin (home to The Purple Tree) are a bit troublesome. The study showed the following: 1) during those years, there was a 7% increase in students and a 30% increase in administrators and other non- teaching staff; 2) if the number of administrators and non-teaching staff (47,196) had increased at the same level as students increased, the number would be 8348; if the number of administrators and non- teaching staff had increased at the same rate as students, it would have saved our state $333,931,797.00; had this same ratio been consistent during these years, each classroom would have saved $9555 annually and each teacher could have received an annual raise of $5622. Sometimes it is important to question our priorities. (Please see link for a complete summary: http://www.edchoice.org/Research/Reports/The-School-Staffing-Surge–Decades-of-Employment- Growth-in-Americas-Public-Schools–Part-2.aspx)

We keep thinking. “Whew! That’s difficult work teachers have to do with very limited staffing!” Please, please commend your child’s (children’s) teacher(s) as they work hard to prepare the next generation of a world still in the making. Thank you, teachers!