I want my public schools to help children discover their unique gifts and talents so they may enter the world with confidence and purpose.
~Lyn Franklin Hoyt, Mom and Public School Advocate
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other power brokers, plan to remake public schools. The timing is right to ask the mothers of America, of which I am one, how they would like to reimagine public schools after the pandemic is over.
Moms and teachers hold the key to how schools should run. They’re closest to the student.
For Mother’s Day, I asked Moms what they wanted from their public schools. I collected their comments and added a few of my own. Feel free to add to the list.
- The Arts. All schools must provide arts education. Music, painting, dance, acting, students thrive with exposure to a rich arts program.
- Assessment. Drop the high-stakes standardized testing! Mothers know these tests were never about their children. Moms started the Opt-Out Movement! Have less assessment and more teacher-chosen tests to determine student progress.
- Cafeterias. Parents hope for better food for their students and a better dining environment.
- Career-Technical Education. Students benefit from classes in Career-Technical Education (CTE).
- Communication. School officials and teachers must stay in touch. Politeness and positivity in forms and business information go a long way with parents.
- Community. Schools are the hub of the community. Moms want the community to get behind their public schools.
- Curriculum. Students deserve a rich variety of classes. Elementary students need social studies and science. Civics must be addressed in high school. Many mothers want to see the return of classes like Home Economics and business education. Their students need to understand personal management and life skills.
- Diversity. Laura Bowman, who’s on the Board of Directors of Parents Across America, reminded us of the need to recruit more teachers of color. Classes should reflect cultural differences. We will never become a better nation if we don’t bring children together.
- Extracurricular. All schools need extracurricular activities that bind the community together.
- Individuality. Moms yearn for real personalized instruction. They want school administrators, teachers, and staff who know and understand their child. At meetings they want to hear their child’s name spoken. They want to learn from teachers about their child’s weaknesses and strengths. They’re tired of their children being data points. They want data walls torn down!
- Joy! Let’s make schools pleasant places, where children learn the joy of learning. Learning can be hard work, but humor, curiosity, and fun should be a part of schooling.
- Libraries. Libraries with rich reading content are a must. Technology can be included in a media center but must not push out traditional print material. Makerspaces must not replace school libraries.
- Play. Moms understand how important play is to young children.
- Physical Education. Students also need organized physical education.
- Safety. Moms want safe, secure schools. They want their children to feel safe in their schools.
- School Boards. Moms want school boards to listen to them. They reject outside organizations i.e. The Mind Trust, Stand for Children, The Gates Foundation, Koch Brothers, etc. School boards represent the community. If businesses want to be involved, they must listen to many and they must include the moms.
- School Buildings. Everyone wants school buildings that are welcoming, clean, and safe. This requires an investment in school infrastructure. Students have more pride in their schools and better when school buildings are built with them in mind.
- Socialization. Students need to better understand their peers and make friends. Friendships and school camaraderie are what make life sweet. If schools reflect society, as most of us believe, public schools can bring students together for a better world.
- Special Education. Moms want support for students with disabilities. They want to be heard.
- Teachers. Moms recognize teachers need support in order to reach their children. They might disagree with teachers at times, but they don’t want to replace them with a machine! They want smaller classes and well-prepared teachers with college degrees in the area they teach.
- Technology. Moms know technology is important. They’re currently at its mercy. But they want real teachers and schools. They worry about online privacy. They don’t want their child’s social-emotional status analyzed online. They don’t want high stakes testing to transition to nonstop, embedded data collection! Moms want access, but they don’t want it to take over their children’s lives.
- Reading. Every child needs individual assessment to their reading ability. Teachers then need to create a plan that reflects what they each student needs to learn to read, or to read better. Teachers must be prepared to teach reading. They need to listen and work with parents to address their child’s reading needs.
- Recess. Parents want children to have several supervised recess breaks during the school day. Children must be given the freedom to direct their own play.
This blog post should be read by every educational leader and decision-maker in the country before any decisions are made!
As a kindergarten teacher, here is my contribution to the reimagining of American schools:
IN AMERICAN KINDERGARTENS:
*Teach foundational skills in math and language arts, not complicated, developmentally inappropriate concepts that are largely beyond a 5 or 6-year-old’s reach.
*Stop pushing practices that have been proven ineffective and counterproductive for most kindergarten students, practices which frustrate them, make them feel inadequate and which ROB the joy of learning.
*Base kindergarten curriculum and instruction on the 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which resulted in this finding:
“The most powerful way children learn is on playgrounds and in playrooms…Play is brain building, a central part of healthy child development, a key to executive function skills and a buffer against the negative impacts of stress.”
Finally, the kindergarten daily schedule should include at least two thirty minute periods for outdoor recess- free, unstructured play. This should be a law.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Phyllis. Well said.
John Mountford says
This could all apply, with minor cultural re-wording, to the UK. We, too are in grave danger of our society taking the wrong turn over education. There always has to be room for innovation and a willingness to embrace that which will make us stronger, more independent, more caring and inclusive but in education, this most essential of social contracts with the people, leaders must know that their reforms will increase the benefits to ALL. So much education reform is driven by market forces. Markets do not make humankind more advanced. That requires people and wholesome attitudes of mind as much as it does academic attainment.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks, John. I’m sorry the UK is having the same problems. Of course I agree.
Right now I would be happy if schools/districts/teachers/corporations would simply stop making kids fill out stacks of worksheets (or click on endless pages of worksheets-on-a-screen) and figure out (or remember) better ways for students to learn. There are so many better ways!
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Carrie. Absolutely!
Jake Jacobs says
In German middle schools they have multiple recess periods between classes. The kids are sent outside to play and burn off “kid energy”.
Why do US schools make kids squelch this energy, sit sedentary for hours and then punish them when they are distracted, bored or disobedient?
Why do we deny the science of child development and the years of data showing “results based” teaching has never benefited our struggling schools?
In NY, we have a dictator in charge who has ignored the science showing standardized tests are inaccurate and counterproductive. He has excluded teachers and parents in his rubber-stamp panels.
And we cannot separate the influence of campaign payola in this discussion. The governor takes tens of millions from Wall Street and has no small donors. He gets insulted at the suggestion that this money avalanche affects his decisions, but then he consistently puts corporations and billionaires first, from tax policy to school funding to his junk-science accountability programs.
If we listened to NY moms instead of Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg and Eric Schmidt, we would have better outcomes for generations of learners.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks, Jacob. All of this came about due to school reform. It’s all about school privatization which I’m sure you know. But you describe it all too well.
Michele Dale-Cannaert says
Give teachers the ability to truly teach to the standards, by letting them design their own curriculum around the needs of the students. No more high priced, scripted, canned programs that are purely designed to “match” to a standardized test. Finally, bring back librarians, some of the best collaborative teachers in education. We could sure use their expertise in this time of virtual learning.
Great article, as an active parent volunteer, I am often shocked at how little parent input is considered all round. Let’s ask the kids too how they learn best and take their advice before they become disconnected. Individual outreach should also be a regular part of online learning. Our phones work for calls, not just internet!
Thank you for your continued support of Michigan’s kids!
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Lisa!
I’m a mom of young kids- one who will enter kindergarten next year. I LOVE this list! Here’s what I would add:
Under diversity, also teach history that highlights the history of people of color and diverse stories in the U.S. Our kids need to know those stories (not just during Black History Month). All teachers should have an understanding of racial bias and equity issues to better serve kids of color.
Also, more experiential learning for kids- beyond worksheets. I know this can get complicated, but it’s how kids learn!
Great additions, Micalagh. And… Replacing worksheets with hands-on, interactive, multi-sensory activities For 5 and 6 and even seven-year-old is not complicated . When children are given the opportunity to learn this way, there is an explosion of brain activity and synapse connections made. That is joyful learning!
I love this! We need to look at this situation as an opportunity and integrate what works around the world. Now is the perfect time to study places such as Finland and recalibrate our system. A huge hole in our schools are the highly capable programs (or their nonexistence). Most educators don’t even understand the special needs these kids have because it isn’t taught their education courses in college.
Thank you for advocating!
Thank you for this column, all of which I agree with, and also all of the comments so far.
My kids are now 20, 18 and 15 and very smart – each in their own unique way. I was VERY involved in all of their schools and a PTA member and board member at their schools and at our County Council PTA level. All 3 kids went through two major overhauls of the high stakes testing in our state. In 3rd and 4th grade they were taught a very rigid way to write one paragraph answers to assigned reading selections and questions. They learned the system, but along the way the JOY of reading for PLEASURE was killed in all three of them. It totally breaks my heart. None of them read for pleasure AT ALL.
My oldest could read at a high school level by 3rd-4th grade but was told she could not go to the section of the elementary school library where a FEW of those books were.
By the time she got to middle school (a college prep magnet school), the 2009-2010 recession cut school budgets (which have never reached the same constant dollar level) and NO students were allowed to use the school library for ANYTHING.
By the time she graduated HS, several HSs were emptying their libraries, sending all their non-fiction and fiction books to warehouses, except for bulk copies of select novels teachers used on a regular basis.
What is a SCHOOL without a LIBRARY???
As a parent and a teacher, I wonder what these same parents think teachers would like to see? Parents taking an interest in their child’s learning, parents being a partner in the development of their children, perhaps reading to them or teaching manners and expected behaviors in the school setting, or even just making sure kids do some homework or studying occasionally. With both sides working together there could be such improvement.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely! You make perfect sense, Ingrid. Thank you.