The return to the classroom environment amid the overshadowing Covid pandemic is complicated. There are stresses to get students back on-track academically, socially, and emotionally. Educators are pressured to ensure that students perform well on standardized tests, making sure that their schools and classrooms are deemed worthy of additional funding or to prevent the optics generated when schools fail. However, one must recognize that this is but one facet of education.
Students do not present as simply programmable beings who just require the appropriate combination of time on task, supplemental attention, focus, and classroom lecture to generate the appropriate standardized test score. They are, instead, complex creatures who arrive at different levels of comprehension, preparation, and motivation to start their school year. The art of teaching is taking all these unique individuals and creating a curriculum delivery model that adjusts for the student needing extra instruction, expands for the student needing an extra challenge, and continues with each of these unique demands while concomitantly maintaining the traditional course of instruction.
Ultimately, effective teaching is about expanding students’ learning from wherever they arrive, to the next platform. It has never been a one-size-fits-all approach where students are expected to arrive at the same finish line, as if all students started with the same tools, support and preparation for success. Individuals have personal goals. Therefore, student success requires trust. It requires administrative trust that the teacher knows his or her students and can adjust the traditional program to best meet their needs. It is about states trusting districts to have their students’ best interests in mind, creating and modifying instructional programs which best suit those specific students in their communities.
Much like no two students are the same, no two districts are the same. The community resources, access to the technology, transportation, healthcare, and childcare all play very distinct roles in the community. The center of the community is the school district, pulling flavor from all of these components. One would never expect all these districts to boast the same athletic mascot, how then could one ever expect the same academic paces and outcomes from very different starting points, enrichment capacities, and community goals.
Ultimately, it is paramount to recognize that students were not designed to fit into standardized school forms. Rather, schools were designed to serve the students in their communities, recognizing the unique factors that best align with those students, understanding how to maximize their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. Communities need good schools, targeted to improve student learning and expand opportunities to keep their populations vital. Schools need supportive communities, focused on enriching educational offerings so that students can succeed. Local control aligns with regional understanding and a genuine concern for the students served, this can never be fully achieved by a standard national assessment designed to serve the masses. Vital to school success is dedicated local educators and administrators striving each day to make their school a better place; this is the heart of the matter.
Dr. Angela Farmer is a lifelong educator, an author, and a syndicated columnist. She serves Mississippi State University as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Honors Education for the Shackouls Honors College where she can be reached at [email protected]