I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the Bargaining/Pedagogy Survey PSTA sent out through district email in October. This survey is one of several steps necessary to move our agenda to bring members’ voices back into policy decisions made at the district level. When teachers and administration work together to make local educational decisions, everyone, especially children, win.
The most common response to the type of teacher-driven changes members would like to see implemented centered around control over the types of professional developments that are offered. Consistently, comments pointed out that teachers are experts in both methodology and curriculum and are, therefore, the best candidates to provide P.D. instruction. Furthermore, many of you pointed out that one size P.D. doesn’t fit all. Training necessary for one site may not work at another site.
Additionally, while most of the comments acknowledged that district-wide systems are necessary, teachers would like the freedom to implement those systems as they see fit. Teachers would like the freedom to make decisions based on what they see as developmentally appropriate for their students. The overall feeling is that top-down directives and administrative micromanagement is detrimental to our students’ education. There needs to be a trust in the professional judgement of those who are directly responsible for the learning that takes place in the classroom.
21st Century Learning
It was clear from the survey that many of our members have spent a great deal of time thinking about what learning in the 21st century classroom will look like. The word most often used to describe the future of education was collaborative. The expectation is that students will work together to unravel real-world problems and interactively explore topics. Importantly, you noted that while students will extensively use technology in the process, the classroom of the future will not be entirely digital.
Students will be asked to think critically as they design their own cross-curricular projects and the teacher facilitates the process by using young children’s imagination to create life-like experiences. The learning involved is highly experiential and interdisciplinary. It will be necessary to assess this product-based learning environment differently. Many replies willing admitted standardized testing has its place, but saw a future in which multiple measurements were relied on to determine how well students have mastered standards.
To create the proper learning environment, many respondents were as creative as the students they hope to teach in the future. The 21st century classroom will not look like the classrooms of the previous centuries. Many of you envisioned open labs without borders, non-traditional seating and constant access to virtual tools and open-source software.
Support for the 21st Century Classroom
According to the survey response, the most import support for the creation of 21st century classrooms will be a fundamental paradigm shift. Administrators will need to move away from expecting to see every classroom looking similarly and accept teacher autonomy. Teachers will need to shift from the “sage on the stage” to facilitator and will need to individualize instruction in ways never before imagined. School Boards will need to accept multiple measures as acceptable ways to assess learning and will need to free up resources in innovative ways.
Social Emotional Learning
Comments on the survey question concerning Social Emotional Learning were the most extensive. Member after member commented on how the “human element” has been removed from education through an emphasis on standardized testing in schools and the extensive use of technology in society. Many noted more and more students arrive at school with needs that “are unmet at home and by their community.” Because they arrive without these essential needs met, they are not ready to learn.
The most common opinion expressed the need to educate the “whole child,” focusing not only on cognitive skills but also on affective and interpersonal skills. Many lamented how our current educational system sees a child “less as an individual and more as a test score.” The consensus is that an ideal school system would be one in which teachers guide students not only as they acquire critical thinking skills that will make them successful adults but also to become skilled workers, thoughtful democratic citizens, responsible adults and good human beings.
Once again, I’d like to thank you for participating in the survey. If we as teachers are to have our voice returned to the decision-making process, we need to speak up. As the 2017-18 year progresses, PSTA will continue to be a driving force behind the district policy decisions which affect our work environment and student learning.