Real Education is Liberating and Will Thrive

Real Education is Liberating and Will Thrive July 26, 2015

Higher education faces imminent peril, but most schools are avoiding solutions the way a vampire avoids sunlight. The heart of the problem is the cost and the key to cost has been the explosion in administrators, but asking those very administers to solve the problem invites them (as they think) to hire more administrators to solve the problem of too many administrators.  How do you know if you are going to a school in trouble? Google the school’s 990 and see where your tuitionstand money is going.  

Are any professors amongst the highest paid people or are administrators and coaches almost all that is on the list? Check out the web site and count the administrators. Worry if the school has entire departments with fewer teachers than there are high ranking administrators!  Do the best teachers teach or are they off doing other things? If you never see the Nobel Prize winner, his skills are not helping you!

How can we make school better for all levels of education, including college?

It will not be by cheapening mentoring with on-line McEducation. It will not be by turning over many of the jobs of teachers to administrators or part-time workers. It will not happen by spending more in areas that support education while ignoring the core of what makes education work: the relationship between student and teacher.

What will do it?

Ending a week teaching at the best conference for gifted and talented students, The Academy, is sad because I was learning so much about education and teaching every day, but the experience also reinforced three lessons that would help any school at any level.

Prioritize teachers and professors. Empower them, pay them, and honor them. 

Students need teachers and teachers need the time and training to be able to teach. A college should first teach well and only then research well. An elementary school that does not prioritize excellent teachers has no reason to exist. Secondary schools risk burning out their teachers with unpaid labor.

A school with effective teachers will be a good school, but unhappy, fearful, and powerless teachers will not be happy. How can we know (even those of us in administration) when we have achieved this minimal goal? Happy teachers will be fully informed: they will know what is happening, not just the party line. Flourishing teachers will not need to moonlight or wish to moonlight. They will believe in their school! Finally, a school with effective teachers will retain those teachers. Beware a school with high turnover.

The Academy works, in part, because some of the brightest young teachers I know come and are given the authority to help gifted and talented kids. They do not have to ask permission to do most of their job and they can articulate and implement the program vision.

Teaching is about a relationship between a mentor and a student. 

The best schools prioritize relationships and these take time. If a school is getting new faculty every year due to turnover, the mentors will change and the process will be slowed down. If a school does not provide faculty space or time to mentor, then they may trumpet “mentoring,” but your experience will fall flat.

Experience matters: make sure school is preparing students for life. 

Look at the people in key jobs. Read what they write. Read their dissertation. Is this the kind of person you wish to become? Is this the kind of leader that should be mentoring? Has the person the credentials, the experience, and the knowledge to help you?

Wheatstone staff and faculty were good at their jobs. There was nobody I met who was seeking a sinecure. Everyone was gung ho. . . an attitude no amount of money can produce.

People will do for love what they would never do for money or through force. 

Mostly Wheatstone works because Director Peter Gross assembled a team that loves the mission and the students. Peter enjoys working . . .nobody made him stay late to talk with students. That is what everyone does! You could not demand the work load Wheastone gets out of workers, but they give it freely for the love of the mission, but mostly for love of the students.

Beware any school where anything (the leader, the “mission,” a legacy) gets in the way of loving people (staff, faculty, students). Schools are for people and not people for schools!

Education is in crisis because we have built buildings, added cool doo-dads to education we cannot afford, and have hired professional admins that live for jobs and not for teaching. This false education is onerous for everyone: the student does tricks and we give him the prize of a credential while the faculty rushes home at “quitting time” since students are mere impediments to getting to the weekend.

Real education is so wonderful nobody wishes to go home! Real eduation makes students better humans and teachers happier humans.

Real education is liberating and so will thrive.

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