I feel obligated to speak up given the negative tone of our dialogue on public education in Nova Scotia.
As a retired guidance counsellor, I saw up close what teachers and other staff do with and for students – our system is not “broken.” Amazing things happen with students everyday because of the demanding work of teachers, parents, student program assistants, administrative assistants, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, coaches, guidance counsellors, and administrators.
Nobody would deny that the education system needs more resources to meet the ever-changing needs of students and the ever-increasing demands on staff; demands such as helping students manage anxiety or responding to the infusion of technology and its impact. To make our education system function better, we need more of a bottom up approach.
Teachers who are doing the work need to have a significant voice on electronic information gathering/input and how much is necessary, what interventions work best, how to simplify the student referral process for specialized services, and what kinds of supports and staff training are necessary to meet the changing needs of students. We need to invite teachers to examine what we presently do to educate and support students to pinpoint for decision makers what’s working and not working. We also need to include the voice of students if we’re serious about improving the education system.
Most of all, we need to quit referring to our education system as “broken.” I know first-hand the high quality of the staff in our system, and the incredible things they do for students daily. We need to start talking about all the good things that happen in schools and classrooms.
Let’s talk about our strengths and successes. Let’s talk about what’s done well and build on that. Let’s look more at what we have and less at what’s missing. Let’s talk about how we assess a good education and the problems with statistics often cited by the media and others. Let’s talk about that and quit using the education system in Nova Scotia as a political punching bag.