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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How can an "outsider" help improve public schools?

How can an "outsider" help improve public schools?

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I am frustrated with public schools. I want to help make a difference, but I feel unwelcome to assist. How can I help make a difference with education at its core? I feel like I am helping apply bandages when broken bones go unattended. As a "non-teacher", I feel like an unwelcome outsider who "doesn't know" and "should let experts do their job". I've tutored, been a guest speaker, built software tools, helped develop compacts, and assisted teachers in different capacities. (These were on my own initiative; the most I ever received going through official channels was an automated "thank you for signing up".) The core of public schools is going in the wrong direction. They are too focused on tests and curriculum rather than inspiring innovation. They blame the government for these burdens. They blame lack of resources. They blame lack of… It does not take the latest technology or the most expensive classrooms or highest paid teachers. It takes looking at the system differently. Focus on teaching the kids the skills to innovate and tap into their desire to learn; then they will learn the curriculum. There are approaches that have made a difference. Many do not require additional costs per se, but they do require shifts that bureaucracy is not likely to make (e.g. starting school days a little later, longer school days, exercise programs, concerted efforts by all the teachers). I can no longer afford to be patient on the sidelines. I witnessed many district initiatives go no where over the past decade. My daughter enters the education system in the next few years. How can I help make a difference with education at its core?

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Cindy Johanson's picture
Cindy Johanson
Executive Director

Dear dbixby001,

First, I'm sorry that you have not had more of a response to your post. It's certainly not for the lack of importance. I know many parents share similar concerns and frustrations and they want to play a greater role than just fundraising. This group and our social networks should be an opportunity to seek strategies and tips that others have used.

Please also check Larry Ferlazzo's blog called "Engaging Parents in School" at http://engagingparentsinschool.edublogs.org/

Larry is an educator in Sacramento, an Edutopia supporter and he wrote a book called "Building Parent Engagement in Schools" which is available from his site.

I hope we'll see suggestions from others who have been in similar situations but cam up with successful ways to be involved.

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Dixby001!

Many parents get involved at the PTA level. One thing to keep in mind as you prepare your child to enter the educational system is to look for schools with an active PTA. This is something I have learned from my friends who have children. Another is to be involved in working closely with teachers to keep connected to educational issues and best practices. Edutopia does a great job of this. Teachers will be more likely to do "what works" in education with parental support.

Please email me. My email is hubert.yee@edutopia.org.

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