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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

how can I make a change at my school - what can I do?

how can I make a change at my school - what can I do?

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One way for parents to make change at their school is to go there. Go to PTA meetings and leadership meetings. Even helping out in the classroom gives you a presence on site enabling you to see for yourself what is going on and how you can help make things happen. I felt that my kids school was not communicating with parents very well and ended up volunteering to edit a weekly newsletter. Needless to say, I learned what was going on big time, but I also got credibility from teachers and administrators when I had an issue I thought needed addressing. I went on to sit on the leadership team at each of my kids schools and learned a lot about how schools work and how much change can actually happen at the local site. Leadership teams generally meet once a month and are open to the public, as are school board meetings. These are great places to get your ideas heard because generally, the public is not more than a handful of people. It's my experience that these elected officials (school board members and school site leadership members) get so little input from their constituents that they are usually open to and welcome new ideas.

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Thanks Karen for a great parent's perspective on how they can make a difference in education.

To build upon this "do-it-yourself" attitude, I wondering what you educators out there do every day in your classrooms/schools to help transform education. Many educators I've talked to mention that they go out of their way to share their academic successes with their colleagues/administrators, so when they try to lead a specific initiative, they've already proved the effectiveness of their tactics.

If you missed it, last night #edchat on Twitter talked about education reform. The topic for the hour was "What actions are needed to move the education reform movement from conversation to action? Are educators up to the challenge?" You can read the archive here. There were many great ideas and I'm hoping we can transfer some of this inspiring dialogue into action.

One educator set up a wiki (impressively during the #edchat conversation), where educators can collaborate and share their reform success and failures. Another educator started up a letter writing campaign. What are you doing to move change forward in education?

Lisa J. Cooley's picture
Lisa J. Cooley
School Board member, parent of 2 public school students.

In a district like mine, with battles between the school board and Selectpeople of the towns (my district encompasses 11 small rural towns) sometimes the call for "reform" comes from an unwanted direction. You do tend to get those who say, "There were 30 people in the classes when I went to school, and I turned out fine!" or "We'll be fine if there weren't any teachers' unions" or "doing projects is a privilege kids should have only after they've done the time on the basics." Before I would ask parents to be active participants in the debate over school reform, I would try to advance their own knowledge of what's needed.

I was once confronted by the father of a middle-school student after leaving a town meeting -- we got to talking about education and I allowed as it was my goal to incorporate students' choice of what he or she wants to learn. He answered, "So are we to give up our role as adults, just let kids do whatever they want?" I could only stammer, because, deep down, my answer is yes.

I know I am sounding partisan -- not all parents have what I would term the "right ideas." But enough parents just want their kids to enjoy education, and those are often excited about the kinds of changes I'd like to see.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa. I wonder how much of what these parents are feeling is fear. I know a lot of parents -- even well-meaning, relatively progressive ones -- who are afraid of the sea change that's sweeping over education. I happen to agree with you that kids should have more free reign over their educational experiences, but I think most of us agree that there has to be structure and guidance. I wonder if the best response to a parent like the one you describe is something along the lines of "Student choice is important for the world these kids are growing to inhabit. Of course we'll provide structure and guidance to help them with these choices..." or something? I don't know. Good to hear that there are parents there who 'get' it too.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear members,

This is my first posting with your group...

I am a retired (or rather "semi-retired") teacher, which simply means that I no longer do "Crowd Control" or "Phone calls home to parents"... But I always do my arts & crafts and life-long learning and sharing...

I listened in to the webinar last Thursday with Dr. Milton Chen and Anthony Armstrong, I was very impressed with their experience and enthusiasm for making an "Education Nation" right now, and it inspired me to make my first "learning tool" video for teachers and students... and everyone... which I just posted at www.youtube.com titled "Magic Mirror Box".

And I joined your group because you are dealing with "Reform Starts Here" and this is where I want to be, because I am a "specifically
oriented" kind of guy; I make things real and fun and educational and simple...and I am posting my introduction here, to a very good question:
"How can I make change at my school, what can I do?"

My video is an instructional video (7 minutes of photographic fun)
and by viewing it, you will instantly see "what you can do" at and for your school, by easily making/crafting with just 5 pieces of small mirror tiles held together by super glue: a "Magic Mirror Box" for the teachers and students to use, as a limitless educational tool of creative discovery (across multiple subject areas and for all ages) ...that costs less than $10 to build.

I would be happy to give further details and suggestions for its use at home or in school...and I would enjoy seeing other teachers and students create their own slideshow/video productions to share online here at edutopia and/or on youtube...We are all artists...(there is no "wrong" in art...)

What I made is "Magic Mirror Box" #1... I will continue my series and variations, and help anyone interested in making their own...

One final note at this time: I prefer to use 6" x 6" (1/8" thick glass) square mirror pieces for the box, because it gives you more space to 'play around with' and it is easier to build and use... but at this current time and location (in small town Florida) the smaller mirror tiles were available as a simple "5-piece crafts package" for less than $3... so that is what I used.

I look forward to hearing and seeing from the group with any questions or comments or "results"... :-)

Techno Newbie, but learning quickly

Allen

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

howdy folks,

I just learned from Betty Ray, who posted a message just preceding mine...(and i am happy to be a prime example of a career teacher who is just starting out learning to use the 'techno media online'.... :-) that it is better to post the actual URL (gibberish to me :-) link to youtube ,than the title of the video...

So here goes my attempt at a Windows 7 "copy & paste" (Brave New World)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5LQqwIQ35s

okay now let's see if that works...

Two Left Hands,

Allen

Bob Charles's picture
Bob Charles
I am in search of definitions for "Quality Eduction" and "Great School".

Parents need to learn as much as possible about the school district's system organization, it's State education requirements, it's local requirements and financing before they can offer good suggestions on "school reforms".

I took school board candidate training. Anyone can. It is a good place to start. I participated in many issue teams; was the first district webmaster; volunteered as a math and chess tutor; helped with fund raising and levy/bond issue campaigns, etc.

Read your State's Department of Education web site. Find info on financing. There are 3rd party writings that help. This is a dificult subject

Read your school district's Policies and By Laws. Many district policies are on-line. Read the Union contact(s).

Attend Board Meetings and talk with members. I have always had good relationships with Board members. They are really volunteers and are doing a service because they are pasionate about education. Besides, we elected them. They are our interface to the system.

Finally, the hard part: Write down the purpose of public education. Analize how that purpose can be achieved. Now examine every activity in your school. Try to answer why each activity is related to the purposes of it's existance.

If you can not see a relationship between the purpose and an action , you have just discovered a question for a Board Member. And your anventure begins :)

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
Blogger 2014

Great suggestions, Bob, and they will surely give a parent multiple perspectives for analysis when they do write down their definition purpose for public education.

Another idea to add to that list: visit your child's or children's classroom(s). And if possible, the classroom(s) of your friend's children. You can do this by volunteering for a day, offering to speak to students about a topic you are expert at, or simply as an observer. The information you will glean from these visits will be invaluable as you educate yourself about public schools today.

Good luck!
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia

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

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your involvement in education! having been involved at local levels in education in various parts of the country, I think a parents/students "bill of rights" is an important. I've heard of school districts providing them for parents. Have you heard of them before?

Hubert

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