YORK — Most of us have reached the halfway mark in our nation’s school year. The excitement at the beginning of school has been replaced with the tedious routine of what all students have to survive in order to achieve their dreams.

As teachers, administrators and parents, it is important we do something different by replacing the buzzwords with grounded thinking in our schools. To accomplish this, our schools need the help and efforts of three of the most important populations of our schools.

First of all, our teachers have to remember the reason and purpose of why they exist. They have to get away from the notion that success is equated with scores on standardized tests and make sure that the school is at the high end of some random scale created by people who have spent little to no time in a classroom.

We have to focus on our students individually. They all have different needs and capacities. We have to instill a love of learning and the excitement of knowing what motivates our students to want to learn more.

Teaching to a test or using a standardized template that eliminates the teacher’s ability to display the passion that made the teacher want to teach can’t achieve this. The point is that our society is heterogeneous and can’t be grouped into being the same. To say that the Common Core should embarrass us all is an understatement, because, after all, it is simply a new title for the past failed program of No Child Left Behind.

All administrators have to look at their schools as individual institutions that innovate and allow their teachers to take chances in order to succeed with their students. They have to also understand that what succeeds in Iowa may not succeed in New Hampshire. What flourishes in Portland may die on the vine in Bangor.

Standardization of education can’t succeed. This has been proven many times before. One just has to look at the last decade of the No Child Left Behind program to understand this.

Administrators at all levels should never forget why they became teachers. They should take the time in their very busy day to teach one class. This would remind them of what teaching entails and how to best manage their teachers and students. Instead of burrowing through masses of data produced by some paper test, they should take this time to remember what it is like to teach a class.

Other than students, parents are the most important part in the puzzle of education. They have to remember how important their children were before they sent them off to school. They are the experts in their child’s school and should never give up that power and responsibility to anyone, no matter what the doyens say. The authorities and professionals look at the whole and forget that this total is simply a sum of its parts.

All parents have to protect their child’s rights to be individuals and to be educated to the point at which their child’s dreams become realities.

Children think in terms of minutes instead of lifetimes. It is the obligation of the school to motivate these children into wanting to learn, but children also have to be responsible for their own educations.

The parents have to communicate with their children every day about what they are doing and learning at school. This is time-consuming but always successful. As the child gets older this becomes more difficult, because it now becomes more the child’s responsibility, but it is imperative that the parents still ask.

Students should ask their teachers to teach them more. I understand this sounds odd, but if a student understands there is a reason that fields of study are called “disciplines,” they will carry this knowledge the rest of their lives.

Get back to the days of asking “Why?” over and over again. Never let any professional give you an answer you don’t understand. Students should correct their teachers, make them dig deeper into information so the student will understand, and never believe everything that is taught has to be true.

In my three decades of teaching, I’ve had the privilege of knowing many great teachers and administrators. The one entity they had in common was they yearned for the student to question what is being taught. This attitude is not disrespectful; it is wonderful.

— Special to the Press Herald

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