As a child going to school was something I dreaded. So much so that I actually felt ill every morning as I got ready to go. School made me feel stupid. I just was not good and still am not good at memorizing information word for word and then regurgitating it for some test. However I am able to learn information in my life and use it, but ask me to give a detailed review of a chapter in the textbook using correct definitions and direct examples from the book and I will likely fail.
My mind has never worked that way. Instead, my mind has always taken the information and transformed it in a way I could use in my life. For example, when learning about a time in history my brain will take that info and find a way to apply it to life today and extract a lesson I should use to avoid making the same mistakes from long ago. I may never memorize the details of a battle, the exact dates from an event, or the life details of some historical figure but I will remember the lessons that stood out and allowed me to apply them to my own life.
So I have very real issues with the way our schools exist today. They are outdated and have not kept up with the times. They may have worked a couple of hundred years ago but if we want to have a school system that helps children from all backgrounds to thrive then things have to change and the following is what I dream school would be.
1. I Dream of a School That is Safe.
I remember when I was a teenager and the tragic shooting at Columbine High School unfolded. As a teen, I had no way of knowing or understanding that this wasn’t just a one-time tragedy, but instead the beginning of a heartbreaking chain of pointless and tragic death. If you had told me then that kids would continue to be shot while going to school I would have looked at you and asked why nothing was done to stop it. It’s a question I still struggle with. Why have we done nothing? While we bicker about solutions…kids die, people die and that is one of our greatest sins as a country. One that I too am guilty of.
So I dream of schools where active shooter drills are not a thing. Where we don’t need to have off duty police officers patrol the hallways. Where we don’t need metal detectors at all the entrances. Where we don’t have to lock the entrances while school is in session. Where we don’t need to buzz parents in to read a story to their child’s kindergarten class. I dream of schools that are so safe that the worst things that happen are unexpected medical emergencies such as seizures during class or the occasional fight between students because kids are still learning to manage their feelings and how to work things out without inflicting harm, but no children die because of a senseless act of violence.
2. I Dream of Schools That Prepare Our Kids for Independence…
There was a time when the current curriculum our schools taught helped prepare our children for the future. There was a time when parents all were able to easily teach their kids necessary life skills like how to sew and cook, but sadly not all parents are able to pass along these life skills because they themselves never learned them. Parents can only teach what they themselves have been taught or learned themselves.
There was also a time when wood-shop, home economics, art, and other classes were all commonly taught at schools. For funding reasons, these subjects have fallen by the wayside in many schools and because of this many now adults didn’t learn many skills that were once commonplace.
So why aren’t our schools helping to teach our kids things that they will really need when they reach college age. Why aren’t they taught about finances, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and what decisions they will need to make to live on their own? Why don’t they have a class about opening a bank account, doing your taxes, and what all those things are that come out of your check from work? Why aren’t they taught about ways to finance college or other options to college like trade schools for example? Why do we assume that if we just teach some mundane facts that they will be fine? Why do we assume that all parents have the skills to pass on to their children. Many parents were at a disadvantage and only have enough skills to barely keep a roof over their heads. Why do we assume all kids need to learn advanced algebra when many may end up in professions where they only need basic math skills?
Once we accept that we all do better by caring for each other and helping each other out the better our society will be. Once we accept that education may need to differ depending on the child and their career goals the more effective their schooling would be.
3. I Dream of Schools That Teach Self Care…
Sadly many adults never learned to properly take care of themselves and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that our children struggle with this concept as well. We have a serious mental health problem in this country as rates of depression are spiraling out of control. People of all ages are overweight and heart problems have continued to increase as a result. Stress levels are high as adults and teens struggle to find a proper balance in life.
Imagine how much smoother things might just go in everyone’s lives if we had been taught in school how to care for ourselves mentally and emotionally. Imagine if you had been taught different ways to manage your time and how to set tangible goals you can achieve. Imagine if you had learned how to eat healthy and balanced and to see through a diet fad and choose the healthier option instead. Imagine if you had been taught different ways of exercising so that everyone could find a way to work out that’s enjoyable.
If we were taught these things in a class like health class or even changed physical education a bit so it wasn’t sports based but instead showed you all kinds of fitness how might your life be different? How might our culture be different? Would there be fewer suicides and mass shootings because we were taught how to handle tough emotions? Would obesity still be a problem? Would people have more balanced and relaxed lives because that was taught as something to value and strive for? How much better would our lives be if we weren’t left to figure these things out ourselves? Do we really want our children to face the same struggle we have in trying to figure these things out?
4. I Dream of Schools That Prioritize The Health of Our Children…
While schools have been forced to make some changes for the upcoming school year because of the current pandemic that’s not quite what I mean. This one ties into my dream for self-care being taught in schools. What I mean is I dream of schools that each has at least 2 school nurses on duty every school day. Instead, it’s not unusual for several schools to share one nurse. That doesn’t sound like we are prioritizing our kid’s health to me.
I also dream of schools that have mental health counselors for any student or even staff members present to unload on safely. While many schools do have counselors its rare if they actually get to do any counseling. I am talking about people with counseling or a psychology degree that are there solely to be a safe place to talk, help kids come up with reasonable plans to deal with whatever their struggling with, and to be there to intervene when kids are in a dangerous situation or are a danger to themselves or those around them. Imagine if these counselors were utilized properly? How many children could be helped? How many kids could have the person to listen and help instead of feeling alone and lashing out later?
We say our kid’s health is a priority, but how our schools handle mental health and the lack of nurses in schools sends a different message. The fact we penalize students for getting sick too much sends a different message. Let’s start acting like we mean what we say and actually make children’s health in schools a top priority and not a hazard.
Our schools haven’t really been updated in over 100 years. I’d say we are overdue for an overhaul. What changes do you dream of for schools?