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Has our education system served its time?

After each episode, we hear from one of our guests giving a little more perspective about what education looks like from where they sit. Here’s what Christina Melton reflected on following Episode Two‘s conversation.

I’m an educator with classroom experience as well as experience in leadership as a principal and district superintendent. I have a daughter who teaches. I have many family members in education. I’m a grandmother. I have a grandson in school already. I have many lenses sitting in this seat. 

The stories and challenges we’re seeing in today’s world now aren’t necessarily new or unusual. Our schools operate in much the same way they did in the agrarian and industrial eras. Not much has changed from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. 

Now, because of the COVID pandemic, we know now we’ve got to approach this conversation about education challenges in a different way. The opportunity is available if we choose to elevate our vision and elevate our imagination. 

Our conversations need to start with teachers in our classrooms. Teachers are leaving our classrooms – but not because they have lost the desire to teach. They are leaving for a variety of other reasons that could lead to innovation if we choose to listen and dare to change a system that has served its time. Teachers can identify resources they need. Some of the requests that we have heard from them are directly aligned with their ability to do their work and their interest in supporting the individual needs of each student.  

We need social workers. We need mental health personnel. We need guidance counselors in schools working directly with students individually and in small groups. We need time for our teachers to prepare lessons, materials, and resources.  We need time for our teachers to collaborate with one another. We need resources readily available to break this agrarian cycle that goes back decades. 

Last fall, an ALL4SC research project explored the experiences of teachers on the front lines thanks to a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. More than 70 district Teachers of the Year came together for the annual Teacher Forum conference in Myrtle Beach where our team heard these teachers’ deep, raw, and true stories.

Our ALL4SC team interviewed many of these teachers, and they were so honest with us. One of the most powerful examples came from a teacher who saw a child falling asleep in class. For this teacher, it wasn’t about punishing this student. It was about understanding this child’s home environment and her emotional state. 

This teacher said, “One child is not sleeping…she’s not sleeping at home. She sleeps in my class every day. I let her sleep. When she wakes up, it’s lunch time because she’s hungry. So guess what I do during lunchtime? We sit, we eat together, but I teach her while she’s eating, because that’s when she’s paying attention to me. The teacher goes on to describe how many school personnel are involved with this child’s situation but the need is to look at the child mentally and physically in addition to academically. We’re doing that whole guidance counselor thing and trying to do that. But the ball gets dropped, but that’s not an excuse.”

This is one child, one teacher, one classroom, one school. One story that needs to be heard and one conversation that needs to extend. 

Listen to Episode Two of ElevatED4SC to hear more of these stories and listen to this full conversation where Roshanda Pratt, Barnett Berry and I share the words from more teachers and discuss how a whole child approach to education can make a difference for our system of education in South Carolina.

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