Noelle, Bilingual Education Teacher, NY
Imagine a child you care about deeply is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ life?
“The first thing is that they are happy and that they found something they genuinely enjoy doing and are able to do it. The second thing is that they have stability, especially financial stability, in terms of where they live and their money. That kind of stability. A good life is multifaceted. It involves the freedom of choice. The freedom to change your occupation if you want to, to have enough of a background in other things that you can change, to have the financial stability to change, the freedom to move physically and try new things, choice in terms of where you live, what you do, who you hang out with, where you go. “
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
“Education plays a huge part in getting to that and breaking it down in some schools systems, sadly. But I think that education allows you to know what's out there. So much of it you can't on your own. When you're five you cannot travel on your own and see those things...The means in which in that you can go places often comes from education. For example, because I can read, I can do several different jobs...I know how to think. Also, once you know how to analyze things, which takes a lot of practice, learning other things is much easier.”
Do you think schools are playing that role?
“I wouldn't say all schools are not because I think that's really general. I don't think the system is. The system doesn't place a very high value on teaching kids how to think. They want them to do things the way they [the system] wants them to do things. If you look at math, you have to arrive at the problem doing specific things or else you didn't do it right...I feel like they don't really value teaching kids how to think. They teach them how to do things, which is useful, but if you teach kids how to think they can do things they can figure out how to do things.
A lot of [learning] is qualified, and real learning doesn't work that way. I feel like in addition to the example of good and bad test takers, you have the example of people who don't show growth in the same way. It is hard to measure growth just by tests. We have to change that system and be okay with not a straight line trajectory. Most people aren't when you look at it. In order to do that, class sizes have to be smaller and you have to have more teachers who have more time and more freedom and more ability to innovate. What works in one classroom with one set of kids is great but it doesn't work with the next set. I think a lot of teachers have a good idea of what might work but they don't always have the freedom to do that.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about the role of schooling within that?
“Some people would agree. I think where it runs into problems is that people may think that it's a good idea but don't know how to implement it in the current system we have. And it is maybe so different that they don't really give it any thought. It's not that they agree or don't agree. It doesn't fit into what we have so it is a non sequitur.”