What do I believe about kids and their education?
I believe that each child has the right to a quality education, and an equitable education. There is a quote from Enid Lee that I love and have posted in every classroom I've taught in, which is roughly: "Equity doesn't mean treating everyone the same, it means doing what is needed to get to the same place." Some students don't need much help, maybe just the tools and time. Some students need a lot of help and attention, and that's ok too. I think it's important for students to understand everyone has different needs, and that they can be just as helpful to their peers as adults.
I believe that education can be the great equalizer, if students have access to caring, thoughtful teachers that will do whatever it takes to help each student learn. I like to remind my students on tough days that their ancestors all fought for the right to education in some way. I like to remind them that school was only for the wealthy, the top tier of any society, and was used to oppress everyone else by denying them education or providing substandard education. Education has really only made an attempt at equity and equality for the last 50 years or so. A fact that many of them take for granted.
IS EDUCATION A PREPARATORY EXPERIENCE? FOR WHAT?
Middle School is a circus....I mean a transitional time. A time to solidify those fundamentals and start digger deeper into advanced concepts. I've always viewed middle school as a great time to coach students on positive social skills. This is a crazy time for them, and there will most certainly be social issues that arise in every student's life. They are starting to form an identity away from their parents, and I believe as teachers and staff it's our role to help the student look at their own behavior and what kind of person they want to be. This is not to say it's our place to instill values, I think that is best left to family, but at this age students should be looking at their own problems and how to solve them on their own, with maturity and empathy, and teachers can be guides for that.
High School should be more exploratory than it is today. I feel like the goals of high school are changing somewhat, at least in my district, to focus more on the expectations of a workplace or college environment. There needs to be far more career exploration in high school, as students are mature enough (at least physiologically) to understand more advanced concepts and need to be thinking about what to do post-high school rather than rehashing and practicing the same academic skills (which really don't change all that much after 9th grade, except different math courses). I think schools like High Tech High and HSHMC have the right idea with strong community partnerships that students can utilize for internships, while concurrently strengthening those academic skills. Regardless of whether a student really loves the field and pursues it, they have learned how to navigate a work environment, which generally has higher expectations than school, and has real-world consequences for both good and bad performances.