* A change of heart, a change of schools

shoe-188985_640In yesterday’s News and Observer, Brian Lewis, formerly chief lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators, discussed his “change of heart” regarding private schools.  He previously opposed all efforts to fund private schools, which he had described as “unaccountable” and “scams.”  He wrote: “Then life happened.”  His daughter, Isabel, after “six great years in public schools,” was floundering in middle school, without any of the nurturing teacher-student relationships she had previously experienced.  With the financial resources to seek out a private alternative, his daughter is thriving once again.  Lewis characterizes her private school teachers as “mainly former public school teachers who want to teach rather than serve as standardized test proctors.”

Lewis acknowledges that many folks cannot afford an alternative to public schools.  He also recognizes that regardless of income, “public schools are not a good fit for all kids.”  Welcome to the world of special needs kids.  In my experience, finding a good fit for many kids is like trying to match that glass slipper to every foot in the kingdom.  The result?  Bleeding toes.  Cramps, aches, and pain.  When you add the level of testing which now occurs routinely in public schools, it’s no wonder that our fragile students are struggling.  A positive teacher-student match is at the core of any successful classroom placement, in my opinion.  But even the best teachers are gasping for breath as they attempt to teach while conducting endless progress monitoring.  You may also have an experience similar to that of Lewis’ daughter: you get a couple of good years and then the teacher-student fit is dreadful.  Ask any special educator who is involved in classroom placement.  We all know that some students are unlikely to do well in certain classes.  Is the special needs kid so difficult or is it a poor environmental fit?  You know what I think.

6 thoughts on “* A change of heart, a change of schools

  1. Good subject! I think there will always be a place for private schooling. I was always in a private school or self employed as a tutor enjoying the freedom and smaller classes. My daughter and I even started a small school in China for all those kids that didn’t fit in the box. (that was a win, win, situation for everyone).
    Personally I home schooled all my kids till their mid teens (from there they took the reins in whatever direction they wanted). This can be a viable option where there is a suitable parent and sufficient income for one parent to be at home most of the time (Here due to taxation it can sometimes not make a lot of difference.)
    Even if neither of these are an option the parents and siblings can make an incredible difference (my sister taught me to read before I was five for example) my mother taught me how to use a library and my dad bought a set of encyclopedias. We were poor (as were many in post war London) but reading every night with your child, pointing out things of interest, encouraging hobbies and creativity etc. are free. You don’t need a vast education to teach, its more of a mind set really. I knew very little science (due to my all girls school) but I had great fun learning along with my kids and they loved it.
    I think the mindset that the responsibility for a child’s education ultimately lies with the parent rather than the school or state would help a lot to remedy things. Many parents feel unqualified but anyone can teach a child to read, use a library and internet etc. They can encourage, and cheer them on and that’s all it takes really.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I tend to overlook the power of parenting at times when I talk about public education. Perhaps I need that change in mindset, too! I am so used to thinking of school as the place where problems are remedied (or not). Thanks so much for your thoughtful insights.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very good article. It’s a touchy subject for parents, teachers and administrators. There will never be a good fit for everyone as it will never be “one size fits all”. I may be crossing this Rubicon so to speak very soon myself. My son has had excellent teachers, and bad teachers. With a non-special needs student, the experience usually isn’t as daunting. With a student on an IEP it can become a matter of daily mental survival. Which is why we need to clone you. In mass quantities and get one of you up to Delaware!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kevin. It IS a difficult topic and I imagine Lewis would have made a change much earlier on if his daughter had greater learning differences. Lewis wrote about how much his daughter dreaded school before they moved her; how do parents of special needs kids survive the daily anguish of failure piled upon failure? It’s not the student who is failing, it’s the teaching environment. As for cloning, perhaps my scanner will work….

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