This week has been a frustrating week for me. Anyone who has worked in Ed. Tech for any amount of time has had days/weeks like this one. Weeks where nothing seems to work, connection speeds are slow, inconsistent, or nonexistent, where teachers are complaining about things completely out of your control, the list goes on…
My school and my child’s school right now is trying very hard to get a major technology infrastructure upgrade initiative put into action. The idea and proposal has been there for a while, all the parts seemingly in place, all the interested parties seemingly on board…except the board of directors themselves. In a private school think of them as the president, the one with ultimate veto power on any issue that comes across their collective desk. On this occasion, our initiative is being stalled by them. A project that was supposed to be completed over the summer has been postponed by the board now at least twice. It is now November and our wireless and wired connections are about as reliable and fast as carrier pigeons. Speeds are slow, frustrations high.
It seems like everyone at school who works with a computer (read everyone) knows that things are bad. The board knows there is a problem, articles have been written in newsletters that go out to the parent body about the problem so the parents know, and most of all, the kids know. They know first hand just how bad things are. But, the vote never passes. And, I continue to wonder WTF is wrong with these people? I understand money is money and it takes a lot to run a school of our size. However, at some point we need to ask ourselves, if cutting corners in certain areas is not the same as committing educational malpractice with our students and in this case, my child. See, I am a parent of a student in this school.
I have been thinking about why it is so hard for schools to move forward. Much of what is discussed in the edublog world has to do with teachers and administrators and some very real and obvious discrepancies in where they should be in terms of 21st century education and where we actually are. I can’t argue with these points, instead, I think we might be missing a larger part of the problem.
Parents are the main stake holders of schools (especially in private schools, more so in private international schools). It is parents who decide when and where their kids will go to school. They pay tuitions and taxes and so on. They are the ones we answer to when a child is not performing to expectations. It is them who we counsel during conferences. I think we need to start focusing more on parent education if we hope to make greater strides in changing education in the new information rich landscape we find ourselves. I don’t feel like most parents “get it”. In fact, they want and expect school to look and feel like it did when they went to school. They get nervous when it doesn’t. They call the principal or headmaster when it doesn’t. They vote down measures to move forward when they don’t understand. Schools aren’t changing because the people, who we ultimately have to answer to-the parents, don’t want school to change. They don’t see WHY it HAS to change.
How do we change parent’s views? We don’t. We don’t “change” them. We try to educate them, to empower them to make sound decisions and to be open to the possibilities that things might be different than their perceptions. This is education. Good education. How often do we invite school boards to follow a teacher for a day? Better yet, a day in the life of a student? A school administrator? A technology facilitator? Why aren’t these interactions a reoccurring expectation of parents and more importantly school board members
These experiences happen at best rarely, typically never. How do we convey the concept of educational malpractice to parents? How do we make them understand the world has changed? How do we get them to feel comfortable with schools, classrooms, and teachers that do not feel or look like the ones they had in school? Where do we start? I don’t know, but I feel that this is where real change that accelerates change in our schools will begin.