it’s all about education

Images I have always been passionate about education.  I sat on our kids school board for 11 years.  I chaired MOUSE for several years whose mission is about education.  I hope we are at a crossroads on education as more and more entrepreneurs are trying to develop programs and businesses to change how we educate. 

Last night, I read this on Tumblr.  It was, I thought, a very powerful post from Bijan.

Inspiration is hard but worth it

My oldest daughter is in middle school this year. 

She has always done very well at school (she gets it from her mother) and we are very happy with the school and her teachers. 

Except for one teacher actually. 

Let’s call this teacher Mrs X.

The problem with Mrs. X is that she doesn’t inspire the kids. Instead, she provides the minimum. She misses appointments outside of the class. She gives them exceptionally difficult tests where even the brightest kids are getting C- or C+. The kids then get their grade up through homework assignments.

It creates an environment where the kids are in learning but they dont’ feel good about the process or about their their own confidence in this subject matter. I’ve seen with my daugher someone who used to love this subject to someone that is insecure about her skills — all in less than 6 months. I’ve also talked to other parents that had dealt with Mrs X over the years with other children. Same experience.

You can imagine how that feels as a parent. Its disheartening. So I’m doing stuff about it and I believe things will get better. 

But this sort of teaching style reminds me of some CEOs and VCs I know. 

Instead of inspiring others to the best of their abilities, they beat down their staff or their management teams. The company makes progress but the company loses its soul. The team ends up working for a paycheck or focused on their stock vs the mission of the company. The company may likely make their goals for the near term but everything else suffers as a result. And the long term harm is critical.

Inspiring others is hard. But it separates the ordinary from the extraordinary

I bet that there isn't a person reading this who has not had the experience above in education.  The good news is that the constant chatter about education is creating a new breed of entrepreneurs who are looking to disrupt the education world.  How do we put the students in charge of their destination instead of teachers who have lost their interest. 

My guess is that Bijan's kids go to an excellent school and his kids know that success is the only option.  If this particularly teacher was standing in front of a bunch of disengaged kids whose parents did not drive home how important education is the chances of those kids ever finding interest over the course of the year would be minimal.  It would be a year or perhaps a life time lost. 

Andrew Cuomo laid out the budget for the next year for New York State last night.  He cut education significantly.  This creates an urgency to engage more uses of technology in the school system with the hope of reaching more kids through a different lens.  More important, education should not be cut, ever.  Guaranteed there is tons of waste in the education system and I would applaud having someone to come in and clean it up but the future is in our children and to think otherwise is shortsighted.  Cutting public funding for public schools creates a larger divide between the haves and have-nots. 

We were in Cairo this past December.  Things have certainly changed in a short time.  At one point of our trip we were at a mosque and there was a large group of eight year kids touring the mosque from the public school.  I don't remember exactly what transpired but my son Josh, who is 14, was so angry at the behavior of these kids.  He was furious that our country was providing capital towards other Governments funding wars.  His mantra was we should be putting all of our money behind education.  His concern was that we had already lost all the eight year olds standing in front of us.  At the end of the day, he ranted that everything was about expanding and educating your mind in order to create productive human beings and fruitful economies. 

Between a shitty teacher who tortures kids to learn instead of engaging them in a meaningful discussion to a Governor who is cutting back on funding education which is the core of our future to kids in Cairo who were already just repeating historical hate and poverty, why is it that my fourteen year old kid is smart enough to know that all three of these scenarios are just wrong. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. johndodds

    I blame his parents.

    1. Gotham Gal


      1. johndodds

        They made him smart enough to realise.

        1. Gotham Gal

          ah…got it. lol

  2. Mike Hart

    The inefficiencies have become endemic in the system. Efforts like those of Michelle Rhee in D.C and now of StudentsFirst have really helped to put education back on the map as a topic. Along with grass roots efforts around the country the cogs of change are beginning to crank, albeit slowly. It will take time. The entitlement system in our country is a large part of the education problem and this too will slowly fade. The first step in fixing a problem is the realization that we have one. I believe we are at least past that point, thankfully. As to the kids in Egypt, that unfortunately is a much longer term problem.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Discussions and realization is definitely the key to moving forward.

  3. Ryan Drew

    My takeaway from a visit to the Louvre two months ago wasn’t a particular piece, or the work of a particular artist, but the many classes of children ages 6-12 who were sprawled out on the floor, sketching and learning. Six year olds fully engaged in their drawings who paid no attention to the constant stream of visitors who walked past (and in some cases, walked over) them. Sadly, my only thought being “you’d never see this in the US.”

    1. Gotham Gal

      Take a trip to the MET. You will be pleasantly surprised

  4. rebeccastees

    I’m been interested in a method called “teaching artistic behavior” or TABIt seems similar to teaching entrepreneurial behavior…..Here is one public school middle school art teacher that has an choice based classroom…..….

    1. Gotham Gal

      very cool classroom. definitely an entrepreneurial spirit.

  5. Dan Storms

    Thanks for showing passion Joanne! I’m hearing in your post that “engagement” of students is a missing metric for teachers. It’s tough to collect, but could be a cool way to reward enthusiastic and effective teachers while making visible the ones doing harm that you discuss.

    1. Gotham Gal

      last night I was having this conversation with a friend. our system isgeared towards keeping the teachers happy and not the customers. thecustomers are the children. rewarding effective teachers keeps the studentsengaged. it would be a helluva lot easier to track poorly performingteachers when there were simple metrics to see how engaged their studentswere.

  6. cjwesterberg

    Very interesting mash-up of education anecdotes that lead to the same conclusion – that education as we know it was built for another time. There are some exciting schools like High Tech High, Science Learning Academy, and Big Picture Learning, that are re-defining what learning is all about, although one will always hear the lament, “But, is it scalable, especially w/o the visionary leader?” Why must everything be one-size-fits-all. Thought you would find find this post (and many others) of interest, as it relates to this topic:

    1. Gotham Gal

      I will read the piece, thanks. The beauty of technology is that nothing hasto be one-size-fits-all.

  7. Nectar666

    So, does this mean that Josh also recommends cutting aid to Israel? Let me know what the genius boy thinks 😉 Life is not black and white, and that is why adults usually do not look to children for advice regarding politics, economics, and/or foreign policy. Get a grip Joanne.

    1. Gotham Gal

      if people don’t listen to kids and their opinions and create conversationthey will be shitty adults.