We each have an idea of what a “real” education is. That idea may have been wisdom passed on to us by an old timer, acquired inside a traditional classroom or laboratory, gained while working on a job or maybe we just got an education the hard way. Education is officially described as the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. I hope to accomplish this goal as an agriculture educator on a daily basis in some form or another through the myriad of teaching opportunities that I am afforded with my students. .
The problem is, many times we let “school” get in the way of education. We get so concerned with making sure a student is present for that algebra lesson while conforming to a strict set of guidelines laid out by a local school district, state requirements and federal mandates. Why? So our students can do well on a standardized test that is attempting to measure how well our education system is performing.
In Oklahoma, every school receives a grade, according to https://oklaschools.com/, the Oklahoma School Report Cards system evaluates how public schools across Oklahoma are serving students in a variety of areas. Every public school is given a grade based on multiple indicators, including academic achievement, academic growth, chronic absenteeism, progress in English language proficiency assessments, postsecondary opportunities and graduation. Each of these indicators is awarded a specific point value that translates to a letter grade. At the core of the Oklahoma School Report Cards is the belief that all students can grow and all schools can improve.
When you look a little closer at the report you will see a bunch of indicators. I’m happy to say that I work for a school that received an overall grade of C. Some of you might be saying a “C”, really. Just an FYI, that’s the highest grade received by a number of high schools in Rogers County and we have some dang good schools in Rogers County. In fact, Rogers County has 8 high schools in it. Five received a C average, two got a D and one F rating.
Now, I’m no expert but I can tell you after sitting thru numerous faculty meetings reviewing this information, it’s much more complicated than a simple letter grade. We’ve now gotten to the point where we let “school” get in the way of education. For example, I have a student who is on the dance team that qualified for Nationals and just returned home for the National competition in Florida. She is on the first ever girls wrestling team in history of Oklahoma, President of my FFA Chapter, exhibits swine and cattle, takes concurrent college classes at the local college and will be missing school for the upcoming Oklahoma Youth Expo, and State FFA Convention where she will receive her State FFA Degree. Let’s just say that I’ve had a few meetings with attendance staff and administration about her.
They get it and understand what she’s doing but they also have to justify everything that takes place. They have reports and bosses to answer to. They have to validate that a student like this is still getting a quality education even though they’re not sitting in a classroom every single day. All the while, I’m standing in the background yelling from a mountain top, “dang right they’re getting an education!” A real education. An education in hard work, team work, understanding how to win but also lose with pride, making friends, making memories and living life. I hope that every student grows up to have a passion for something and it’s our job as educators to give them those opportunities to find that passion. Opportunities to try different things and live life a little.
However, times have changed from when many of us went to school. The old rule of as long as you’re passing, you’re good to go no longer applies. I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you that we as a society now put school in front of getting an education sometimes. We wonder why people transfer to “virtual/on-line school” in a technology driven world? We wonder why teachers get frustrated with administrators and say they don’t care? We wonder why administrators are stressed to the max to increase performance? We wonder why school board members ask superintendents why they scored so low? All the while, usually a small but loud group of parents are yelling that their kid isn’t learning anything and all school systems are sorry. Maybe that’s because your student doesn’t do anything and has no drive to seek opportunities outside of the traditional classroom to be successful! Because believe me, they have tons of opportunities to get a very good education and it doesn’t always happen in a classroom. Yes parents I said it, stop blaming the school for everything and point the finger somewhere else once in a while. Maybe at your child, maybe at their environment or maybe at yourself.
I will witness the World’s Largest Junior Livestock Show the remainder of this week and all next week. I can promise you, the 15,000+ exhibitors who will walk into that ring are getting an education. Good luck to all the livestock exhibitors in the coming days. Teachers, enjoy your Spring Break you’ve definitely earned it. Principals and Superintendents, step away. For a brief amount of time during this upcoming Spring Break, don’t worry about budget cuts and performance data. Legislators, just STOP. You’ve done enough, both good & bad for education right now. And parents, thank you for the opportunity and know that every member of a school system wants to see every child succeed in and out of a classroom. Until next week, make sure you tell someone I love you today.