Vulnerability, Love and Education

Vulnerability

I have tried several times to write this and even as I make this attempt I am building my references section to try to convince myself that I have enough answers.  What I would like to write on is the funding model for schools, how this impacts teachers salaries and how the cost of education might need to be realigned to put the student first.  I would also like to say that I have a solution completely thought out and: here, use this template to put students first, but I don’t.

I don’t know a lot about the public school system in terms of organization, structure and funding.  I am doing my best to understand the landscape and discover how funding works, what is available in terms of money provided for in-class costs, training and future-looking programs.  

What I have discovered is that schools are given a budget based on cost per student to deliver their programs.  This is surfaced in this budget document for independent schools which requires that independent schools do not exceed the cost per student specified in this document.  I believe that the intention is to level the playing field for the public schools and partially publicly funded institution.  

To me, that raises a few questions honestly:

  • Why would we want to do that?
  • Does this impact the salaries that Independent Schools offer?
  • If schools are in effect salary capped, are there other avenues that are available to increase the value per student here?
  • Is this actually pushing the school system towards a private school model?  (Yikes that is scary!)
    • If so can we draw similar parallels to what is happening here and what is happening in health care?

I don’t have a lot of those answers.  Worse yet I don’t have enough of a view of the landscape to understand whose interests I would serve by trying to make one thing better or another thing better in the long term (i.e. a push towards stronger unions or more privatization).  Normally before I write anything I have at least an idea on how I would like things to work but in this case, I admit that I only have a limited scope of things and what I really want is a small part of that big picture: how to improve school life for my boy and the kids I volunteer with at his school.

Love

I might have written about this before but every day I bike along Wall Street on my way to work.  My version of Wall Street has a community garden and a wonderful view of the water.  I am reminded every morning at the edge of the community that this is a special area by a homeless person that sleeps under the bridge on the approach and I slow down.  I would like to preserve for future generations to grow up in and as I bike through it I try to send hope and positivity out.

In contrast, I see the city reach outwards I hope that there are people that are working towards preserving this area.  I know I do my small part and as I pass through I purposefully slow down my commute and spend energy wishing the best for this community.  I also wish the best for the people that are doing something and actively watching over it so that it will maintain that sense of “home”.

This is my approach because I know nothing about what is driving that community, I am pouring positivity on the problem.  I shake my head a bit at myself because an inspirational post I read this morning that has this advice:

“…Nobody is so naive as to think that pouring positivity on a problem is the only way to solve it…”

For this community that I bike through I DO think that positivity and love are what keeps it alive.  I am happy to share some of my love as I bike through because that’s where my involvement is with them at this point in time.  I want to see it continue to thrive and I am happy to spend that extra time as I pass through lending my anonymous positivity to whatever greater effort is going on to preserve that community.

Education

In my own community in North Burnaby and in my smaller world raising a wonderful boy that is working his way through the public school I am doing my best to share that positivity and love as well.  As I get to know the school system better and interact with the people in it I am trying to understand how I can help my child’s experience in this system. I am also trying to move this interaction from “pouring positivity” to trying to identify a valuable way I can contribute to both the short term success of the system and look to see if there are any changes that could help with the longer-term growth and evolution of public education.  

Lofty goals and I am just figuring out if there is a space I can help with.  I am encouraged by the work I see code.org doing with a computer science focus.  I want to understand if there is a way to not only extend efforts like this to include the entire spectrum of the curriculum.  I do see members of my circle that are passionate about teaching and music. Their unique perspective of music as a language and the efforts Kris Shulz and his teachers have done to offer free music lessons is inspiring.

My current approach has been to work with the school system to identify opportunities for learning.  I have tried to incubate such as pushing for Google Docs at school and trying to introduce Ozobots for programming.  

One of the other tools I am looking at is Grammarly, I use this for my own writing and find the suggestions provided in the UI extremely valuable.  I have been providing feedback on their backend stats and to surface more stats that would be useful to show student progress and identify problem areas.  I believe that once they have this figured out then the next area would be to focus on other languages. Perhaps it would make sense for them to team up with Duolingo on this endeavour.

I have also spent some time looking at Masterclass and believe that there is potential here in pure motivational factor for staff as well as students.  The application surfaces the creative experience by masters of their craft and is inspirational and informative.  Although you can find some of these inspirational videos on Youtube, such as this speech by Steve Jobs you need to search for it.  The issue is that a lot of content can surface that claim your time in the form of clickbait and false leads and it takes a lot of effort to curate that information.  This app provides a focus for students and takes you behind the scenes on the creative process of these greats. I have donated a couple of licenses to two schools that I interact with.

I have started circling inwards from these periphery interactions and am trying to look closer at the funding model that funds our school system.  I am in a bit less certain waters though and am very curious about everything and therefore a bit unfocused at the moment. I am trying to understand how budgets work and how the cost per student is calculated to see if there are opportunities for creating change in this model.  

One thought I had there is that if there are opportunities to spend in areas that don’t have a direct impact on that model and could open up an opportunity for more innovation.  One obvious area for me seems to be technology in the classroom (i.e the introduction of technology such as Duolingo and Grammarly). A not-so-obvious area might be providing a way that schools can license applications and make it possible for them to use the technology at home.  This would require a larger effort and family sharing via Apple has limitations that might have to be considered in this larger model.

Finally, if we are going to encourage technology use at a school level we should look at the bigger picture there as well.  In the age of text and instant pretty much damn well everything time spent communicating with your family should be something we start looking at holistically.  Awareness of the impact of technology, or more importantly, the absence of effective communication and relationship building in the family unit should be something that is considered in this larger picture.

A lot to think about, as I said, and I don’t have a lot of answers, just questions.  If you have thoughts or ideas please feel free to contact me directly – claytonharbour@gmail.com.

References

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