In Olson and Land’s research on the teaching of English (University of California and California State, 2007), conducted over an eight-year period with 55 secondary English teachers, cognitive strategies (reading and writing for meaning and task completion) rose like cream to the top of the jar of milk! These strategies were “most successful when teachers have high expectations and do not deny access to challenging academic content; when teachers explicitly teach and model the academic skills and the thinking, learning, reading, writing, and studying strategies students need to function effectively in academic environments; when teachers employ a variety of strategies to help students understand challenging texts and concepts; when students read and write texts in a variety of genres with guided practice activities scaffolded by the teacher; when students have opportunities to interact with teachers and classmates; and when teachers have sustained, high-quality professional development.”
What is required to “skim” such educational management principles, for use by classrooms and libraries throughout our nation (something we have ignored, despite research), from the top of our allegorical milk jar? Time! Time for teachers to meet with school librarians and discern what materials and trade publications will challenge, motivate, and intrique the multiple interests and personalities of our nation’s school children. Time for teachers and librarians to plan together in order to deliver varying learning strategies. Time to evaluate, via not just test scores but by means of motivational project/resolution based assessments, not student achievement, but, rather, student growth and interest in self and life-long learning. Time to enjoy each other’s company and brainstorm ideas (peer-to-peer, teacher-to-peer, teacher-to-student). Time and opportunity for professional development and rejuvenation. Time for meetings with parents and social workers and counselors, nurses and all professionals who understand that learning is by nature wholistic.
Where is our educational system falling short? It is the failure to provide such time to teachers, librarians, and other education professionals. Instead, time is spent negotiating standards which swallow the light of creative learning. Negotiating administrators who see both teachers and students as “numbers on a page,” as Pete Buttigieg recently coined. Negotiating society’s insistence on blaming all its ills on educators. Negotiating the exhaustion associated with lack of empowerment, class size, and disrespect.
Time for smaller class sizes. Time for half-and-half days (half teaching, half planning and development). Time for educator-based, humane, motivational assessments. Time for equal and challenging materials and resources. Time for reading, writing, thinking, and learning in tandem. Time for relationship-building opportunities. Time for a change!