Thoughts on Education
“Teaching is Not a Business,” he stressed that the interaction between teacher and student, those interpersonal human relationships, are fundamental to an educational system that works. Nothing can replace the importance of a mentor relationship or the daily personal touches in the classroom. He wrote:
It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.
In the expanded classroom that we call Heart of Los Angeles, these daily touches make all the difference. Our kids are getting not only opportunities to engage in activities that have been stripped out of their schools, but they are interacting on a personal level with our staff and volunteers on a daily basis. The students feel like they matter, that what they think makes a difference and that their struggles, no matter the size, are important and they are not alone. They know that we are listening to them and that we value their voices. A computer can’t replace the support our staff and our counseling team can provide.
In a TedX talk that I gave recently, I stressed the importance of these personal relationships, as well as the need to expand the educational village. In the low-income neighborhoods where our kids live, the schools are under resourced and essential programs have been stripped out of the school day. Even strong teacher student relationships won’t remedy that situation. Out of school programs serve a vital role in fixing what’s broken. Programs like HOLA expand the educational village and put back the disciplines and non-cognitive support and services that have been stripped out of the public schools. This two-pronged approach – strong mentor relationships and giving kids what they are no longer get during the school day – is working. Year in and year out, our kids graduate from high school (in a neighborhood where graduation rates hover around 50%), go to college AND stay on track to graduate from college.
There is a place for technology in the classroom, but until we can give our kids a full academic and enrichment experience in a supportive environment, we need to stop treating education like a business.
Click here to watch my TedX talk: