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Friday, December 16, 2011

School Systems and Business Models

Schools must decide the expectation for teachers with respect to student performance, and the repercussions if students fall below expected proficiency levels. However, in most schools throughout the United States, the focus is not on established goals for, but rather on who is to blame for failing students and the recent dropout crisis. There is too much focus on requiring students to learn to work within the confines of the school structure, rather than being accepting of all differences and working with the students in their own comfort zones.
Education could be changed for the better if schools were to think of themselves as businesses and the students as the customers. In a business model, students might receive more one-on-one attention, making them feel more satisfied with the education they are receiving. If a child acquires the love of learning at a young age, he or she is more likely to reach higher levels of educational attainment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a person with a college degree will make a million dollars more in a lifetime than someone without a degree.
In all good businesses, employees create and produce products based on the general needs and wants of the customer/consumer. If students are the customers, then school reform should be created to meet their needs. The task of the employee is to manage and motivate the people they are supervising. Teachers will implement change in their classrooms by individualizing the reform to the general needs of their students.
The idea that educators are transmitters of knowledge and students are passive vessels receiving the knowledge is an antiquated notion that has long since been dismissed as a fallacy. A student should be an active participant in the educational process. If schools adopt student-centered lessons and reform, administrators can then move their schools onto a productive path.
More often than not, students learn best when working with their hands and having visual aids to enhance their understanding. Research shows that when teachers used a plethora of visual aids, the students were better able to remember and comprehend the concepts being taught. One of the ways in which teachers evaluate a student’s comprehension of a lesson is by evaluating if a student can relate the material addressed in their own lives.
Students learn from their own interpretations of what is being presented to them. Teachers should be sure to create authentic lessons using visual aids, allowing students to use their deductive reasoning skills and ability to connect the activity to their lives or the lives of others. The skills described are skills most employers look for when hiring respectable and hard-working employees.
Although schools were created to meet the needs of the students and the teachers were hired to meet those needs, students have to be held responsible for their actions. Teachers will need to find an instructional strategy to promote learning that meets the needs of the students, while also teaching life skills and holding students accountable for their actions and choices.
Teachers are often considered jugglers, because they must gain the trust of their students, but must also play the part of the students’ instructor and disciplinarian. If a teacher lacks the ability to control his or her classroom, learning cannot take place. Teachers need to demand the attention and the respect of the individual students.
Schools operate on the notion that students have no choice but to attend school and do what is asked of them. This cannot be further from the truth. Some students choose whether or not to attend school on a given day. Even students who attend school regularly choose whether or not they want to comply with their teachers’ directives, or whether they want to participate in the learning process. Some students comply with teacher directions, even if they find the activity uninteresting. Too many students do not give teachers what they need most: undivided attention and engagement.
Many educators today are concerned with the lack of respect for authority many of our young adults and children display. The lack of respect for teachers can be traced to the growing mistrust of parents towards teachers. In today’s society, it is not uncommon for parents to sue teachers for educational malpractice or some form of mistreatment of their child.
The increasing distrust of teachers could be brought on by the increasing number of teachers who have inappropriate relationships with their students. Parents need to realize that the majority of teachers have their student’s best interest at heart. Educators earned their degrees to help the children and youth of America, not to cause them harm.
Sometimes, parents feel the teacher is trying to parent their children, and that certain disciplinary actions should only be carried out by the parent. The reason for this misunderstanding is the lack of communication between the parent and the school. With the increasing numbers of children per teacher, teachers have less time to ask the parents what they feel their child needs, and to discuss with parents what the teacher believes is the best way to accomplish the set goals. 
Ruby Payne mentions a term called “mama law.” This law goes into effect when a teacher or administrator tries to explain why a behavior is not acceptable in school, and the child responds, “Well, my mama said it is okay.” Teachers and administrators need to understand that students may come from different environments than the teacher or administrator and that there is a discrepancy in the way the teacher/administrator was brought up compared to that of the student.
Often, when students come from a rough neighborhood, their mothers tell them it is okay to defend themselves in any way possible. Students feel they have been given permission to engage in behaviors supported by the home, even though these behaviors may interfere with teaching and learning in the school environment. It is up to the teachers and the administration to explain to the student how his/her actions are wrong in ways they will understand and respect.
There are two positions teachers might take when combating negative feelings students display toward them or other teachers. They can spend their time complaining about the lack of respect children have for authority or they can accept the fact the students are the customers and, like all customers, teachers have to accommodate their needs.
Thinking of the students as customers reinforces the idea that the student is in full control of whether or not they pay attention or engage themselves in academic activities. Certainly, state laws require the majority of American students to attend school until they are 16 years of age. Sooner or later, truant students will be tracked down by the school attendance officer, who will inform parents that their child’s lack of attendance is against the law.
However, once the student is in school, there is absolutely no way for teachers to force the child to pay attention and fully engage in schoolwork. Part of the teacher’s profession is to find ways to motivate children by providing them with appealing learning activities. Also, schools have to accept the fact that in order to engage students and keep their attention, you must earn their respect and trust. Student learning is comparable to profits in a business. Student learning is what happens when the business of schooling is managed correctly.
In keeping with the business model, successful schools must realize that quality education is paramount. Administrators and the boards need to understand that students are not products and schools are not businesses, but rather schools are places to foster a love for learning and to create productive futures for American children and the country itself.

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