Yesterday was MSNBC's first day of Education Nation: Teacher Town Hall, one of a series of 2 hour meet and greets with the nation's teachers. It's moderated by the always classy and comedic Brian Williams, and gives teachers nationwide a voice and a forum to host their concerns. Teachers from across the country gave their input through the website Education Nation, and through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Among the many stories shared on day one of this week long forum, one in particular stood out to me. Teacher Brian Crosby, hailing from Nevada, spoke of technological means for innovation in classrooms at length. His story of a young girl facing a battle with Leukemia, who used skype and a laptop to attend his class every day, shows the innovation teachers are willing to embrace if it means reaching their students. Crosby's classroom also used Flickr to host pictures and all of his students had Blogs to update. Teachers are prepared to teach in the Information Age, and students need to learn computer skills for an ever growing amount of careers it could involve. The problem here appears to be funding. Schools in rural communities, and low income students may not have consistent access to online educational resources. This creates a problem for teachers who do want to give their classes these types of skills. Social networking is a medium school kids understand, and it is vital to prepare them for the world beyond the classroom.
Poverty is another issue Teachers are grappling with today. Statistics from the Federal Government say 14 million children Live in Poverty here in the U.S., 19% of the children living in our country. And that is 2.5 million more children than in 2000. With numbers this overwhelming it can be difficult to come up with a solution to the issue of hunger and the burden of poverty weighing children down in this country. In MSNBC's Teacher Town Hall, many teachers said that hunger was a very real problem, especially in low income districts. According to aspe.hhs.gov The Poverty level for a single parent in 2009 was $10,830, and for a two parent home it goes up to $14, 570. There seems to be an enormous problem with wealth disparity and the ability to learn in the classroom of today. Many teachers interviewed during the town hall meeting said that they had a large percentage of students on the free lunch program, and one had an instance where a child could not afford as new uniform and therefore could not attend school. At evidencebasedprograms.org you can see the statistics regarding a Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which shows a significant effect in preventing clinical depression in at risk youth. With so many in poverty, the weight of this can have a sizable affect on children in low income families. The thought is that these overwhelming burdens stand in the way of education as a whole, and is a roadblock we cannot ignore on the way to higher education.
Can social aid programs deal with the rising poverty levels and meet the challenges for a set of troubled kids? That really is the question for me. Nutrition Assistance Programs like SNAP fill a need for low income families to meet their nutritional requirements. However on this subject I do not feel it does enough. As a child who grew up with occasional Government Benefits, I can tell you there were still many times when my mother had to go off by herself to cry and privately worry that we would not have enough food for the upcoming week. And this did have an enormous effect on my personal ability to learn. How can a child throw themselves into a full load of coursework when at home Mom and Dad can't find the resources to make ends meet. Education Nation will be devoting an entire session to the issues of Poverty in our schools, and I will be taking notes and doing heavy research to bring more on that end of the story.
Overwhelmingly, the theme of Education Nation seemed to be that teachers want to be treated as capable, decision-making, professionals. I agree with all of the Teachers who said they deserved to be paid for the amount of hard work and sacrifice they put in, the irregular hours, and the supplies they pay for out-of-pocket. In a survey by the National School Supply and Equipment Association it was found that Teachers pay for 77% of their classroom supplies. Teachers desperately need the resources to reach out to America's children. According to the AFP The United States was ranked 25th for mathematics compared to 34 other nations, we were ranked 17th for science and 14th for reading skills. These are alarming statistics. How will we ever be a Super Power with such low academic results? The problem is not the nations teachers. It is the system in which teachers are forced to work. They put in their long hours and dedication teaching the youth of America, even while states like Wisconsin and my home state of Ohio are trying to destroy parts of their collective bargaining.
How have we gotten so lost, America? Land of Opportunity, Land of the Free, Stop failing the nation's children. Legislation effecting education can not be shoved on the back burner until the economy is settled. These children will grow up and need careers in which they can make a livable salary. The problem is urgent and it faces us right this moment.
Stay tuned for more parts of this series on Education in America.