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Among the severe and most pressing issues that affect the community, district and school are: 1) Socio-economic status of students and their families; 2) Leadership and politicians in positions of authority; 3) Parental education, awareness, and involvement; 4) Seriously flawed legislation, bureaucratic process and policy; 5) Perceived strength of voices of parents, teachers, and students based factors 1-5; 6) Training and education of faculty, staff and support teams.
Therefore, first this writer realizes that the educational process starts at home with the child's parents. And so we can identify and evaluate the parent's level of education, marital status, social status, economic status and state-of-thought about the importance of education. We must also realize that when a parent(s) does not view education as important then the child most likely will inherit those very same views and enter the classroom not caring about their education or learning process. Likewise if other factors such as the parents facing eviction, foreclosure, homelessness, abusive relationships, instability of mental apparatus, disenfranchisement, and other things; then it is therefore hard for a child to focus on education when their parents or family is suffering from debilitating mental, financial or relational conditions. Contextually realizing these things we as teachers are then better prepared to look at simpler things that we can do to raise parental awareness, stretch further to find additional resources to help when possible, and not overlook these things as factors beyond our control.
Next, the burden of change for the educational/learning process lies in the leadership and politicians of the school, district, county, city, state and so on; as they are placed in these positions to spearhead and trailblaze unique solutions for educational opportunities. I believe that the leadership position is where hard decisions have to be made consistently after long review and research about the problems plaguing the education/learning process. Problems that are micromanaged, in my view and experience, and blamed on educators (teachers in particular) who are not properly trained, empowered, and frankly don't feel that they have a voice in the process. Leadership is where permanent changes can be made to recover from damages caused by the implementation of policies like "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) in 2001 which gave federal mandates but no funding to support the initiative; AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress); CRCT Testing mandates; and other policies that cripple creativeness and lower the moral of teachers through weekly meetings addressing new policies for book bags, dress codes, locker usage, etc. Seeing immediately that starting with the governor to the politicians, to the state boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers, who directly affect the educational/learning process of students, we must look at how idle use of power to legislate ineffective policy can lead to detrimental results in already impoverish communities. These bureaucratic processes bury our teachers in mandates and paperwork which take away from teaching time and the educational journey which is in itself difficult based on previously discussed factors.
The classroom factors are technology availability, books supply/demand; the book adoption process, material relevance, allocation of resources, environment, physical attributes, etc also go into the classroom contextual factors for the education/learning process. Here we see that in a technology age the students' ability to interact and exposure to technology and resources available on the Internet may give a student an advantage or restrict (lack of) the creativeness of a student in the education/learning process. Furthermore, the textbooks used in the classroom maybe filled with historically incorrect, outdated, and inaccurate information which add to a teacher's job of hoping to dispel common errors (i.e., Christopher Columbus being the first to discover America, Darwin's incorrect theory of evolution, etc.). The simple matter of if a student even has a book to study with is a contextual factor. Consistently, the upkeep of the classroom and school is a factor. Because honestly, if your school has classrooms with leaking ceilings, unpainted crumbling walls, and temperature issues, education becomes a second priority. All these issues are related to resource allocation and a teacher being able to create a proper environment for education/learning in any context.
Now that we are moving to more homogenous classrooms that involve a wide range of students from different cultural backgrounds, belief systems, learning capabilities/levels, parental involvement, and modalities we must take into account how we will get to know our students in order to customize their educational/learning experience. Consistently, throughout this program we have been taught to apply strategies of icebreakers, introduction of a classmate, etc. to find out and take survey of the prior knowledge that a student has in order to make a scaffold or steps that the student can use to bring the knowledge to their realm of thinking. The fact that I teach middle school brings into context the affect of puberty, hormones, one finding themselves, and other age appropriate characteristics for my students. Likewise, students today are also more technology oriented so even bringing that factor into how I plan lessons, see assessment, implement activities, and approach teaching is more vital than ever.
The instructional implications have been, are now and always will be how to effectively create an environment that addresses as many of these contextual factors as possible. Furthermore, to balance these student, parental, communal issues, social, economic and political factors so that they don't rule or impede in that environment; to constantly evolve as an educator/researcher/learner in my own right so that I stay relevant and effective in my position. I will also seek to empower and equip my students so that they can successfully navigate life and teach those skills that they have learned in my classroom to the next generations and so on.