If I Could Change Something About Our Schools . . .

If I Could Change Something About Our Schools . . .If you could change something about our schools, what would you change? We asked the Free Spirit Advisory Council to tell us their answers to this question. Here are their responses:

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be lunchtime. I teach at a middle school. My kids have lunch at 1:15. There’s no way adolescent kids can go from 8:30 a.m. until 1:15 p.m. without fuel. I let them have snacks throughout the morning. I’m concerned about their basic needs. Kids can’t learn if they are hungry. To me, meeting that need is the most important thing.”
Nancy, rock star teacher

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to create a climate of support. When teachers and students feel supported by parents, administration, and other teachers, it changes the way we operate in our classrooms. Everyone is overwhelmed at times by deadlines, testing, learning new materials—the job is never-ending and challenging. Getting support from everyone and celebrating successes leads to a positive school culture where we can all enjoy our day-to-day jobs!”
Felicia, gifted specialist, consultant

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be the way in which administrators and teachers communicate with families. We often think that we meet the needs of families, that we answer their questions, that we care for their children, and that we are correct. I ask, are we truly listening? Do we hear what parents have to say? I had an interaction with a parent last year that went badly, and it took a year to resolve. Why? I was being the person I thought I should be and not the person the parent needed me to be. It sounds like such a strange statement, but in summation, I unintentionally offended the parent in a way that resonated so deeply with her that she withdrew her children from the program. I tried to fix it, but it did not work. I made a perfunctory effort to reengage her, but my effort was not genuine. That’s because I let technology get in the way. I was stuck in my own way of communicating. A colleague intervened. Because I thought I was correct, I had to prove my colleague was wrong, but in the process I learned a lot about myself and the way I problem-solve. I had been hiding behind email. The parent and I sat down after some lengthy email exchanges. What she said struck a chord with me: ‘I have feelings too. I am not a bad person.’

“That’s when I truly understood that I had been attempting to prove the parent wrong when it was not about that. She just needed support but did not know how to articulate this. And I did not make it easy for her. The parent always wanted to resolve the issue, and because she could not find a place that provided the same quality for her children, we eventually had a wonderful reunion. Her children are back with us. and I am so glad she had the courage to speak her truth.”
Cecilia, executive director

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be how we teach everything as individual subjects. Real life doesn’t happen in boxes; it’s math, reading, history, science, and emotion all thrown together in a beautiful, chaotic mess. Many students don’t realize the crossover between subjects, and this makes it harder for them to see how important it all is.”
Sarah, middle school counselor

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be the structure of the day to allow more flexibility for all. Students who want to start late could. Staffing would be flexible too! Classes could also be flexible, with some delivered by other means along with traditional classroom instruction.”
Cindy, family and consumer sciences teacher

“If I could change one thing about our schools, it would be to transform all schools into caring communities that use project-based experiential learning through play where the focus is less on results and more on the process. Instead of zero-tolerance policies, we would have tolerance policies where it is okay to make mistakes. Schools would be centered on taking care of ourselves, each other, and our environment—driven by care, not data. I believe all children should have the right to love and the freedom to explore unrestrained.”
Jill, educator

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to support student learning through a play-based approach. Research shows us that young children learn best through play. Social and emotional learning, literacy, math, science, social studies, and the arts are all best taught through active play for young children. As educators, we must support and advocate for learning through play. It must be the heart of how we teach!”
Adria, MS, curriculum and education manager

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to get away from focusing on test scores and get back to making connections with children. When we focus on test scores, not only are the children at a disadvantage but so are the teachers.”
Jeni, early learning center director

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to include more imaginative play and less testing. Children seem to be losing the art of creative play and the ability to turn a large box into a magic castle. I am all for less structured play and electronics and more free time to explore the imagination. We need to look at our rigorous testing protocols and see where we can decrease formal testing and increase opportunities to engage with others and our environment.”
Michele, school psychologist

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to generate a safe place for students to engage, learn, grow, and nurture into self-sufficient young adults. Often our children are scared, afraid, and lost due to stigmas, bullying, and wanting to fit in. Schools should protect children and be safe spaces.”
Bianca, residential services supervisor

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to offer more support and services for students with social and emotional needs.”
Donna, MS/CCC-SLP, speech language pathologist

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to restore wonder and joy to all children in every grade. In infancy and toddlerhood, we celebrate each child’s unique abilities. As they grow older, we become frustrated at children’s lack of ability to conform. My wish would be for us to celebrate the wonderfully unique beings our children are right now, being mindful not to rob them of opportunities for discovery and joy.”
Samantha, center director

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to respect the expertise of our teachers. Teachers are the most knowledgeable about their practice and about teaching and learning. Therefore, schools should encourage more collaboration between them. Through mentoring, peer coaching, and opportunities for informal professional learning, we can develop a wealth of relevant and timely knowledge to enhance professional practice.”
—Jameelah, early childhood head teacher

“The one thing I would change about our schools would be to make sure all our teachers care. We have to make sure teachers are well-supported too. Teachers need to be given time and resources (mostly in the form of quality professional development) to be at the top of their game. When they feel prepared and successful at their craft, they have more brainpower to focus on their students as people. When teachers feel heard, supported, and cared for, they can turn those feelings back on their students.”
Cheryl, early childhood director

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be our thinking about children’s competencies. I would change our thinking to embrace that all children are competent from the beginning of life. They have big ideas and are competent to explore and find ways to solve problems. They can solve problems and need to be listened to and respected. They are the future citizens of our world and have so much to offer our world in teaching how to problem-solve and listen.”
Debbie, early childhood educator

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to increase the time spent on teaching social and emotional skills to children and the level of trauma-informed care in our classrooms. Students are coming to school lacking the ability to make decisions, cope with disappointment, and interact with others in a meaningful way. Some students who have been affected by violence, unstable home situations, poverty, lack of parental involvement, and other stressors are especially vulnerable. All students need trusted adults to spend quality time with them. Teachers cannot develop the relationships necessary to help children develop if they have to spend so much time on testing and assessments.”
Kathy, school social worker

“If I could change one thing about our schools, I would make it mandatory for all school teachers to teach social and emotional skills. These skills are invaluable to students’ education. While academics are important for students, social and emotional skills will help them succeed in life. These skills will carry students through jobs, family life, and interactions with others. It is important that our students learn the proper way to interact with others, even those they may not get along with. Social and emotional skills allow for these important life moments.”
Bradley, educator

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to reprioritize quality education as a civil right and to increase funding from the federal level. I would support free state college tuition and commit more focus on improving the competency and training of educators.”
Deborah, school administrator

“If I could change something about our schools, it would be to remind schools of the importance of fostering a spirit of creativity and intrinsic motivation in our students. Schools often are so focused on teaching to standardized tests that they lose sight of a big part of educating: teaching a love for learning. In order to meet standards, we sometimes overload children with homework and assignments that are both labor- and time-intensive. As a result, children no longer have time to play with peers after school to develop the necessary social skills for their success in future careers. Schools require children to read with an eye for analysis but often leave no time for reading for enjoyment. By shifting the emphasis from meeting standards to fostering a sense of curiosity and creativity, we can help create a generation of lifelong learners.”
Katie, director of field programs

The Free Spirit Advisory Council is a group of professionals who provide feedback that helps make Free Spirit books even more beneficial for kids, teens, and the adults who care about them. Interested in becoming a member? Recruitment is ongoing! For more information about the benefits and responsibilities of membership, download our Free Spirit Advisory Council application.

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3 Responses to If I Could Change Something About Our Schools . . .

  1. “if i could change something about schools it would be to stop bullying and rascism so kids don’t get their feelings hurt. Or even think of them being that bad word used on them. Shiv Valiyaparambil, kid at Macquarie Fields public school

  2. hopscotchmom says:

    Wow! AMAZING responses from your Free Spirt Advisory Council 👏🏻👏🏼🙌🏽🙌🏾👍🏿
    Would love to add that I wish everyone at school knew they were a team— and not so much of that’s “their job” or “my job” because somehow, I feel like everyone’s role and responsibility overlaps because every professional in that school is involved with the children. From office staff to PTA, the Principal, Parents and children. I feel it is everyone’s “job” to role model working collaboratively to make the school succeed, the child succeed.

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