By Maria Hernandez, LR 31
Director of Corporate Relations
SPCA of Wake County
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, my Leadership Raleigh 31 classmates and I had the opportunity for an in-depth look at education in Raleigh.
Wake County is one of the fastest growing metro-areas in the country, and this growth comes with both benefits and challenges. One of those challenges is addressing the stress on the Wake County Public School System.
Throughout the day, we met with people who have a vested interest in our education system and want to ensure that it remains as strong as ever. In order for that to happen, we have to be aware of our shortfalls and struggles:
- Capacity to seat all the new students coming in
- Children from disadvantaged homes don’t have same or similar access to technology than their counterparts from more well-off homes
- Frustration from families whose children are reassigned to different schools
- Not enough teachers to fill all the classrooms
- Significant decline in enrollment of teaching programs at university
- Lack of personnel and resources to accomplish all that needs to be done
Our class visited two great elementary schools that are engaging their students in innovative and exciting learning opportunities, Fuller GT/AIG Basics Magnet Elementary and Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary. While they each have unique approaches to implementing their curriculum, both schools seek to prepare students for the real world, encouraging them to learn from each other and through experience.
The Digital Divide and Impact of Technology
We ended our travels at Vernon Malone College & Career Academy, where we participated in a panel discussion with three high school teachers and later, and presidents from three local colleges and universities.
The first panel was asked what a typical day teaching high school was like. After a good laugh, they all said there is no such thing as a typical day! The key is to understand that you’re not teaching them in a vacuum, but that you are dealing with everything that they’re dealing with.
When asked about some of the concerns raised earlier in the day, they agreed that these issues are important to address and solve. However, the concern they all have is the digital divide impacting so many of their students. Students who don’t have regular access to technology and its tools will continue to fall behind their peers who do.
Technology has had and will continue to have an impact on teaching. The irony of the teacher shortage is that we are living in a golden age of teaching. There is a world of knowledge at our fingertips, and so many ways to reach out to and engage students in learning. Technology is no longer the icing on the cake, it IS the cake.
The Future is Bright for Wake County
We later participated in a panel with Dr. Tashni Dubroy, president of Shaw University; Dr. Jo Allen, president of Meredith College; and Dr. Brian Ralph, president of William Peace University. They all expressed the sentiment that the purpose of higher education is to be a place of a discovery, and a place to fail without fear. There should be a support system that enables social, intellectual, spiritual, economic, and civic growth.
At all levels of education--primary, secondary, and higher education--there is a renewed focus on mastery over proficiency. Engaging in project-based learning allows students to move beyond textbooks and to learn from each other and through practical experience, and the teacher is both coach and facilitator.
Throughout the day, we heard mention of the “4 Cs”: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. In learning the core subjects, students must also be taught these new and necessary tools as they advance in their academic careers and into their professional careers.
As a member of the general public, it’s easy to think from media reports and other voices that our public school system is in trouble and we should fear for our children's futures. But listening to and talking with all the people we met today, it’s clear that there a great many people, inside the classroom and beyond, that care a great deal about the future of education in Wake County and are doing all that they can to ensure that future is a bright one for our students of today and for the students of tomorrow.
How can you help?
There are many ways you can make a difference:
- Contact your local school--the school your children attend or the school near where you live or work – and ask what they need.
- Volunteer to read in a classroom
- Volunteer to be a field trip chaperone
- Hold a donation drive for office supplies
- Ask about a giving tree at holiday times
Local businesses and corporations can also get involved in meaningful ways:
- Reach out to a local school to talk about on-going partnerships
- Offer to host and produce professional development for educators
- Help fund significant projects, e.g. technology, field trips, etc.
Learn more about Leadership Raleigh
Leadership Raleigh prepares the leaders of tomorrow. During the nine-month program, participants get an in-depth view of community issues, develop leadership skills necessary to assume leadership roles, and are exposed to community involvement opportunities.
Applications for the 2016/17 program year will be available in late February. Learn more at www.leadershipraleigh.org.