A Broken School System: Choosing Between Academics and Social Diversity

In our current neighborhood where we reside, I’ve been wrestling with a situation concerning my daughter’s school she will be attending for kindergarten in 2-3 years (more on wrestling thoughts of starting kinder at different ages coming later). Here is my dilemma. The school we are zoned for and supposed to attend (let’s call this School A) is in a lower-income neighborhood, and statistics show that lower-income neighborhoods are a product of lower college attendance, lower test scores, and lower graduation rates. 

There is a school a half-mile (still walking distance!) from our home (let’s call this School B) that is in a higher-income area. Higher-income school= higher graduation rates, test scores, and college attendance. While each experience differs for each child, these are still the facts when it comes to placing your child in a school in low vs high-income neighborhoods. 

HOWEVER, I feel it is important to point out that low-income schools are still a product of good education when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. Given the diversity of these neighborhoods, the children are provided a good education of being a socially aware and contributing member of society, something higher-income schools can lack. 

So that leaves me with a decision of sending my child to our neighborhood elementary school in a low-income area, two blocks from our home. Or driving or walking her a half-mile to the school across the highway in a higher-income area. I feel like I am choosing between: 

Academics and Social Diversity

And looking at the small picture, my worries seem so insignificant. I am anxious about a small decision with my one child going into kindergarten. If it doesn’t seem like a good fit at the end of the year, switch schools. Even mid-year! Switch schools! (all of these decisions are supported by our local school district by the way, which may not be the case everywhere.) So why am I so concerned? 

Because this isn’t just about my daughter going to kindergarten. It’s about the school system as a whole. Why are parents forced to choose between teaching their children academics or teaching them social justice? Why aren’t the academics in a low-income school the same as a high-income school? Why is the diversity in a high-income school non-existent while it’s inevitable in a low-income school? 

The purpose of school is to learn academics, become educated, and use this knowledge in the real world as a professional in your field of choice someday, correct? If that’s the case, School B should be my choice. 

But does getting this far in life have any impact if you don’t have the empathy, tolerance, and inclusion of everyone you come in contact with? In a perfect world, it shouldn’t get you far at all. School A should be my choice. 

If I send my kids to School B, am I just enabling the broken school system that already exists by not giving my time and resources to School A when they need it more? 

If I send my kids to School A, am I compromising their academic career because I want them to know, love, and understand social justice? 

There is absolutely no right answer because our school system is broken. It should be “equal education for all” but it’s not. It has decades and decades of work before it can even get to this point, my children will not even witness the day equal education exists. 

I love this quote from Lincoln Quillian on his academic research on poor neighborhoods and the impact they have on overall life. The whole study is a great read if you want more insight into this subject. 

“Improvements in school quality, including no excuses charter schools, can close achievement gaps for academic outcomes. However, outcomes that are more determined by peer interactions are harder to solve with policy changes. We need to decide what we are trying to accomplish with schools. If the primary job of schools is academics, that it may be acceptable to focus on improving academic outcomes and closing achievement gaps, to the exclusion of improving other outcomes. However, if schools are framed as social institutions that build civic participation, tolerance, diversity, and teach students how to be contributing members of society as adults, then it is necessary to think more broadly about the implications of segregation.”

I just want to finish with these two last YouTube videos: 

Educational Redlining- Sonja Santelises
How America’s Public School System Keeps Kids In Poverty- Kandice Sumner

And when it comes to my children’s education, what choice am I going to make on where they will attend school? We can chat again in 2-3 years when I’m forced to make a decision and I may have an answer for you. But until then, I will forever wrestle with the educational inequality of our nation. 

A Free EdTech Resource For The Classroom And Distance Learning: Virtual Field Trips

I originally planned to write about virtual field trips in late May after I went to the UCET conference in Provo, Utah. I was pumped up and ready to dive deep into virtual learning/ using technology in education! However, soon after the UCET conference, COVID took over our education systems, forcing us to use technology to learn, socialize, and even grocery shop. By late May, I couldn’t bring myself to write about one more technology use in the classroom because I was burnt out. And I’m not even teaching right now, so I cannot imagine how educators feel!! Instead of writing about my original plan of virtual field trips, my post on slowing down and remembering the simple, one-room schoolhouse came about instead. It felt more appropriate. 

Now that I’ve had a break from writing about the tech world for a little span on time, I feel more ready to write about my original idea. Here it is: virtual field trips.

Did you know virtual field trips were a thing? I did not! Don’t you (especially those social study teachers) wish you could put all of your students on an airplane each year and bring them to Alcatraz or the Eiffel Tower? While there are so many reasons this can’t work out, there is one simple way you can do this with your students. It’s simple. It really, truly is so simple and FREE. 

Do you have a computer? Good. Open Google Maps. Search your desired location. Turn on street view. You’re there. You did it. See, I told you it was simple!

Matt from Ditch That Textbook wrote about it here on his website that gives you a better rundown of exactly how to use it to its full potential. Or if you’re looking for an even easier route, he put links to 20 different field trips for you. All you have to do is click the link and you’re magically walking through Yellowstone National Park.

Matt was our keynote speaker at UCET and where I learned this new trick. His website is packed full of great educational tips and free resources, never once would he link us or send us down a path that costs money, he truly believes educational materials should be free and is doing a wonderful job at accomplishing this.

A screenshot from my computer during a virtual field trip. A cell in Alcatraz.

It may not have the same impact as walking the streets themselves, but I will attest to the fact that it’s more engaging than pictures in a textbook or on a computer. It’s different, it’s interactive, and it’s educational. 

Another screenshot from my Alcatraz field trip.
The White House

I invite you to play with these virtual field trips this summer while school is out so that when your students come back in the fall you can be ready to do this in the classroom with them, or send them home with the assignment to explore a new place during distant learning. When you’re done, come on back here and let me know how it went and share any tips you have for other teachers! 

Cover photo from pexels.com

Feature Friday: Joe Capson

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Joe Capson, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Joe is in his first year of teaching and has great insight on teaching challenges as well as the evolution of technology. Here’s what he has to say. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

I really enjoy getting to know the students and I absolutely love the subject matter, which makes teaching it fun. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

When I was in high school I worked at a summer camp called Pine Basin for three or four years. During this time, I had to teach two classes a week and I felt like teaching was something that I could do and that I had a talent for. Also, my family is filled with educators and I have always felt close to the education system through my family. 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

There are a million different interesting historical videos and I love to utilize them in my class because students relate to videos and it breaks up the monotony of classes sometimes. I also utilize my smartboard for interactive activities and for note presentations. 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?

I would recommend the book Hatchet as well as the various sequels to it. The reason why is because the book teaches you that you can do hard things even as a young teenager. Also, it teaches kids self-dependence, an appreciation for the outdoors, and it is a great read to boot. 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge that I face is classroom management. I tend to try to teach high energy and I encourage student involvement in my lessons. However, in doing this I feel that students take advantage and want to shout out or joke too often or during inappropriate times. I try to make my class fun but I have to struggle to find the balance between a class that is fun and a class that is only fun with no learning or discipline. Finding that balance has been a challenge. 

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

That at first I would probably hate it and feel overwhelmed and terrified and question my life choices, but after teaching for a while and getting to know the students you really get invested and you become friends with your coworkers and you’re not alone in all of this. Suddenly you find yourself sad with the thought that these students have to leave. I wish someone told me that it was okay to feel discouraged and downtrodden. I also wish someone told me that college only prepares you so much for being in the classroom and to really understand anything you need to just do it. 

How have you seen education change through time?

I have only taught one year but I already know that it has changed since I was in middle school. The students today are good kids with similar challenges that we all face, however all of those challenges are amplified through social media, access to technology at any time, and popular culture. When I was in middle school if you were cool, you had a Razor flip phone. Now you are not cool unless you have an iPhone 10. Also, technology has been implemented far more in the classroom online forums and class iPad sets are not rare at all, whereas when I was in high school, one teacher had iPads and we all thought it was crazy.