Challenges Facing Education – Overview and Classroom Environment, Part I

Classroom environment, school closings, teacher certification, low test scores, school violence, large budget deficits, pension underfunding, government borrowing, teacher and other staff layoffs, and “No Child Left Behind’ are areas of concern in educating our children today. Some of these areas of education will be examined in this series, some more in depth than others, and Chicago’s public school system will be featured.

Other matters involving education that need to be addressed are charter schools, overspending/deficits, and fiscal responsibility. For the billions of dollars being spent on education today, the results should be better. It is time to get serious about education and make changes needed to educate our youth.

Of most importance to educating our children is the learning environment. That would encompass where learning takes place and the effectiveness of the teacher.

In order to teach, the classroom environment should be conducive to learning. Based on numerous reports from substitute teachers, that is not the case in many classrooms. Many classes are now taught by substitute teachers. You might say that, “A substitute teacher can only talk about the subject from a substitute’s perspective.” And you would be correct, but some of the behavior reportedly witnessed by the substitute teachers is confirmed by permanent teachers too. The behavior is hard to believe. True, the substitute teacher may not get the cooperation of students as the permanent teacher does because the permanent teacher has resources not available to the substitute, namely being able to contact the parent when needed.

When children are in school, they are expected to behave in accordance with school policy. In Chicago, it is called the Student Code of Conduct (SCC). However, that code is not always implemented in dealing with student misbehavior. The SCC encompasses acts of impudence, cursing, bullying and fighting. Punishment should depend on the severity of the infraction. Student misbehavior should be handled immediately to be effective, with the perpetrator(s) identified by name. The punishment should be applied as the SCC rule indicates. Sometimes the problem is ignored. Whatever the reason, ignoring the problem does not make it better. One wonders if all teachers know that the code of conduct exists.