An Interview with Victoria Young: Education’s Missing Ingredients
Michael F. Shaughnessy – And then there is the bureaucracy. Keep in mind; I encountered it as No Child Left Behind came down on the schools. I was naïve at the time in thinking that I could change the situation in my schools.
Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
1) Victoria, you have a web site dealing with education. What prompted you to establish this site
After my book manuscript had been accepted for publication, I began the chore of attempting to secure an endorsement from an educator or two. It was much more difficult than I had imagined, maybe because I don’t work in “the business.” So, after having numerous letters and e-mails go unanswered, it dawned on me that in this age of technology, you don’t have any credibility without a web site. Thanks to friends, they got it up and going, now I try to maintain it.
2) What do you see as the main issues in education?
I spent eleven years in classrooms and another seven years strictly dealing with, mainly fighting against, policy decisions. So, I see the issues from three very different perspectives.
In the trenches, I saw children not having their needs met on various levels and teachers working without the resources they needed while being constrained by policy and practices that too many times we all knew were wrong for kids. It’s sadly ironic that in a country based on a “free” government that our classroom atmospheres are, too often, so constraining, so scripted — it’s stifling. The poor kids must think learning is all about tests. We shouldn’t wonder why they become bored and disinterested.
And then there is the bureaucracy. Keep in mind; I encountered it as No Child Left Behind came down on the schools. I was naïve at the time in thinking that I could change the situation in my schools. For every issue I encountered, my questions took me to a higher and higher level, or more times they just spun me in circles. To say the system is a mess, would be a misstatement because what I found on my journey was that no true system exists, it really is a bureaucratic mess.
And as just a parent, I could clearly see the benefit children have from having an adult consistently looking out for them as they go through school. Those children that have no one advocating for them are disadvantaged. That’s a problem.
3) What do you hope to accomplish?
Well, I am probably continuing to sound a little naïve, but, what I expect to accomplish is to help take us from where we are at, in this bureaucratic mess, to where we need to go ─ a functioning education system that meets the needs of all students….simple right?
4) How involved should parents be in their child’s education?
We can’t fully meet the needs of the students without their parents or another caring adult. Parents know their children best, in most cases, and they need to be seen as assets in providing insight for their child’s teachers. The teacher-parent relationship should be a partnership.
5) What are some of the different aspects on your Blog? Or web page if you prefer?
Web page would be the better description. I know I use the term Blog on there somewhere but I’m really not a devoted blogger. I write when I strongly feel I have something to say that someone else isn’t already saying.
But there are a couple of unique things to find on the site. Since I’m a veterinarian, I couldn’t help but to bring an animal onto the pages so I have a section devoted to my buddy, Miss Mia. She is exceptionally smart so observing her is like watching and guiding the kids as they grew up…she’s a challenge and a delight. The opinions, or blogs if you want to call them that, are all spurred by her story. And, I need to get back to telling it.
And I think it’s important for people to fully understand that I’m an independent thinker and independent person. With so much money on the line in education, it becomes hard to tell who is spewing empty rhetoric from those who speak with sincerity. I hope my site portrays me as the person I am, as best as it can. If you can’t trust and respect my opinion, it would be a waste of time to listen to my suggestions and the reasoning behind them.
6) Education’s Missing Ingredient: What Parents Can Tell Educators is one of your books. Why did you write it, and what is the single most important thing you want to tell educators?
It is the only book I’ve written. I never intended to be a writer. But after so many years of learning about various topics in education and the experiences I’ve had, I just couldn’t walk away. What is happening to our schools and the children in them is wrong. Just because we have been doing things this way for 10 years, or in some instances forever, doesn’t make it right.
So, the single most important thing I want to tell educators is also what I would like to tell our politicians — learn to listen…but I’d like to add one more message to them, if you are going to do right by the people you are supposed to serve, your actions need to be in line with what you hear from us….think they hear me?
7) Let’s go one step further- What Can and Should Teachers Tell Parents?
Now, remember I’m not a teacher so I can’t speak for them, but I would think our kids would benefit from the teachers clearly communicating what they will be expecting from their students and I don’t mean a list of standards. I mean real expectations, things like: attendance, punctuality, respect for adults and other students, coming prepared and ready to do their best work….things that “good” parents probably already know and are doing but even with them, especially during the teen years, adults need to back each other up. Teachers and parents being on the same page, leaves less room for excuses. It builds a better safety net for kids. It shows WE care.
8) Some of the missing ingredients , at least in my view are things like accountability, pride, responsibility—various values that should begin in the home. How should schools address this issue?
My editor questioned my use of a singular “ingredient” in the title — no “s.” But I’m not saying your view is wrong. Every person has an opinion about different things missing in their own school and they wouldn’t be wrong, they’re right. But I like to keep things clear and simple and there is only one thing missing in my mind….anyway, you ask about how schools should address the various values that should begin at home.
The truth is, most schools are not very good at addressing those issues and they shouldn’t be seen as the primary place or means of instilling values. But they should support and reinforce the values of the community which they serve. And that goes back to the partnership we adults must build, the expectations we should hold each other to, and how the education system, the one we should build, will support us as we support our learners.
9) What have I neglected to ask?
One thing I’m always asking is, “what’s next?” After this past election, many of we “NCLB watchers” are anxiously asking that very question. This time, what the people should not accept is more of the same with new terminology or a quick or partial tweaking of the law. We shouldn’t accept changes that pacify this group or that without fixing the problems. In other words, we shouldn’t accept business as usual in congress. We should accept nothing short of congress making this law right! Right as judged by the standards of the people…you know We the People, the forgotten ones.
Personally, what’s next for me is I’m going back to volunteering. Unfortunately, this time it isn’t in the schools, I do miss kids. But I have to take whatever opportunity comes my way to help stop the insanity of our repeated mistakes….you see, not only do the politicians and educators need to listen but so do the people who don’t have children in the system and don’t understand what has happened.….here’s another good question to ask — where’s the public in the discussion of public education?
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