How to Fix Education: Funding and Technology
About Our Guest
Brad Shreffler is a digital instructional coach and former 9th grade English teacher. He is the host of Planning Period Podcast and teaches technology tools for teachers.
Brad says that his interests flow from on to the other. He’s been a writer all his life. He studied business but after realizing he didn’t enjoy the business world, he decided to teach. He also loves technology, which led into the coaching position. He loves professional development and teaching teachers.
In that coaching role, he found that he loved conversations with teachers. He remembers a conversation with his friend and they talked after school, from 2:30 to almost 5:00 talking about education and he loves those conversations so he wanted to share them.
The Planning Period Podcast
The planning period podcast asks 3 questions:
1. What are the biggest problems with education?
2. What are you doing right that you wish everyone else was doing?
3. Who was your favorite teacher?
He often finds that teachers are emulating their own favorite teacher in their classrooms. Those common themes show him that it is so critical that those being taught are being impacted.
Kids will do the things that they see us do, there is a legacy there.
What are you doing that you wish everyone else would?
When he asks “What are you doing that you wish everyone else would?” he hears a variety of answers.
One of the recurring themes is reflection. Having some form of formal reflective practice: either through social media, blogging, podcasting, etc.
Building relationships with your students is another important component. Kids are still maturing and changing, and we need to treat them as humans, not as a number. We need to learn about them and care about them as people. That’s what people remember, is that teachers cared and that they mattered.
What's wrong in Education?
There are certain themes with the question ‘what is wrong in education?’
It’s easy for teachers to see the micro view. Often the problems teachers see are symptoms of the bigger problem. Teachers often start in one place but it’s hard to track down the real problem.
If you assume that education has cancer in some way, it doesn’t make sense to give everyone some anti-nausea meds; that’s dealing with the symptoms and not the problem. We have to go back and deal with the actual problem.
Funding: a Major Issue
Brad says, a lot of the source of the problem comes from funding. The funding models don’t let real systemic change happen.
He is unsure whether it’s because of a lack of representation or does the funding issue make it almost impossible for a teacher to run for office. There’s a representation issue and a funding issue.
Teachers are not paid enough, we can all agree to that.
The funding issue has more to do with the gaps. Because the education is based on property taxes, there will always be gaps, since nicer houses will automatically have better schools and get more money. As long as those two things are connected, it can’t be fixed. That’s the big funding problem.
It’s easy to attack funding because we have this martyrdom issue as teachers. It’s easy to do because teachers are not represented. A lot of teachers don’t vote, and when they do, they don’t come together as a voting block. Politicians only fund it as little as they can without making a public out roar.
With more Funding I would...
The two things Brad says he would address with more funds are staffing and technology.
There are classes that are too big. It’s a massive amount of kids coming through your door. How can you expect a teacher to really connect with and remember those people? It’s not realistic.
Increasing staffing and teaching less students would be an improvement. That would also open up class options, like creative and performing arts, science, technology, etc.
It’s because we have to fit so many teachers in each class to make it work. Instructional support is also lacking in staff. We don’t have the instructional support we need in every school.
The second place is technology.
The professional development and parent training need to go along with that. “I don’t think I can understate the importance of technology,” Brad says.
"It’s absolutely critical that we are training our students to use tech. While the students use technology all the time, they use it for entertainment. Technology as education is a massive paradigm shift for students." It takes training and needs to be used for more than just YouTube videos.
He concludes,“It’s probably the most important thing we can teach our kids: technology proficiency and the critical thinking skills that go along with that.”