For over 20 years I have toiled in the science classroom for the betterment of learning for all students. At the end of each fall semester I always get a little melancholy when I start to compare student achievements that I witness to what I would consider as essential abilities and needed attributes. The gap between this reality and my perception is what I call the “lost opportunity”. This feeling that I have lost time or lost the opportunity to get my students to learn burns inside me by the end of each semester. Even with all of the innovation, education and experience that I possess, the reality is that it still bothers me that I have missed benchmarks in achieving the level of student performance that I feel they are all capable of reaching.
The situation is akin to making an effort to redesign garden plots for plants, year-after-year, when struggling to enhance productivity and output. But in reality, advancement in the quality that is witnessed can take on many forms and attributes. Experts in any field of endeavor look closely at situations and realize there will always be particular nuances, unique to any situation, that support the justification of their efforts to gain productivity and quality of outcomes.
Education is a product of both the mind and of the soul of people. Greater autonomy, self-reliance, commitment to excellence and cooperation with peers helps to describe the essence of who we are and what we are willing to believe in. These attributes, forged through this learning process, are the hallmark of what makes great learners and great citizens. Gaps in achievement with respect to these personal qualities will negatively affect the quality of life. Therefore as a teacher, I look at my students and I see “lives of opportunity” that await them and I have a strong compassion to reach out to them with a sense of urgency.
The relentless pursuit of betterment in how we educate our kids, relies upon innovation that is brought forth by teachers to create learning environments that not only meet the needs of students, but also provide an impetus galvanizing their intrinsic motivation to learn. If learning requires students to solve relevant problems in their community or their homes, then it will also require students to become more engaged and committed in school and see their efforts through to completion. This helps to develop the self-efficacy that lies within each student. This wealth of youthful energy and ideas can be an important resource for communities of people in school or within the community at large. This is the challenge that schools face as they deliver an education for the betterment of kids. Teachers continue to build upon these efforts and help to foster loving and loveable people within a good society.