Empowerment Education

The Student Crisis is a Systems Issue

It's time to stop blaming the educators, this is about a system of learning that is causing trauma in our young people & educators.

Caring. Patient. Dedicated.

This is what we see in teachers and school leaders because they truly want to make a difference in the lives of young people. 

Global-minded. Collaborative. Brilliant. This is what we see in the current Gen Z and Alpha generations of students. They are ready to make a difference in the world in new and effective ways.

Students spend MOST of their foundational social, emotional, physical and mental  development in school, 13-17+ years of their lives, 1200 hours every year. They spend the majority of this time doing what other people tell them to do. The system doesn’t allow them to build autonomy and inner trust in their own abilities. Shouldn’t they be building self -agency, -confidence, and self-discipline?

Educators spend at least 45 hours a week at school and another one to three hours every evening and on weekends to prepare or grade. They usually over give. They have little time for themselves. From our time in the schools, educators are not loving their time at school and feel undervalued, stressed and in survival mode. Educators are raising our next generation of adults, so shouldn’t they be treated with more respect? 

The education system has not been effective in developing learning environments of well-being for students and their teachers and administrators. This is not a new thought. Most individuals know that something needs to change with the way our students are being educated. The current student epidemics and toxic stress they experience every day can be tied in large part to a current system of education that is unintentionally causing  primary and secondary trauma in those who work and play there. Everyone participating in the current education system seems to be stuck in a time warp, participating in the same covert manipulation and control of an outdated, robotized, competitive, unhealthy, outcome-based system. Students sit in desks or tables all in rows, doing the same things, listening and regurgitating facts, and equations or whatever someone else wants them to do.1 Why?

Over the last 50 years, this system has continued to try and develop academically astute students to be the best in the world by more and more academics and standardized testing, then holding teachers accountable for their test scores. But, this approach has backfired, and instead, has developed teachers and students who are stressed, depressed and unhealthy, don’t enjoy school, and are too unaware or scared to say or do anything about it. From early grades, students are not prepared across a wide range of skills that we now know are needed to thrive in life, such as social and emotional skills, nor are they exposed to the daily integration of self-leadership and high-level wellness habits. More often, they are also not being exposed to a rich set of career preparation activities nor are given the time during school hours for compassionate action projects in their own communities. These are the prime experiences young people need to have to build well-being, personal success, life satisfaction and fulfillment in school, health, career and relationships. 

Teacher shortages are real. 

Nearly 69 million new teachers worldwide are needed to be recruited and trained by 2030 in order to achieve the 4th United Nations sustainable development goal (SDG) of ensuring an inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all students in the world, with sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia most affected by the worldwide shortage.2, 3

In the U.S. over the past decade, the number of education degrees conferred by American colleges and universities dropped by 22 percent.4 The word is out. Undergraduates don’t want to go into a profession that they can’t enjoy or get paid enough to live. Also, roughly 8% of teachers have left the profession which currently puts them in a teacher shortage especially in poorer school districts. 5,6  Of those who leave teaching voluntarily, most U.S. teachers say that low pay and the required administrative tasks and curriculum demands that override their ability to connect with students and be the teachers that they joined the profession to really be, are the main reasons they are leaving. It is not teaching anymore, they say, it is something else. Overall teachers leave the profession because they are dissatisfied with teaching. Teachers are tired of banging their heads up against the system and feeling exhausted all the time. Why are we not listening?

What needs to happen to turn this around and have droves of undergraduates students wanting to go into the education field and stay there or for veteran teachers to be deeply satisfied with their job and stick around?

Student Behavioral Challenges are real.

Teachers are also struggling with how to handle students who don’t comply with rules and the everyday routines of their school. In 2012, one study found that 62% percent of U.S. teachers who have been teaching in the same school for five or more years say that behavior issues that interfere with teaching and learning have notably worsened. 7 Currently, office referrals are up as students are returning to school for the first time after the 2020 Covid Pandemic. 8  In the current system, students who don’t comply with the system’s rules or philosophy, like those who don’t want to listen, or can’t sit still and focus, or who are violent, or avoid learning altogether, are punished or reprimanded, ingraining deeper the already disempowering beliefs of lack of self worth these students might already have about themselves. Many studies and articles that address student’s behavioral issues blame the students themselves. “Oh, more kids have ADD”; “Oh, yeah, she comes from a poor home”.  With good intentions, teachers and school leaders do what they can for these students, but the system of education that they are within, is at a loss. They just don’t fit in the education system box that “they” say will make them successful. From our perspective, the system is not making them successful. Students who become outwardly successful do so mostly because a teacher or parent has helped them find a path that they are excited about, despite the system they were educated in. Secondly, we believe that everyone is missing the point; -what the students are really saying. 75% of U.S. high-school students’ report feelings of negativity about school. 9 – 10 What if it is not the students that need to fit into the system, but the system fitting into the students?

Grades and High Stakes Testing

There are many articles and studies showing that our students are not doing well on their standardized testing in math and reading.11  These reports blame this on our education system failing because our students are doing poorer on these tests than in the past and compared to other nations. How many tests are given each year? Again, from our perspective, we have it all wrong. The education system is not failing because our students are doing poorly on math and such compared to others. Nor is our education system failing because during the covid pandemic, students “are falling behind” in these subjects because they weren’t in school. This viewpoint is evaluating the effectiveness of the education system based on the wrong measurement. If we actually believe that test scores determine the effectiveness of our education system, no wonder we keep piling on curriculum in those areas. But, again this doesn’t work.  Testing and grading have their place, but not in the way we use them now. As anyone who knows anything about psychology 101, intrinsic motivation to learn will eventually falter when extrinsic rewards of manipulation are brought into play. Grades do not equal a fulfilled and successful and healthy life. They show what the student knows and the effort of memorizing the material right then based on what the “teacher” thinks is important. What if the students know more than the teachers? Research shows that most students forget 50-90% of what they just learned the next day when asked to take the same test again! What’s the point? What does getting that grade have to do with being successful in life?

There is a Solution

We need to base the effectiveness of the education system on how excited and motivated they ALL are, even the drop-outs, to attend because they can’t wait to have another experience of how their gifts and skills will come alive and contribute to their personal growth and the greater good NOW.  The old “survival of the most academically and athletically fittest” educational framework needs to be displaced by a healthy and empowering one where everyone thrives.

It is time to offer an educational system philosophy and principles that ensure that all the people working, learning and playing there, “are fully at ease with themselves and with their colleagues, brimming with enthusiasm and energy. Nobody wears a mask or pretends to be someone they are not. Everybody is using their talents to the fullest and seems incredibly alive.”12  

We must bring to life a new story of education. 

“A story based on a new definition of success, healthy ways of being, innovation in motion, and an expanded idea of what it means to learn and be human.” 

This new story of education entails a SHIFT in focus in how students and their teachers work together to learn, a shift in how they connect to their own thinking, feelings, and actions, and a shift in how they create and maintain well-being and overall health. 

The new story of education also entails a SHIFT in how the educational system views how humans learn and what students and teachers truly need to create an inspired and compassionate learning environment based on the most current research of thriving and flourishing youth.  

We call this new story of education, Empowerment Education.

When students and their teachers are learning in healthy and empowering environments, feelings of true success, and fulfillment no matter their life circumstances occur. Otherwise, life consists of “proving” “getting” and “being stressed”. In the new paradigm of education, life is a process of living what is really important with connection, resiliency, ease and joy. Our current and future generations, our taxpayers, our communities and our planet deserve a generation of W.E.L.L. Kids NOW®, –Well, Empowered, heart-centered Leaders, who love to learn, love life, and are living their Legacy now. This includes all of us who work and play in the education system, from the youngest student to the oldest teacher. Many educators, themselves, have had their inner “kid” taken away from the pressures of school. We all deserve to view life through the lens of a child who just stepped into a toy store.

But here’s the good news: we know how to shift into a healthy and empowering paradigm of learning and educating students. We start from the inside out empowering students by their teachers and leaders using a trauma-informed, life and well-being coaching framework and mindset based in social-emotional learning. Integrating this type of coaching and teaching system into the current system will give it a huge jump in the right direction.

We can shift the education system in the next 10 years. Everyone deserves to learn in fun, safe, healthy and empowering environments with compassionate, inspiring, and connected adults. Our new generation of students will only be able to thrive if we do this.

Let’s get to work. Do our part. Join. Learn more.

References

  1. https://www.insider.com/school-classrooms-around-the-world-2017-7#teacher-ekaterine-tsipuria-is-pictured-with-schoolchildren-at-a-public-school-in-tbilisi-georgia-18
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jan/19/sustainable-development-goals-united-nations
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/oct/05/un-universal-education-goal-fail-69-million-new-teachers-unesco
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/27/us/covid-school-teaching.html?searchResultPosition=1
  5. https://www.epi.org/publication/the-teacher-shortage-is-real-large-and-growing-and-worse-than-we-thought-the-first-report-in-the-perfect-storm-in-the-teacher-labor-market-series/
  6. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/fewer-americans-are-majoring-in-education-but-will-students-pay-the-price-2018-02-14
  7. https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/9/27/22691601/student-behavior-stress-trauma-return
  8. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/classroom-behavior-problems-increasing-teachers-say/ 
  9. https://news.yale.edu/2020/01/30/national-survey-students-feelings-about-high-school-are-mostly-negative 
  10. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/learning/do-you-think-school-is-boring.html 
  11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/10/14/nations-report-card-scores-falling/?wpisrc=nl_sb_smartbrief 
  12. Laloux, Frederick;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcS04BI2sbk and http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/uploads/2/1/9/8/21988088/140305_laloux_reinventing_organizations.pdf and http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/

Meg Hanshaw

Meg Hanshaw

i.b.mee.