BFA in Theatre Performance from Columbus State University
MA in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on brain-based learning from ETSU
Megan A. Hamilton has a decade of teaching experience and has collaborated with Washington County Schools (WCS) going on 8 school years.
Married to Joshua Adam Hamilton who is a native of Abingdon, VA.
From my experience of working in schools and helping move forward from a grass-roots level a more student centered based instruction in Washington County Schools (WCS), it is the schools' abilities to shift from a less standardized testing culture to a more process of learning culture that is not only extremely challenging, but also absolutely mandatory for the success of the students that graduate from WCS. Even though we know as educators that this has to change, shifting mindsets that have been instilled in this system for a very long time requires a lot of intentional work. We are losing way too many kids in this system, and it is our responsibility as a community to assist the schools in this endeavor.
The reality is that we are not graduating many students who are prepared to thrive in the 21st century work force. If we want economic and social vitality in our region, this shift has to happen across the board. The state is starting to make changes in response to this issue because they finally recognize the need as well. The new profile of a graduate requires we focus on communication, collaboration, creativity, connection, and citizenship. So it our job to figure out how exactly we are going to do that and give our teachers and administrators the support to do just that.
We also have to recognize that a high percentage of students in WCS are dealing with the effects of trauma and need to understand how to best navigate those waters for student learning.
There needs to be a constant dialogue with the school board members and the Board of Supervisors on the needs of the schools. We need to be able to also help the Board of Supervisors find other sources of revenue to go towards our schools. As a county, we need to be able to explore as many possibilities to help funding, which may even require that we stay open to a small increase in taxes. This is something that I am personally not completed sold on, but it wouldn't hurt to look at whether or not this investment is worth it.
It's about relationships and connecting. We are social beings and this is scientific fact. Learning is all about connecting, and we do this by tapping into what makes us human (emotions). Emotion is the number one regulator of memory. Unfortunately, the teaching to the test mentality of the system can make it very difficult for true connection; however, it isn't impossible. I'm seeing educators learn how to fight those odds and do the very best they can to create meaningful connections with their students and provide opportunities as well as the space for their students to connect to one another. When we provide instruction and facilitation that allows students to explore the curriculum through hands-on, collaborative, and creative experiences, we start to increase the students ability to have more meaningful connections in their lives and start to cultivate in them better relationship skills such as communication and empathy. It's all about CONNECTING, and now there is so much science to prove this. Let's listen to the science and really implement it on all levels in our society.
The short answer to this is absolutely we need a plan to execute these improvements. It's been a long time coming. This is something that the current board has been discussing at least from my knowledge. There is concern that I've heard from some community members that the renovation of the courthouse will take away from school funding and the schools' ability to do proper renovations. This has to be an ongoing conversation with the Board of Supervisors. It is vital that the Supervisors are actually a part of the plan so that we ensure the proper funding for each year that is dedicated to this initiative. It will be our job to lay out a strategic as well as fiscal plan on how to complete the much needed renovations going forward. It needs to be comprehensive and realistic in order for not only our supervisors to support it, but also our community members. This must be very intentional in order for it to work well. My experience in capital plans involved a detailed outline that was created 1-2 years out before the first major action step in renovations even started. This isn't something that can be turned over in a month and will take some time to do efficiently.
These numbers are a result of the testing culture in our current school system. I know many parents who are opting for private education or homeschooling because public education is not meeting the needs of their kids. My answer to this goes back to the first question. I do believe that shifting from a testing culture to a process of learning culture will help these numbers decrease. This also goes back to creating the space for meaningful connection to happen in the schools. We must take what we know about the science of learning and apply it to the system. I believe that public education must lead the way and that we can do just that.
I do believe that we need standards; however, I do not believe that they should be the end all be all. With many of the current standards, I don't know one teacher, administrator, or adult in this world that actually meets all of those or most of them. This is the ironic part. Of course, each child needs to be able to read, write, and know the basics of math in order to survive well in this world. That is crucial; however, me knowing the details of mitosis is not crucial to me living a productive life. I'm hopeful that the new profile of a graduate will help us start to change more of these standards to also give students voice and choice as to what they want to learn especially after a certain age in school.
First, we need to provide quality pay for educators in early childhood. They are even more underpaid then our public school teachers. Teachers' pay is a problem across the board; however, the most important time for a child is in their early years. Better pay attracts high quality instructors. Funding would need to go to that first. We also need to provide access to more outside play spaces and provide toys that are actually not electronic based at this age. More and more scientific research now shows that this type of interaction for kids can be detrimental to long-term development. They need toys that help them learn how to imagine, create, and problem solve on a basic level. They also need more opportunities for participating in the arts to enhance their cognitive and social abilities. We need to do everything we can to make sure we create the best foundation for each child in our community.
We also need to do all we can to provide trauma informed care practices and have access to services that can assist children at this age dealing with trauma.