‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an old African proverb that is commonly used today when we refer to the importance of the people or “community” that helps raise a child. Raising a child is not an individual effort. A communal effort is needed, and necessary, if we want to effectively raise our children. Within the educational system the classroom teacher has always been lauded as the most important factor to a student’s success. Since the turn of the 20th century and the introduction of public education the importance of the teacher has been written about, researched, and become an indoctrinated fact within schools and society. But when I walk around my school it becomes abundantly clear that ‘It takes a village to educate a child’. Our children’s education is not merely a teacher’s responsibility it is dependent on a lot more people within and outside of our educational institutions.
Since the beginning of man anyone who passed on knowledge to someone else was a teacher. A mother and father passing on skills, values, ethics, and information are teachers. An older brother teaching their sibling how to throw a baseball was a teacher. Somewhere along the way the title of “teacher” became formalized and regulated. To be called a teacher one had to go to post-secondary institution, attain a degree and then attend a teacher education program. Some countries, such as Finland, expect people to attain a Masters degree of Education to gain the title of “teacher” within their country. By attaining a degree and attending a teacher-ed program society decrees that a person is capable and fit to educate and pass on the needed information to create effective and educated citizens within our societies. I’m not here to argue if the formalization of the “teacher” status in society has had a positive or negative role in education. I believe that education and the teaching of students is not merely the passing on of knowledge by the teachers within the classrooms. Education is much more and it takes a lot more people, a village, to to be effective in today’s society.
Teachers are the predominant people within our educational system. The majority of a school’s staff are teachers. They pass on the knowledge, they assess our kids, they pass on values, etc. For the majority of the day students interact with teachers. But a student interacts and learns from more than the teacher in the classroom. For many students the first person they interact with in the morning, beside their parents/guardians, is the bus driver. Bus drivers ensure our kids get to and from schools safely. They also interact and talk to students. There have been many times I have been contacted by bus driver to let me know that a child has had a bad morning and might need a check-in, or that there’s been an argument between two kids that needs resolving. Bus drivers create meaningful and important relationships with the students on their busses. Another person that plays an important role within our schools is the custodians. Nerd Alert moment (LOL) – I always remember Jean-Luc Picards relationship with Boothby, the old groundskeeper at Star Fleet Academy. Picard noted, in many episodes, that Boothby was a invaluable source of advice and support throughout his years at the Academy. For many people, the custodians and bus drivers, are overlooked within our educational systems but they play an important role within our schools. Another group of people that play an important part of student’s education are the office staff. For many students these people are invaluable sources of support, information, and advice within the schools. These three groups of people are just the tip of the iceberg of people are schools that play important roles within our students education. They are sometimes overlooked but their role is invaluable within the village that is educating our students.
Another group of people that is fundamentally important within this village are parents. A child’s first teacher is their mother and father. From these people they learn their values, manners, ethics, sense of morality, their sense of belonging, etc. Through interacting or watching their parents they acquire a love of reading, playing sports, etc. Unfortunaly once a child enters the educational system the role of the parent starts to diminish in many aspects. Nowadays it seems that as students get older and proceed from elementary-middle-secondary school parents take more of a backseat in regards to their child’s education. A students’s success in school has been taken off the shoulders of parents and placed on the shoulders of teachers and their schools. Why has this shift occurred? What impact has this had on student’s education and growth? These are challenging questions but my point is that parents, who are fundamentally important to a child’s education, have started to play a smaller and smaller role in their schooling when it should be a vital and integral part of it.
As schools transform and change within the 21st Century another important part of the village is the community. More and more community connections and professionals will be connecting, collaborating, educating, and learning with students in our schools. These people will not be formal teachers within our society but they will bring ideas, challenges, and knowledge to the students within our schools. These professionals and other community members might not even be from our local communities. With the internet the world has become a much smaller place where students can connect and learn from people all over the world.
When we think of the old proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ you think of a small African village where everyone from the parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbours, etc all play a role in raising the children within their community. The educational world is not much different than this African village. Schools are vibrant and complex places where large numbers of people are needed to create caring, thoughtful, and supportive learning environments. It is important to remember that schools are more than just the teaching of facts and information. They are institutions within the community or “village” that are fundamental in creating the people that become are neighbours, friends, and community members.