By Lara Kilgore
It is no secret that the educational system in our country is the subject of constant controversy. While all children deserve the best chance possible at their brightest futures, that picture looks different in every state, and in every individual case, and both political parties have opposing views and ideals surrounding the matter. I’ll disarm you from the get-go: this article is not a political commentary, nor will it express strong opinions about the insides of the educational system. This is a thought piece exploring a potential, independent solution to a greater systemic issue.
The solution to our academic issues as a nation isn’t ever going to be simple, as it calls for a grand re-structuring at the highest legislative levels to allocate funding and improve resources and outcomes, rendering the situation perpetually preposterous on a larger scale or does it? What if there was a way to create a larger community impact in an effort to improve education, but with an individualized focus, rather than attempting to improve the country’s system as a whole, all at once?
What if there was a way for us to make change almost immediately, focusing our efforts by challenging the leading corporations in our local communities to become intimately engaged with education? As the owner of a tutoring company that specializes in a holistic, relational approach to academic support in a one-on-one setting, I have spent the past decade with my ears to the ground, and I believe there is a way to solve this issue that is quite simpler and yet vastly more integrative beyond just the traditional education model.
I am an educator, but not in the traditional sense. My classroom has always been a dining room table, and my white board an easy-to-tote iPad. Due to the nature of a one-on-one teaching setting, I am able to spend 100% of my time understanding a student’s learning style, their needs, their mindset, and their emotional well-being. This individualized focus yields the best outcomes in almost all cases. However, private tutoring tends to be a rather exclusive privilege, because it costs money. But what if it didn’t have to be that way, and there was a solution that could make tutoring services more accessible to more families?
I recently attended an Education and Workforce Council meeting hosted by our city’s Chamber of Commerce. Once a month, they gather educational leaders and representatives from various local industries to discuss legislation at the community, state, and national levels that directly affect our school systems. One or two speakers gave a presentation on what their firms are doing to push the needle in favor of better education and, ultimately, a more prepared workforce for the future.
The representation in the room was highly diverse. There were professors from local universities, community colleges, superintendents from school districts across the county as well as museums and groups who lead community outreach targeted to children and parents, and myself – a female entrepreneur running her own tutoring and mentorship business. It was one of the few meetings in which I could gain a 40,000-foot view of what was happening in our educational landscape.
In order to see those ‘needle-moving’ gains at the municipal, state, and national levels it is going to require participation from the education system, families, and corporations to see the next generation of innovators, leaders and confident individuals who can compete and contribute to a global workforce. What I walked away realizing is that for someone in my position, the perception and perspective has been very different. If the Education and Workforce Council is the 40,000 foot-view of our city’s current educational landscape, then I have been operating at only one foot from the ground.
The cost of a having a personal tutor can vary; nonetheless, it is a financial burden that is taken on by a family. The largest demographic of our tutoring clientele is represented by middle and upper class families who either can afford to pay the price for tutoring, or who can sacrifice to make it work. Many of them pay that on top of private school tuitions. Yet, the need for tutoring and extra help is immense, even for these students, because of the demands placed on them. If this is true for the upper-echelon demographic of any city, then the amount of need in the lesser performing school districts statewide and nationwide is sobering.
There has to be a better, faster way to give every child the best educational opportunities possible. Yet, there is clearly something missing in this puzzle. I believe the solution is not found in schools, but corporations. Businesses could potentially close the gap and provide that final piece to allow for localized change, sooner. Yes, many businesses give back to education monetarily and by donating their time through volunteer programs. Although this makes a difference, there is an untapped chance for a much larger impact. What if corporations supported continued education in their benefits packages, not only for their employees, but also for their employees’ children?
No progressive idea ever comes without varying opinions on both sides of the table. However, it is something that my company Beyond Education is in the developmental stages of exploring. No matter the school, no matter the district, no matter the odds, there must be a way that more of us can be a part of the solution.
Lara Kilgore is the founder and CEO of Beyond Education, a San Antonio, Texas based mentoring and tutoring company focused on helping students reach their goals by building confidence through relational mentorship. She has worked with hundreds of families helping children of all ages battle the stress and anxiety of today’s education environment via academic tutoring, college advising, and homeschool instruction. In the process, she has helped students gain acceptance to Tier 1 universities around the country as well as coach her own Beyond Education Mentors, new entrepreneurs, and professionals on how to reach their personal and professional goals. She is dedicated to seeing the education system improve and works to create solutions that best fit the individual. Connect with Lara on LinkedIn and on Beyond Education’s Instagram @beyondedu.co.