La Jolla resident Mary Sue Lindsay knows her way around a classroom. She was a teacher for 20 years and a school principal for another 20 — in elementary, middle and high school. Hoping to use these decades of experience further, she decided to become an education consultant to help parents, students, teachers and administers solve problems that arise at school.
Lindsay explained that many parents find themselves in “an educational cul-de-sac,” when it comes to solving issues about their child’s school experiences. Those problems might include conflict with other students or the teacher, lack of understanding about what’s happening in the classroom, friendship issues, recess and lunch woes or homework concerns.
“I can help them make a plan and work the plan!” she said. “The plan might include determining who to call, when to meet, reasons to meet and what the possible outcomes might be. If parents want me to also attend school meetings with them, I’m interested in going because it’s important to bring everyone together to collaborate.”
Lindsay said, through the years, she’s witnessed many changes in the classroom. Years ago, she recalled, teachers “taught to the middle.” This created a situation where one-third of the class was bored because they already knew the information, one-third needed more help on the lessons, and one-third was right where the teacher was teaching.
“We don’t do that anymore,” she explained. “Classrooms need to be personalized where teachers start by discovering who knows what. Teachers then take the students from where they are, to where they can be.”
Seven years ago, she said, she was the only American invited to speak in Beijing, China at an international conference for 2,000 educators. The focus was on personalized education and how to reach every child in a classroom.
“Since that conference, I’ve taught workshops for educators in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Harbin. Personalized education is a new concept in China; the majority of Chinese schools teach to the strongest students and do not provide personalized education for the rest in the class.”
The idea that all students should be on the same page, literally, troubles Lindsay.
“In some districts, all students in the same grade are literally on the same page in their books. This leaves very little room for personalizing education and lumps all children together.
“We know that students begin each year with an individual set of knowledge and skills. We also know that each child is going to progress at his or her own speed. The idea that they are all on the same page is bizarre.”
Lindsay said regardless of what is happening in the education system, it all boils down to the relationship between the teacher and the student.
“I meet parents every day who say they have concerns about their child’s school experience, but don’t know what to do,” she said. “I also meet many parents who say they keep hoping a situation will get better. If parents are concerned, they need to go to their child’s school. They need to keep asking questions until the problems are solved. They should not wait or assume things will get better.”
Her passion for all things related to education stems from a simple belief, “Every child deserves a great education,” she said.
“And every child deserves a teacher who loves children, is passionate about teaching and knows how to teach. I believe every parent has a right to fully understand what their child is experiencing and has a right to be heard.
“ I believe that every teacher has the right to teach in a school that is a positive place for children to learn and grow. I believe school administrators are responsible for inspiring all members of the school community to contribute in the best way they can.”
Not only has Lindsay played the role of teacher, principal, consultant and expert, she’s also played the role of mother to two grown daughters. She says the best success strategy any parent can adopt for their child is “to be fully present in their lives; read to them and listen to them.”
Mary Sue Lindsay can be reached at (858) 952-6243, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit marysuelindsay.com
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