To improve education at the K through 12th grade level, the process must start at the bottom in the classroom and work its way up through the system, according to Joe A. Willis, MC adjunct speech professor and author of Teaching Lessons: Creating a Cultural Infrastructure for Great Schools.
Willis’s inspiration for writing his book Teaching Lessons comes from 35 years of experience in the field of education.
Willis taught at the high school level for 15 years and then at the college level for 20 years before retiring in 2012. Willis still teaches part time at MC in addition to writing and his other interests.
The book addresses the need to improve the K through 12th grade education by changing the culture and the perception of how the education system should work.
The wrong questions are being asked, so the wrong answers are being given, Willis said.
Too much emphasis is put on who should run the school and how, not on how schools can be improved to help the students learn more effectively.
“The solutions that are being offered by others revolve around changing the macros systems,” Willis said.
Willis believes that the culture that surrounds education today only focuses on the application of information to work in a career rather than a well-rounded knowledge base.
“I think that anybody who cares about education should read the book,” Willis said.
Willis spent about 20 hours a week over the last two or three years writing and editing the book. He had about 10 or 12 people who he knows read chapters to make sure the message Willis was trying to convey was coming through.
As a first-time author, Willis had to self-publish his book. It is very difficult for first time authors to get a publisher to pick up their book, since the publisher does not know how the author’s books will sell, he said.
He found this discouraging since he wanted to make people aware of the issue.
“You need to publish this because people need to hear it, but that did not go far,” Willis said.
One of the publishers who Willis spoke with said he really liked the idea but could not do it for business reasons, but the publisher said if Willis could show that the book would sell, Willis should give him a call.
Willis’s goal is to sell 1,000 books by the end of the year.
What Willis said he is really looking forward to the response that he will receive from people who have read the book, to get their input and for them start asking the right questions to those who are in charge of how education is organized.
“My goal with the book is to turn the corner and get a new conversation started that is more fruitful,” Willis said.
Without the 35 years of experience in education, Willis said he probably would not have felt the same way, and would not have written the book. He said if the education system is not changed, it will not create the kind of culture that is needed.
“Our future economic growth is based on our ability to educate people,” Willis said.
Teaching Lessons was released at the beginning of March.
It is available for purchase online at joewillis.net. There will be several book signings in the Midland area: noon to 2 p.m., March, 29 at Hastings Book Store; and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. April, 22 at the Spring Hill Suites.