Thursday, June 19, 2008

BlogBlast for Education



Today was Riley's last day of school. In a conversation with her sister, she said she thought that learning was the most fun. Talk about a proud mama moment!

But she's only seven. I worry, obsess, and drive myself crazy worrying about whether or not she'll keep that joy of learning.

What's incredibly sad is that nothing drains that out of a kid quite like a poor education at school. Tedious homework without a purpose, overstuffed classrooms with poor air ventilation, teachers that don't believe your kid is special, administrations that aren't respectful, authoritarianism, bad peer influences, not enough textbooks...the list of what can go wrong is astoundingly long and its effects on my child's love of learning can be nearly insurmountable to overcome.

But what phrase can drive me quicker to insanity than any other: parental involvement.

This phrase has been thrown around as the answer to all problems. If we "make" our kids do their homework, even when they're screaming and crying because they don't understand it and they don't like our explanation and they're up until 11 o'clock at night. Volunteering to sell goods at the bake sale, even if you're a single working parent that can't afford to take time off work. Taking gift wrap catalogs to work and forcing all your colleagues to buy some...and then buying 20 more rolls so that your kid can get the prize they want...and then buying another 20 rolls from all your colleagues' kids' catalogs since they bought from you. Drilling your child with the times tables. Getting them all freaked out about standardized tests.

I swear, this is what I thought parental involvement meant a year ago. Because that's all that I was ever told by the schools. And my oldest daughter was losing her love of learning.

Most 5-year-olds I've met are like Sylvia was at 5: interested in everything, constantly asking how things worked, why we did this, where's that? Our children are sponges that find everything fascinating and want to take it all in.

And then they start school. And if all the stars align, and we're nearly perfect parents, or we're lucky enough to have kids whose dream is to compete in the National Spelling Bee, then all goes well. If the parents stay together and never lose their jobs, and are able to sock away for a good college, then all can go well.

But many of us experience something a little different than that. As much as we want to make our children the center of our lives and the universe, we're still expected to pay the rent/mortgage. Someone gets sick. Parents divorce. Someone's job gets outsourced. A myriad of things can go wrong, and do. And without a strong support system, we're left floundering.

And somewhere in there, we forget to take the gift wrapping catalog in. Or we can't make the PTA meeting at 8:15 a.m. Or we don't sign the field trip permission slip. And our "support system" in the school says, "oh, well. Not enough parent involvement." And our child is written off.

It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way.

And all around the country, movements are happening. Revolutions are happening. Parents are starting to stand up and say, "wait a minute. That's my child. My child is not just a number to factor into your standardized test scores!"

And I'm standing with those parents. And I'm standing with those teachers and principals and parents and community leaders to say, "not my child."

I've been very fortunate to get to know an organization called the Los Angeles Parents Union. My "rep" - who is really more a friend at this point - just got back from Sacramento where myriads of schools and families came together in front of the Governor's office to protest the budget cuts. She's also working on the Small School Initiative, which would require high schools to cap enrollment at 400, and open hundreds of new, smaller schools throughout the district. Parents are insisting upon having a voice in their kids' schools.

And parents should also demand better support from within the schools. When a child loses interest in school, we should all be able to get together and figure out what's going on. Every child should be treated like they have the ability to be a straight A student. Every child should be encouraged to pursue their dreams. And every child should be exposed to as much of the world as possible to even find out what those dreams are.

A child should not be told they just need to learn "faster." They should be encouraged to slow it down and make sure they fully comprehend it. Our children should not be punished for being either ahead or behind the learning curve. They should be given the resources they need to either catch up, or be given higher standards to achieve.

If a parent is expected to help with the Math homework, then we should expect the teacher to send home something that explains how they taught our kids so that we don't confuse them with our "outdated" methods. (Ideally, the teacher should be available to answer questions after school hours, but I know that only happens at a few schools.)

If a parent is expected to bring something to a pot luck party, then I should expect to be notified at least a week in advance so that I can shop for it on my schedule.

Schedules should NOT be changed. And schedules should accommodate the fact that over 70% of parents work outside the home.

Boys and Girls Clubs should be available for every school. And should be big enough to accommodate every student that needs after-school care.

School lunches should be healthy and prepared at the school, not brought in frozen trucks.

As much as we get patted on the head and told that everything will be fine, we are not wrong for feeling like we know our kids. And we should be able to complain about any teacher, any administrator without fear that our child will suffer repercussions for it.

I live in an extremely turmoiled district, a district where the in-fighting is slapped on the front page of our paper. And I see a lot of finger-pointing. And now it's our time. It's time for the parents to get their say. It's time for the parents to come together, and say enough. Our schools should not be permitted to fail our children. Our schools should not be setting our children up for failure. Enough. It's time to find the solutions.

Got a BlogBlast for Education Post? Sign the linky love so we can go read it!!

46 comments:

Lis Garrett said...

Fantastic idea!!

abrightfuture said...

Oh -- Great idea!!

I have a whole lot to say...which is surprising, given the ages of my kids. My education is something I feel strongly about, and I agree that not nearly enough has been said this election year.

Thanks!!!

CableGirl said...

This is going to be an incredible project! I can't wait to see how many people will get involved and what they will say. :)

Immoral Matriarch said...

Is it bad that I'm ignoring the whole schooling issue because I refuse to believe my girls will ever be that old?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

You *know* I'll be there, April. I'll talk it up on my next PSA Tuesday, too.

CableGirl said...

Ok, babe, I'm pimping it for you on my blog. I'll get to work on that button either today while the little one naps or this weekend. :)

Kori said...

Like I told Cablegirl, I am so there.

Natalie said...

I'll definitely be there. I've got some concerns even though my son is not quite of school age yet.

Jeff said...

Good for you. I'll plan on joining too.

citizen jane said...

I'm SO in. Great idea, my friend. And it focuses on an issue that has affects on everyone, whether in the past or currently.

Florinda said...

Terrific idea! I'll give it a mention in my Sunday "announcements" post. I'm going to be out of town and possibly without Internet on the day itself, but if I can get a post written and scheduled before I leave, I'm in.

Tara R. said...

Hell yeah, I'll be there!

Julie said...

what a wonderful idea and will support you in this.

Melinda said...

Count me in!

singleworkingmommy said...

I'm all over this like white on rice--and I'll spread the word.

hugabug1 said...

What a great idea! Pleeease, tell me you're going to send a reminder of some kind? I have many thoughts on education, but if I can't remember the date.....

sybil law said...

I love the idea!

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

Okay, I'm in! Let me know when the button is ready!

nutmeg said...

Count me in!

LunaNik said...

Just pimped it on my blog today girlie. Let's get this ball rollin', eh?!

OHmommy said...

OK. April... sign me up and tell me when the button is up. I will support it. WONDERFUL idea.

Corina said...

As a former teacher, now SAHM, I have ALOT to say. This is a great idea! i am bookmarking you as well. Thanks!

Tara R. said...

Thank you for hosting this... love the idea. I have LOTS to say on this subject.

LiteralDan said...

Whoops, I didn't know about this when I published this post today about my wife (a teacher). Just a couple weeks early, I guess-- it seems appropriate for this, but I guess I'll have to see if I can come up with something on the 20th, too (no promises-- who can plan that far ahead?)

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

As the mom of a gifted child starting high school in the Fall, I have quite a bit to say - about the past, AND the future. It won't be pretty, either!

~Shiona~ said...

Thanks for the link. My LO isn't in school yet but I value education a great deal.

Laski said...

As a teacher with tons of opinions, I simply love this idea!

citizen jane said...

Fantastic post -- just as I knew it would be.

Thank you SO much for being the wonderful force behind this amazing project. It's an honor to participate.

abrightfuture said...

Thanks so much for doing this, April! Fantastic idea!!!!

Lucy said...

I hear ya, sister! I'm a teacher and a mom and I am sick and tired of homework. It's a curse! Homework in elementary school should be meaningful practice/review that is used in class. Homework should always be meaningful. Alternatively, we could just skip it and all go read for half an hour.

Teachers are pressured to "cover" more - that's the government deciding what should be taught - and then give absurd homework. The little doobers need time to go out and play, stare at the wall, whaddevvah. The big doobers need personal time, too.

In my little burb, there are many parent events during working hours. I've given up on that. I connect with the teachers to let them know when my kids are particularly happy/engaged, and I give them the benefit of the doubt unless there is a glaring issue (we've had some glares). I'm linking to you- thanks for your efforts.

Sparkling Mama said...

It's so important to remember that we are the only advocates our children have!

Ms. H said...

I read about your BlogBlast on Tara's blog...and came over here to check it out. I hope it's okay that I invited myself to the party!

Dingo said...

I can't wait to read everyone's posts today. I'll post on my blog (asiwassaying.com) later today.

Kori said...

You are amazing.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Fabulous post, April. And I couldn't agree more on all of your points.

Natalie said...

It's funny that you mention school lunches, because I work indirectly in this field. Ironically, the districts I have been in contact with generally do prepare their meals on the spot and are much more concerned about healthy choices than they have been in the past. I am not sure about the LA school district since they are not one of our customers, but you really should start seeing this trend in action soon. At least I hope you do because this is definitely important. I'm just putting that out there so that you know schools are also concerned about this, and believe it or not, there are health guidelines that the schools have to adhere to in order for the government to reimburse them for meals. Unfortunately, the governmental guidelines are really lame.

Here is a link you might find interesting as this could ultimately affect the quality of food our kids receive. Higher gas prices = higher food prices. Even for schools.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25011096/

I am going to try and get a post up today. I definitely have an ideea of what I want to write, I'm just not sure how I'm going to word it. It's been a rough week for me and my brain has gone into shut down mode.

CableGirl said...

WONDERFUL post, April! You've hit the nail on the head with your comment about the need for learning to be fun, not a necessity. When kids are just pushed through the system so they can pass the required exams, the point of education is lost.

And I think you're right... we need to do this again in September. :)

Dingo said...

Hi! Well, I posted but can't seem to figure out how to do the badge/link. Can you drop me an email and fill me in on how it's done?

Thanks! Oh, thanks for your comment! I tried to email you but it keeps coming back as undeliverable.

cajunvegan said...

I hope that you don't mind that an evil school administrator joined in for this worthy cause.

Please stop by if you get a chance.

Florinda said...

Thanks so much for organizing this, April!

I agree with your comments about parental involvement - so many schools approach it as window dressing and/or volunteer labor for fundraisers. That's not to say such things are unnecessary, but they don't encourage parents to be involved in the truly educational aspects of school.

Jane said...

Excellent idea. I enjoyed your post and I enjoyed writing my own.

Alex Elliot said...

Great idea!!!

hotmamamia said...

It is about time! Thank you for speaking out in such an eloquent way!

Meg said...

Wonderful post! I write about small school reform sponsored by the Gates Foundation and have lots to say. Unfortunately I just returned from a two week vacation and don't think I can get it together--still working on laundry.

As you know, there are no easy answers and one size doesn't fit all, but our website has lots of resources.
It's www.kwfdn.org (KnowledgeWorks Foundation). It's a non-profit located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

mex (aka Syb) said...

How many doctors have to email their patients.. not only "have to" but do?

I would write more.. but am exhausted after my RSVP on the blog I linked to from here

Sigh...

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.