Archive for the ‘Parents for public schools’ Category

Christmas musings

December 26, 2009

Basking the afterglow of a Christmas filled with laughter, fresh-baked cookies, melt-in-your mouth beef tenderloin and thoughtful gifts, I marvel at how blessed we are. 

I also wonder if we’ve done enough for those who go without and acknowledge that by simply asking the question, I’ve also provided the answer.

Living in two cities, with jobs frozen statewide and separated more than we planned on and for longer than anticipated, it’s easy to slip into disgruntledness.

Yet having jobs we enjoy, jobs with meaning as well as the rarity of paid benefits like health insurance and retirement, are more than many can lay claim to this holiday season.

So I find myself feeling a bit guilty for harboring petty complaints while others go jobless, hungry and homeless.

My grandmother, a college graduate during a time when educated women were a rarity, always said that education is the one thing no one can ever take from you.  Having lost her husband and her home to the Great Depression, she knew that jobs, social status and other accouterments of an upper class lifestyle were fleeting possessions at best.

Public schools and public libraries were free, however, and she made good use of them. She relished in learning, and passed that zeal to know to my mother, who passed it along to me.

It pleases me to no end that my daughter has become an avid reader. She’s on the path to a life of constant discovery and continual surprises — the ability to travel the world without ever leaving home.

So if I could wave my magic wand and give all the world a gift this Christmas it would be two-fold: the gift of a caring, competent adult to lead every young person through childhood and the gift of books and the ability to read.

That’s why I’m excited that our school district is going to launch a community-wide campaign next month to get more adults and more books in our students’ lives. They desperately need both.

I’m also very proud of my brother and his wife who have adopted five beautiful children who might not have had a chance for a full life, and my brother and sister-in-law who recently became certified to serve as foster care parents. That’s something my husband and I might explore once our children are grown, with a special focus on children with disabilities.

I’m convinced that if we had both of these things in ample supply, we would have much less hunger, homelessness and despair, and maybe even peace on earth.

Poor nutrition and learning

December 12, 2009

It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry. And kids can’t get five servings of fresh fruits or vegetables a day if no one sells them in their neighborhood. Our bodies need good food, fresh air and plenty of exercise to power them. Our brains need less TV time and more books, board games and hands-on activities. Our hearts and our spirits need more conversations and connections with caring, competent adults. School days and years need to  be longer, not shorter, so kids have more time to learn the vast amount of knowledge and skills required today. Class sizes need to smaller, not larger, so teachers can individualize instruction for more students. Children who struggle to learn need the best teachers. Schools with the most challenges need the nation’s top principals. Yet many of the students we serve in our public schools, particularly those most impacted by poverty, aren’t getting enough of any of these. Then we wonder why they’re not all on grade level? Children are incredibly resilient. They can overcome any obstacle. But they need more help from the adults in their lives, in their schools and in their communities.

Is H1N1 fear justified?

November 5, 2009

Consider me an H1N1 believer. After seeing my daughter struggle through 103 degree fever, an asthma attack and pneumonia, follwed by a bout of the stomache flu, and having a colleague hospitalized with pneumonia after a nasty bout of the flu followed by bronchitis, I have new respect for this illness. My school district has 120 schools. So far, only seven schools don’t seem to have any students or staff members sick with the flu. Yikes. And the official flu season hasn’t even begun yet! If this is a mild strain, I don’t want to see what severe looks like.

Flu hits home

October 17, 2009

High fever? Check. Body aches? Check. Cough? Check. Sore throat? Check. Miserable? Check. One scared teenager? Absolutely.

After eight weeks of washing our hands incessantly, coughing into our sleeves (which still feels weird), and stocking up on hand sanitzer, my 14-year-old has come down with the flu. 

Unfortunately, due to the media hype, she’s fairly convinced she’s on a fast train journey to the grim reaper. Assurances from her father and I that she’ll live to try out for baskbetball have little impact, especially since our graduate degrees are in education and communication, not medicine.

Having older children, I realize this tendency to think your parents are idiots will dissipate sometime in her twenties. Right now, however, it looks like it’s going to be a long flu season.

A moral imperative

September 19, 2009

During our school board retreat today, our vice-chairman called the need to dramatically improve our low-performing schools a “moral imperative.” We have the levers for change at our disposal: research shows that principals and classroom teachers can make a signficiant and lasting difference in improving student academic performance. His empassioned and eloquent call for change made me think of something another board member shared with me recently. If scientists studying a lake found only one or two fish of the same species dying they would likely attribute the deaths to natural causes. If all the fish in the lake began dying, or if one particular type of fish began dying enmasse, the scientists would raise the alarm about environmental factors and start assessing what is present in the lake that is so toxic to these fish. Her question to me, which echoes our board vice-chairman’s remarks, was simple. When the evidence is so overwhelming that students of color, particularly African-American children, and students who come from poor families, are not doing well in our schools, why do we assume this is caused by the students and their families and not by the school environment? The fish are dying. When are we going to quit blaming their parents and start looking at the lake? It’s a good question.