4.12.2010

Parents...always invited last to the party?




I'm really worn out. Feeling downtrodden. On the one hand, I am thrilled to have been selected to represent Kentucky at the first annual Parenting MomCongress as a delegate and honored to go to Washington DC, meet all the other amazing moms (a shout out to Jennifer, Yolanda, Tonjia,Dena, Luanne, Carrie, Christine, to name a few and those who I didn't name will not hold it against me) from across the US as well as meet Arne Duncan, Susan Kane, Lily Eskelsen, Carol Evans, Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, David Markus, Melinda George, Deanna Hoelscher, Dana Carr, Greg Toppo, Michael Alison Chandler, Byron Garrett, Kim Davenport, Carol Rasco, Carolyn James, and Elanna Yalow. These names should ring loud bells and our elected officials in Frankfort should be excited that a parent is going to represent. That a parent will be engaging in critical and crucial conversations about parental involvement. That these very important educational leaders and those that connect others with education, find that speaking to parents is a valuable learning experience. Unfortunately...not so much. As of late I have become more concerned for the lack of voice that parents seem to have in the discussions concerning the education of our children. It is great in a twitter (or is it a tweet) to say, hey, just came from this great meeting about the future of education with teachers, administrators, etc. but no where is it acknowledged that PARENTS, that's you and me peeps, are NOT being included in the conversation. I flashback to that press conference with Gov. Beshear (and btw I was sent an email stating it was a Town Hall about the new direction of education in the Commonwealth) where I had to ask why parents weren't included on the task force...so thankfully, we managed to get invited (although it was like being the "uncool" kid whose mom has to call the "cool" kid's mom and ask for an invite to the party) to the discussion. Well today at a critical meeting...parents as stakeholders were left out of the conversation. Who knows better how our children learn than we do? We know if our child is ready for kindergarten. We know if they are a visual or spatial learner, if they will need extra time for a task. So why don't you ask us about what our children need in school. My sons will do well on the upcoming assesment tests. They have a knack for the fill in the bubble tests that I, alas, do not. Does that mean they are any smarter than their classmates who struggle with the test? NO. It just means they are able to process and relate information differently. Does it mean that their school or their teachers have failed if they don't do well on a test? Hmmmm. I think the fact that a student is perhaps considered "transitional" (ie homeless) or having switched schools three times in a year, or not knowing if they will have dinner, or having a family in crisis (divorce, foreclosure, etc) might be bigger factors in the performance on a test that what the school or teacher has done. And a parent can still be the absolutely most engaged parent in the world, but these issues can be overwhelming and can impact that connection with their child.

For example, ask Jonah a basic question about his day that could take two sentences to discribe and you will sit with him forever because he is not comfortable in that type of situation. Ask him to write about it, and wow! A creative, witty, insightful discourse will take place. Seth will hit the highlights, then he's done. Question asked, question answered. But watch him create a webpage or movie, awesome. So, how is a teacher to teach to 28 totally different and unique individuals with different learning skill sets? Why not ask their parents? Why not collaborate with their families? So why are parents, the people with whom the children who our elected officials wish to educate, and with whom these children spend the largest portion of their time with, why are they absent from the conversation? I am tired of hearing, we can't get parents to get engaged. Really? Really. It seems as if there are 50 other women from across the US who are engaged. And they will be with me in DC. I bet they can look on their facebook page and find at least 50 other people (parents, aunts, uncles, friends, so on) who are engaged, and they can find 50, who can find 50 more...so my thought is this: why are we the forgotten part of the equation? Or wait, the oft maligned part of the equation. Time and time again PTA is told, where are these parents? I say, have you gone out the car rider line to say good morning? Have you made a phone call, written a note or email? Have you invited them into the classroom? I know a great many teachers who have phenominal parent support in their classroom, and have that support year after year. Perhaps it is the way that they ask for parental involvement, approaching it as a partnership. I also know an equal amount of teachers and schools that struggle with getting parents to step in and help. And I know an equal amount of parents who feel shut out and shut down by the school. We have to stop assuming that each year will be the same. We need to start fresh, and the Governor needs to ask Parents how they feel about the drop out bill, the charter school legislation, the budget cuts to education...because parents will be left to deal with the decisions, NOT just the schools. So when you cut the budget in Frankfort and don't fund early childhood education you are hurting my daughter. When you cut the budget and don't fund for textbooks, gifted/talented, and professional development, you are hurting my sons.

So Hello. I'm Seth, Jonah, and Finn's mom. I'm here for the next 19 years. So I'm already at the party. You just forget to say hello. No time like the present is there?

4 comments:

  1. Myrddin,

    I'm sorry that you were frustrated about the Summit. Each of the state organizations, including state PTA, were asked to send just one person. I got to be the person from Prichard. The agenda was fundamentally engaging districts on professional development for teachers, and the largest room at the Crowne Plaza was still completely full with people from all the school districts and from higher education.

    I share your concern about getting many things cooking to support parents. We've got to do that part, and the Commissioner talked about. Still, I don't think there was any way for KDE to include that work in today's meeting: it was completely exhausting just to work on the teacher piece.

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  2. Oh, I'm not frustrated that Sandy R. (KY PTA Pres) was at the summit, I'm encouraged that she was. But you'd have to agree that parents are far too often left out of this part of the discussion, yet are the first group of "partners" that are approached, especially in regards to fundraising for the schools. We are more than an open wallet. That's why you do what you do for Prichard and I do what I do for PTA. Because we both understand that we can make a difference. That our opinion is valuable and should be considered. Fortunately for Prichard, you are always on the guest list for the party. Unfortunately for PTA, we are standing at the door trying to get in. You and I also know that teachers have a tremendous job to do. Not only are they teaching curriculum, engaging students to be excited about learning, but they are holding hands when a child has a crisis at home and can't concentrate on education, they will be administering a test in the next two weeks which some children will not do well on. Not because they don't know the material, but perhaps because they didn't have dinner the night before or a decent night's sleep because they are in "transitional" housing. Parents are not the enemy. We are partners. If we understand the SB1 and Core Content, then we can help implement it. You and I know this, so why does it seem that parents are always the...oh, yeah, we need to get in touch with them. Well, we were at the meeting. Offices in Frankfort. Linked on the websites. Doesn't seem that hard. I know 54,000 parents who would be interested in helping. Just ask.

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  3. Myrddin,

    Miles and miles away from each other, but yet our views and compassion are so the same. I 100% agree with everything you have said. It's amazing what a little honesty and a sense of ownership can do when you enlighten the families of what is going on in schools and how the need for their involvement is crucial for their kids to be successful. I love the teachers and truly admire their dedication to our kids; however I am very saddened by the judgment that parents receive when I hear “they don’t care” or “they don’t support at home” I believe and have seen firsthand that they need to feel like they are included from the minute they walk into a school. You cannot treat all parents like they “don’t care” because that is not the truth. There is NOT a parent out there that does not care about their children……….REALLY I don’t care about my kids?.
    I also agree that when “people” are creating change that will affect the people – it’s the people that are contacted last, for instance - schools meet and create their school improvement plan..... parents need to be there (it’s the law), not just a signature on the final product, yet they’re not invited, nor do they know that a plan exists. I am very saddened by the state of education and the first ones in line for the cuts are the kids and their education, yet we are the first ones contacted when there is a vote needed for the City Council or the Mayor, or Governor. They say “parents don’t care” if that is the perception – it is only true because the doors have been closed for so long – I mean really, how many parents do you know that know what a CRT is or what an assessment means to their kids – this lack of communication started many moons ago, really without trying to point fingers - the cold truth is they have all the information and parents don’t so who is not supporting or communicating with who?

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  4. I just had this same conversation yesterday in regards to parent involvement. I said, sometimes it is the parent who walks in with years of negativity and a school does everything it can to help that parent leave that baggage at home, other times it is the school staff that have the issues. In either situation you will not be able to increase involvement at the school because neither side is willing to keep trying. Sadly, when people feel discouraged they just quit. We have to meet in the middle, we have to admit that the old methods are no longer working. That a new conversation needs to take place. Furthermore, just because a school has high pta numbers does not mean they have high parent involvement. Many times it is the mad hatter's tea party and we all just switch seats during the next election cycle. And as much as I enjoy counting box tops, really, I know that there is at least one other person who could do it. And there you go. One other involved parent. simple. just ask.

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