4.08.2011

Mom Congress and Me...Mrs. Thompson goes to Washington, Part II

Last year I had the honor of being chosen to attend Parenting Magazine's First Mom Congress. It was an incredible experience, like being back in college (after all it was at Georgetown) but without a final exam. "Oh baby, the places you'll go!" and when we left, we were going to take on the world...or at least our corner of it, because we knew we could make a difference. But have I made that difference? Did I do what I needed to do? Did I follow the lesson plan for change and make anything better in education for my children? my community? So, I've put on my "thinking cap" and here's what I know: In a world of people "waiting for superman" I've decided to be...Lois Lane. Why Lois? Lois has moxy. She was determined to "find out the truth" and along with Jimmie Olsen, she was going to educate, enlighten, and inform. Many might say that she was just Superman's "girlfriend," always having to be rescued from peril. But think about it. How often was that as a result of her inquisitive nature? I mean, half the time Superman knew about trouble only because Lois was right in the middle of it, ready to risk her life for the story. So how am I like Lois? Well, I don't need to be rescued, and my search for the truth doesn't cause me to get into risky situations, but I'm like Lois in the sense that I want there to be a reveal. I want you to be in the know.

So what have I done since Mom Congress 2010? I've tried to share information about education with my friends and family on facebook, and twitter (although I still am not the best at composing a tweet, maybe I need to review all my poetry notes, that's a thought...maybe I'll start tweeting about education by using a haiku! Hey, it's worth a try) and even this blog (thanks all 9 of you who have acknowledged follower status...I'll try not to disappoint). I believe that when collective bargaining rights are on the chopping block in one (or sadly more) State(s) that a climate of anti-educators has been created and we must work together to shift this "stinkin thinkin" towards teachers. I believe it is important to know all the players in education reform, (Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and their critics, Diane Ravitch (not all the names are listed...my fingers would get tired from typing)), in order to make an education decision about which path you will follow. Here's my point of this, it's easy to click a like button or add your email address and feel you've connected, feel like you are about to make a difference. But please, before you click like...know what you are walking into. Read every page on a website, then do a search about the organization, person(s), whatever it is you are about to agree to. I find it amazing at how we do "due diligence" about the music our kids listen to, the books they read, the schools we are going to enroll them in, summer camps we want to send them to...yet, when the neon sign of "NEWER" "BETTER" "BRIGHTER" reform is flashed in front of us, we are mesmerized into signing up and signing on...all from the comfort of our couch while still in our jammies...and we believe this is an accomplishment.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "I didn't know" and therefore feel as if they can't take action. I'd rather you knew about something but made a choice to NOT be involved. I may not like that you chose to not be involved, but at least you were able to weigh and balance the facts and say, not for me, not this time. My biggest challenge this year has been to try to create a sense of connectivity. To facilitate a discussion between old friends and new, to help parents understand that they are important and essential in the dialogue about education. I get that sometimes we disconnect, that we think we can't be a "change agent" but if my time at last year's Mom Congress and the conversations I've had with my class of delegates (along with getting to know the new class) has shown me anything is that WE have the power. WE can be the change we want to see. Why is it that we teach/tell our children that they can be anything they want to be, that we encourage their dreams, that we help them shoot for the moon because we know they will touch stars along the way, but when we become adults...we stop. We look at the four walls of our home and the routines we've established and we say "this is as good as it gets." But why don't we try anymore? Why don't we realize that "We aim above the mark to hit the mark." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). And why do we pin all our hopes to change the world on someone else, or something else, instead of relying on ourselves to get it done?

So, put on your thinking cap. Don't turn me into your superman/woman/mom. BE IT for yourself, for your kids, for your community. Think about what your school district needs from you. Is it an advocate? A volunteer? A mentor? Do they need to know how kids are going hungry? Do they need to know about programs to help homeless students? What are your talents? Every one has a role, a voice. Whether you choose to be Lois or Superman, choose to be SOMETHING.

So as I return to Mom Congress to be a mentor (http://www.parenting.com/article/arts-education-resources), I hope that I can help someone be stronger in their resolve to make a difference. I certainly know that I need encouragement from time to time. I am also thankful for the opportunity and appreciate my family sharing me with others. That I recognize the irony in being an advocate for children often takes me away from my children. I know that the other moms feel this keenly as well. So...

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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