There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings-Hodding Carter
Call for IDEA Digital Organizers-that means me, that means you!
Recently my good friend from Parenting Magazine Mom Congress Dawn Moskowitz suggested I apply to be an IDEA Digital Organizer. She emphasized that it would be a perfect match for my talents. Flattery gets some people everywhere, so I followed her email link to the Institute for Democratic Education In America ( IDEA ) and thought their mission "to ensure that all young people can engage meaningfully in their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world" was something I could support. After all, I am the parent of three young people (yes, some are younger than others, as they are 12, 10, and 5 respectfully) and part of the reason I do what I do as a PTA leader is to make sure that their voices are heard in the discussion surrounding education today. As part of the application to be a Digital Organizer the introduction reads how there are moments when you wonder if you've made an impact. Wow. That hit home. I recently posted on Twitter about how someday you just want to "throw in the towel" because for every moment you spend posting links on Facebook about a conference, about a breaking news story in education either in Kentucky where I live or California or Texas or Illinois, for every blog post you write about advocacy, attending the annual National PTA Convention, about the loss of cursive, you wonder "does anybody get it?"
I am a self avowed "edugeek" often spending moments "eduranting." I've stated it before in numerous newsletter articles I've written when I was the President of the 15th District PTA about how as parents we are more than a school's ATM and fundraising machine. That we are advocates for our children, that we are partners in education. I believe parents are partners in education. I believe that parents who are educated about the changes occuring in Education (not just on a local level but on a national and global level) can better support their children and schools which will lead to greater student and school success. I believe that ALL children have potential to learn and grow, and it is our responsibility to do our very best to make sure that potential is met.
So the IDEA application goes on to ask "What do you do now? Why do you do it?" Well. If you go back through all my blog posts, if you follow me on twitter, if you are my friend on facebook, if you have seen the video that I made at the request of the White House Champions of Change, if you spend anytime around me you know that am already a digital organizer in a smaller sense. Here it is, 6 am, the dawn hasn't even broken through to announce the new day, and I've already searched breaking news stories to post on my facebook page, I've already read about the newest cheating scandal, signed up for and Edutopia webinar, have put the final touches on a workshop I'm presenting at the KY PTA convention about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, have answered emails, and haven't even enjoyed my first (of several) cups of coffee. I read blogs, online newspapers, watch video clips. Because I believe the better educated I am the better able I am to partner in a respectful way with the educational experiences my children will have in this community. I know that sometimes it seems that a decision in Wisconsin about union rights can have little resonnance her in Kentucky, but the truth is that we are all connected. That the education decisions regarding ESEA, NCLB, budgeting and so forth at both a Federal and State level will eventually play out on a local level. We must be prepared for a course of action rather than spend our time reacting.
So in terms of what IDEA is looking for? Well, in the last eight years I have become a playground advocate working with KaBOOM! (and was mentioned by founder Darrell Hammond in a Huffington Post article for my efforts http://www.huffingtonpost.com/darell-hammond/five-major-players-in-the_b_753160.html ). I have been a member of the Kentucky PTA as a Legislative Committee Member and have been the District PTA President for Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. I have been honored as a Mom of the Moment by Parenting Magazine (March 2010) and was the magazine's Kentucky Delegate for Mom Congress. In 2011 I was invited to share my experiences with the next class presenting a workshop on arts advocacy. I was also invited to the White House to meet with Russlyn Ali and discuss parent engagement in urban school districts and blog about that experience . I have met and engaged in dialogue with so many "change agents" from Michelle Rhee to Margo Wootan, from Seth Nickerson of Jamie Oliver Food Revolution to Ernie Park of "Lunch Line," from speaking with parent advocates Gwen Samuel, Stacey Kannenberg, and Jen Barth. That is a much longer list by the way, because of PTA and Mom Congress I have become "connected" in a way I never thought I would.
As all of my friends and family know, I spend a great deal of my day, when I'm not parenting or volunteering at PTA related activities in the District and State, connecting my facebook, twitter, and linked in friends and colleguesinternet for articles, events, and opportunities in education to share with my friends, I believe that we all have something to contribute to education. We all can make a difference.
Recently the members of Mom Congress were asked to create a story for Myi talking about the impact of electronics and digital equipment on our lives. While many of my associates posted photos, I created a movie about our experiences. It was a great way to better understand how technology has really changed the way my family communicates and interacts with one another. After Mom Congress I felt the best way to communicate the impact of that experience was to create a movie as well. In addition, because of Mom Congress and PTA I have been able to contribute to the online Parenting Mazagine with articles about positive parent engagement opportunities and was asked by National PTA to be an official blogger for this year's convention. IDEA asked in the application to "tell a true story about making a change in the offline world through new media." I'd like to think I make changes everyday, but I am often private messaged on facebook by people from all over the country who have seen a Mom Congress facebook post and want to know more. Who just felt a connection. I was contacted on my facebook page by someone living in California who was inspired to step up and help transform her PTA. I have helped her make the connections with local and State leaders and she updates me frequently about how the transformation is taking place. I also have connected with fellow Mom Congress alums such as Jerri Reason who inspires me everyday as well (http://www.momecentric.com/tag/myrdin-thompson).
In fact I believe that is the power of the Digital Organizer. The ability to connect a parent in California with grant and leadership opportunities that she can use to change her child's world. The ability to connect a parent in Louisville with a conference opportunity in NYC. The ability to communicate to parents that they have a voice in education, and that they matter in the life of their child. By using facebook, you tube, twitter, blogs, email, newsletters, and webinars we can make education relatable and not "other."
That we all have the chance to talk about the Arts, about parenting resources, that we all can be engaged and take action, that we are all Linked In to one another, that we twitter and facebook and just do our best to understand that, as Melville said, "We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
I honestly hope that IDEA chooses me to be a Digital Organizer (as I am one already) and that I'm given the opportunity to connect to be able to "spur transformative change in the U. S. educational system" (certainly a daunting task) and that better communication will lead to better results. You cannot form an opinion if you only have half the information.
I will let all of you know what happens next...but rest assured, no towels will be thrown in today.