9.03.2011

Perspective and Possibilities

Perspective. Always important to have, often difficult to achieve. Sometimes we trip along in life, blissfully ignorant or unawares of what is outside of our own small circle. I have, through my different friendships, a unique ability to engage in conversation and dialogue about perspective. About understanding that the difficulties in education that our children face are sometimes shared...and that sometimes a difficulty is only specific to a circumstance.

Today I had the great pleasure of seeing one of my closest friends from high school and college and we had an opportunity to discuss my favorite topic...yes, education. As I am from Louisville and she resides in Tucson, Arizona, we were able to have this discussion about the big E education as well as discuss the challenges and successes of our own school districts. What I learned is that we both agree: Education needs to be better. It needs to change, and it needs to address a wide range of parental concerns and include parents in the conversation. Of course, it is easy for us to pontificate about education over a grilled cheese sandwich and cup of coffee, because we know we are doing our small part to keep our children's schools well staffed with volunteers, to assist with field trips, to engage other parents in a dialogue about education, but ultimately, we aren't the "experts" that are listened to...even though we do know a thing or two about education because our children are currently in school.

I think that is what often bothers me the most about discussion concerning education reform (as often found in articles such as  Michael Petrilli's One Size Fits Most) is that parents are talked about but not talked with. As noted in my past blog posts, I don't have a magic answer to the ills that face education today. I've often spoken about how I'm not "waiting for superman" because I'm too busy being "superman." I've spoken about how parents need to stop waiting for a celebrity such as Matt Damon to show up to enact change, and actually write the script and star in the movie themselves. I've urged parents to respond to action alerts from National PTA about parent engagement and Urge Congress Not to Stand in the Way of Healthier School Lunches, and I sat across a table from one of my closest friends and said I am only one and I'm doing my best to do my part.
I imagine that many of the "celebrities" of ed. reform get tired, but certainly can't say it because we've elevated them to super-star status, setting up google searches to see when, where, and what they will say about education so we can take action of some sort. And it's great to belong to a community of "edutweeters" who want to connect with others about education. But what I have found is that everyone believes, to the core of their being, that their answer concerning education is the absolute right answer. That they know best, for you and for me...and for our children. But no longer can we just blissfully believe this mantra. We must do more than just talk across a restaurant table about the state of education, we must try to help craft and shape how we want education to look in this nation. We must be willing to ask the tough questions and be open to the even harder answers. We have to be confident and firm in our convictions but be receptive and willing to see and hear about someone else's perspective.

We have to listen and to learn. We must be willing to admit that we don't have all the answers but that we are willing to be partners in education to try to find the answers. That what works in a school in Tucson, Arizona, might work at a school in Louisville, Kentucky, and we must be open to those possibilities. We need to stop pointing fingers and appointing blame. I am often heard to say, "I agree to disagree" but let's do that with respect.

So, maybe I'm not an "expert" but trust me, I'm experienced about education. Maybe I have an idea that is worth a moment of your perspective.

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