The recent confirmation hearings for the new president’s pick for Education Secretary has a whole lot of people concerned, and for good reason(s). One of the things I find myself going back to over and over again lately is the importance of supporting our local community. Facebook memes are fun, and rants to your friends about what could/should be done in education and otherwise are fine, but these do absolutely nothing to make the positive change in public schools I think the majority of us would like to see.
Here are a few ways you can help support your local school, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty:
- Donate. This means different things for different people. Donate your time, donate your money, donate your expertise. Donate what you have to give, and trust me, you have something to give. If you don’t know how to donate whatever gifts you have to give, call the principal and see what they suggest. No one is going to send you a personal email asking you to donate that class set of Julius Caesar found in your grandma’s basement. Seek out the opportunity and make it happen.
- Stop vilifying your teachers, administrators, and board members. I have to rant a little bit here. I find it maddening when people assume the worst about their public schools. The vast– and I mean VAST– majority of the people in your child’s school building are working for less money than they could probably be making somewhere else, are under inordinate amounts of stress, and are working 10+ hour days, managing families of their own. If you have a problem, question, concern, request– just talk to the person directly and see what can be done to fix it. It really is that simple. (Not terrible advice for real life.)
- Suggest solutions. Public education is fraught with issues, and no one will pretend otherwise. I’ve worked and lived in an array of districts, all of which had their own, unique problems. If you identify those problems and think there is some sort of obvious solution, then find the right person and let them know. If it doesn’t get fixed, move it up the chain. As a taxpaying citizen, it is your right and obligation to do so. Again, a rant on Facebook about great it would be to have (insert cool program here) does nothing. Figuring out how to make it happen and getting that information to the right person does.
- Accept what cannot be changed. Testing is a part of school, for better, for worse. In my opinion, the testing model of the IB Programme is the gold standard in education, and it would be lovely if someone up the chain in government would look into it and make that happen across the board here. As it is, testing in public schools leaves much to be desired, and a whole lot of people will agree with that. But in education, just as in any large entity, change is difficult and takes a lot of time. Since testing is probably not going anywhere anytime soon (especially now), use the opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of doing their best, even when the grade “doesn’t matter” or if the test is “stupid”. Such is life– sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.
- Advocate. This is so important, and I can’t stress it enough. Advocate for your child, if they need it. Advocate for your teachers, if they need it. Your relationship with your public schools is not a boss/subordinate one. You are working together. Your teachers can’t succeed without your help at home, just like you can’t succeed without the support of your teachers.
We’re in this together.