An open letter to parents of public school children. [School Board Members and Administrators, feel free to forward this message to parents in your school community.]
Just about a year ago I was not in a good place as a parent. My wife and I were in a near panic over my son’s life. His school life seemed to be spiraling out of control. There is no need to go into all the details as I wrote about it in the blog Sometimes it is all about the kids – When love is not enoughlast year. As a parent, I was forced to go beyond the normal routine to advocate for my child. Luckily, it seems that I am on my way to a happy ending.
However, there was a lesson in my experience. First, a family was struggling and the public school played an essential role in helping a child stay on track. Second, and more to the essence of this letter, I found out that advocating for a child is a collaborative effort. As a parent, I could not help my child by myself. I needed others in the public schools to help, which they thankfully did. As parents, my wife and I helped spearhead the advocacy effort. The school wanted to help, but was somewhat unsure of how to proceed. Only when we all came together did we really head in the right direct. I could not help my child on my own; it took the collaborative effort.
Public education in New Jersey is at a turning point. It seems that every issue is on the table-whether it is school choice, teacher tenure, teacher evaluations, employee benefits and pension or school funding. Education organizations, as well as politicians of both parties, are voicing their opinions. But just as helping my son it took the voice of the parent, moving New Jersey in the right direction will require the voices of many parents. More of us need to move from just advocating for our own children to acting on behalf of all the children.
This will not be easy. As a public school parent, I know about limits on spare time. (For parents, spare time is a theoretical concept, not anything you have actually experienced.) You try to attend as many school events as possible. You plan your social life (social life is another theoretical concept) around your kid’s schedule. And your child’s teacher is much more important to you than your legislator. That is because, for ten months out of the year, that teacher will have a direct impact on your child’s future. So finding time to advocate on issues that don’t seem to have an immediate impact on your child’s education may take a low priority. Don’t let it. If you care about your kid’s education, as well as that of other students, becoming involved in the current debate is a necessary part of parenthood.
While I completely agree that your child’s teacher (or teachers) is of the utmost importance, other factors are very significant in your child’s education, and they are affected by decisions made in Trenton. (more…)