Category Archives: Parenting
For the past few weeks, I’ve taken a vacation from blogging.
It wasnt due to lack of ideas, but more of a censoring period in order to properly process what I was thinking. We’re nearing the end of the school year, and as a teacher and mother, I’ve been able to see two sides of an interesting coin. My children go to private and traditional public schools, while I teach at a public charter school. The results, accountability, and types of information provided are very different. Added to that equation are some of the students with whom I interact on a weekly basis, and you have a veritable cornucopia of what’s wrong with our education system. The thing is, it isn’t really easy to articulate the problem in a way to get people to understand the import. So, I am left with so many questions:
1. How does a teacher sleep at night knowing he or she hasn’t properly serviced a child with an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
2. Why are so many teachers of color pushing for boys of color to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Why aren’t they differentiating their lessons and teaching styles to meet the needs of these boys, many of which do NOT have ADHD?
3. How does a parent, single or partnered, advocate for their child without seeming like she/he is ignoring the academic of behavioral challenges of their child?
4. Why are so many children of color not going to school with the basic academic reading and math skills?
5. Why are so many teachers fighting the idea of The Common Core, not from a curricular standpoint, but from a procedural standpoint. That is, though it is easier to teach students the whats and wheres, isn’t it BETTER to teach students the whys and hows?
6. When do children in certain neighborhoods get to be children? Why do they have to be drilled in school on how to fill in circles for a standardized test instead of learning how to think and solve problems?
I keep on meeting parents of students who should be able to read at a certain level, and they can’t. The parent must choose between allowing their child to have the extra-curricular opportunities that every kid should have, and doing extra tutoring. I look at my children who are doing well and I should be happy, but I am not. There are FAR too many children that look like mine that are not doing well. Who can’t read on grade level, or speak properly enough to communicate and articulate their points. Or those who have no idea of certain grade level math skills because some teachers have chosen to do other than teach (yes, it is a choice regardless of what your union may say). Maybe it’s just a New York City thing. I wish that were the case, but sadly, it isn’t.
The not-so-funny secret about all this, is that it begins with the push for educational justice. We continue to close schools because they are failing, but we ignore why they are failing. It isn’t simply that teachers are not teaching. When an educator chooses to stop teaching, there are several things that drove her/him to that decision. Lack of resources or support, seeing adminstrators focus on the fluff instead of the real foundational learning items, or seeing those who barely do their jobs get promoted. Also, though I teach in a charter school, I have seen cities and districts support the charter school movement in a way that they have not supported the traditional public school. Teachers pray for smaller classrooms in order to teach more effectively, and instead of creating more classrooms, more consultants are hired to practice their experiments on children- and ultimately fail them. If as a country, we push to be fair- I mean really fair to poor children, we will raise the achievement of all children. You cannot hold someone down without being in the pit with them.
The other not-so-funny secret is the complaints of those who are doing anything. I’ve heard many a parent say that the school isn’t doing its job. Mind you, their child (and I’m not talking about those who have educational and financial challenges) never does any homework, has no structure in the home, but has the newest sneakers when they come out. How do you form your mouth to complain about the educational system when you’ve abandoned your job at home? These are the same ones that wonder how their child got mixed up in the wrong crowd (again, not talking about those who are relegated to certain neighborhoods that have a different code of survival). I tire of those who expect that the world owes them something, and they will not be proactive until they get that “something” in hand. Makes me wonder if segregation was so awful……but that’s such a loaded question.
Anyway, I say all that to say, this education thing; this school thing- it’s so much more complicated than we may appreciate. Children are coming to school unprepared, and are going to schools that are under-serving them. Other children are going to school prepared, and are able to prosper in a way that every child should have the opportunity to prosper. Instead of seeing that we are all in a similar boat, we’re competing for space on a sinking ship. We’re focused on color and class, when it seems obvious that the rest of the world looks at us as America as a whole, and not with the differences on which we focus. One nation? When?
It’s been a while since I last blogged. I’ve been busy with my new son, enjoying every waking moment (for real- I’ve been a zombie for the past three months) with him. I love the feel of his skin, the smell of his breath- that smile that I hope is only for me. But today, that all changed. I go back to teaching a week from today, so I took my son to daycare. One would think that since this is my 4th child, and my 4th time allowing others to tend to my children, that I’d be ok. Well, I was and wasn’t.
Today, for the last time ever, I will have first-day at daycare. Today, for the last time ever, I will plan my prep time around adequate time to pump breast milk for his meals. And today, again, I get to think about the parents that leave their children in my care. Every Time I wonder about how my baby is doing, or how my other three are in their classrooms, I think about the parents who must wonder the same thing about me. Am I honoring their faith in my abilities, my compassion, and my co-parenting of their children? Am I saying to these children what they desperately need to hear? Does my face show the awe I show to my own children? How many children have I made feel less than they should have felt? Are there any I’ve irreparably damaged? These are questions I should have been asking before I had my own children, but I’m not sure I was.
I am often hit with the question of why I send my kids to daycare instead of hiring a nanny. Other than the fact that I think there is safety in numbers (sometimes), I don’t want my children to think that it is realistic for someone to be totally and undividedly thinking of and caring for them. I want them to understand that their uniqueness does not indicate superiority in import or priority. I want them to understand that interacting with people outside of one’s familial and familiar circle enables one to see varying perspectives that are, sometimes, uncomfortable.
I love my children with everything that I am, and they should know that. I also want them to know that it is ok to seek friendships and care outside of me- that it’s healthy to not always be stuck to mommy or daddy. Though we are raising our children with certain beliefs and understandings, we want them to know that they cannot live out those beliefs and understandings in a vacuum. We are not islands- and should not live as though we are. So, as I wonder about my sweet little boy, I thank God for the opportunity to remember that I too have a responsibility to the parents of the children for whom I care.