Friday, October 17, 2008

If we want the best education for our children, we have to be involved

I've been on three public school tours this week. It's been an eye-opening experience. Thanks to the organization PEN, which promotes family participation in public education, there were 30-40 people at each tour. This is exciting. This means that parents are making leaps to actually step inside a school before making a judgement.

When I stepped inside, this is what I found...

I saw vibrant teachers engaged with wide-eyed, adorable little people. These little people were having fun. Some were wiggly. Some were sitting quietly with hands folded in laps. And, the children were a beautiful rainbow of brown, black and white.

I saw Principals excited about their school and what they were accomplishing. How far they had come. How much further they wanted to reach.

I saw music programs, yoga classes, computer labs, art programs incorporating nature hikes led by an on site artist, and libraries. One school had individual learning plans for each student, as well as a behavior assistant to help back-up teachers when they need help with specific issues.

And the parents... Oh, those enthusiastic parents... Parents of children now attending the school, they were there to help answer any of our questions. Parent volunteers who come and teach the children about astronomy or antiquities. Parents who light up when they talk about their schools.

Seeing these schools, (and I still have 5-6 more to go), infused me with hope. There is nothing so good as the feeling of lightness when I let go of my own prejudgements...

Ever since I moved to this area, I've heard how horrible the PUSD school system is. How rife with problems. How no one would ever send their kids to the schools in this district. Well, I'm here to say that is bullshit. And I feel angry. Very angry. Not only do I feel misled, but I am angry at myself for believing other people who may have never even set foot in a public school in this area.

That's not to say there aren't problems. There are always problems. Everywhere. But, let's be part of the movement to implement positive changes and to make our public schools better. If we want the best education for our children, we have to be involved. It starts with us.

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  1. I'd be very interested to hear which schools you have visited. I, too, went on the PEN tours four years ago, and loved some of the schools but not all of them. One that I did not like has since closed and now houses a charter school.

    I have many friends who are active at PUSD schools! We would be at one now, but my husband wanted a Catholic school.

    The PUSD teachers are excellent, in many cases. My problem is with the state of public education as a whole. All that testing and teaching to the test! All that stifling of teacher creativity by dictating that every kid in every school will be on the same page of the reading and math books on the same day! I wasn't comfortable with that, but like I said, I would have worked with it had it not been for The Hubby's Catholic school preference (which we discussed prior to getting married, so I knew that going in!).

  2. Your experience is certainly encouraging and I'm excited for your kids with so many options ahead of them. Like you say, though, it's not always the case and there are problems. Do you know about Donors Choose? They have an enormous blogger challenge going on right now to help bolster programs in public schools across the country. There are a lot of bloggers participating but those I know about are Tomato Nation, Finslippy and John Scalzi is endorsing a scientist-teacher-friend of his. That's a simple way we can all get involved with public schools.

    Have fun on the rest of your visits!

  3. What a terrific program and how wonderful that you get to really see what is going on beforehand and you are totally right, you have to be involved.
    Good luck!

  4. I'm glad you're finding what you're looking for.

  5. Here, Here! Those schools sound fantastic, and I'm glad you didn't miss the chance to see them based on some bad information.

  6. Standing ovation, jck! I hear similar things that you heard about the public school system here. It does chap my ass.

    I've been very pleased. My kids love school. LOVE it. Can't wait to get out the door each morning. Get all bent out of shape if they get sick, "but MOM! I don't want to miss school!" No better endorsement.

  7. Over here, sometimes we are 'forced' to be involved...

  8. You are exactly right! And the fact that so many people will take the words of others over being an active participant in their children's education is disheartening.

  9. It all sounds very encouraging. I know that you have a good sense of what is positive for your children.

    I get cross with both sides who take extreme views on this issue. Like you, I have had people sound off about public schools (we call them "state" schools here - public schools are the very poshest most expensive schools - like Eton!) without checking them out first. Here in the UK some are very good and some are very bad - you have to visit, like you are doing to work out which are which.

    But equally there are people who advocate sending your child to a state school, the nearest state school, to keep the education system balanced ie you are doing it a disservice by quitting and choosing a different school for your child. I could never send my child to a less good school for the "common good".

    I have shipped my children out of the city to rural schools but stayed within the state/public system. It's my compromise. I didn't like the city schools because my children are academic and I felt they would not reach their full potential there because of the discipline issues and distractions.

    Follow your own heart with regard to the school - don't listen to what others think or choose one for political reasons. Choose the one that will suit your children best.

  10. If you are excited about your kids education, they will be too :)

    I'm glad you found something that gets you excited and happy!

  11. I am interested that you have a CHOICE of where your child will attend. Here in NH you go to the one within a mile of your address, end of sentence. Infusing the public system with choice does strike me as a good direction, as long as vouchers are kept out of it. We could even do without Charters, if choice were an option... but how do they manage it? I would love more details. The schools sound fantastic, and I assure you nothing of the like is happening in the district where I teach and where my kids will go. Where oh where would we find the funds, or the parents with resources to assist as you are doing.

  12. This is very reassuring to me to read. We are a couple years away from the school choice, but it is terrifying, and I'm thrilled to see that it will not be so bad.

  13. That's a wonderful program. There's nothing like that here. You're welcome to visit a class, but there's nothing set up to encourage parental visits or involvement. And there is nothing extracurricular - no yoga classes certainly! And here it is all about teaching to the test. But we'll do the best we can, even if it means moving.


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