You know the saying “train up a child?” Well, when I hear that I think of all the women in my mom’s old hair salon. When I was a kid and wanted to get my hair done, my mom would make me work for it. I used to wash hair, clean up, run errands, answer phones, you name it.
All the ladies in the salon would tell my mom how happy they were to see me working and earning. All I wanted was a blow out. Even though I didn’t understand what she was doing, other than abusing child labor laws, I understand now. She was instilling hard work in me and even showing me how helping others will make me a better person. She was showing me that to get what I want, I have to work for it.
I watched my mom motivate, inspire and uplift so many women in that salon. The beauty salon was so much more than a place where you went to get your hair washed. It was a place for women to exhale, laugh, eat, and cry. I’m so happy to have been a part of that.
Fast forward to 2020. I want to spotlight a young 8-years-old girl and her mother, motivating and inspiring just the way my mom did. Maybe not with a blow dryer in hand but in their own special way. Today, I want to introduce you to a mother-daughter duo that’s inspiring and uplifting young girls in New Orleans and hopefully, around the world.
Meet Mother and daughter Windy & Peyton. They started their own brand, Peyticakes, with a mission of inspiring and empowering girls all over the world. I had a chance to sit down with them and learn more about what drives them and their goals with this amazing mother-daughter venture.
How did Peyticakes come about and why did you start the business?
I have always wanted to transition into entrepreneurship but was never quite sure what direction I would take because I had so many ideas. After having my daughter all of that changed because she instantly became a source of inspiration. As she got older, I realized that we shared a lot of the same passions, so it was inevitable that she’d be my business partner. The name has been around for a while as it was a nickname given to her by my family.
I decided when my daughter Peyton was around a year old that one day we’d have a business called Peyticakes, but didn’t realize how involved and influential she would be on the brand. One night we decided to create vision boards. Peyton included that she wanted to be a Fashion Designer and own a business, amongst a few other things. After our vision board party, we started to play a game called “I Am.” I asked Peyton to say words of affirmation to describe how she saw herself. I started with I Am Beautiful! and she followed with I Am Strong. We continued to play this until I think we both ran out of words lol. Then Peyton looks at me and says, “Mommy let’s put that on a shirt.”
As a proud mom, I lit up like fire and told her this could be the start of her fashion design career and running her own business. I told her not only will she become a young entrepreneur, but she would also inspire other girls just like her to know how to speak words of affirmations about themselves too. I made her understand that this will guide those girls to remind them that they are worthy and valuable. We both agreed on 5 statements that could be the launch of her I AMCollection.
I will say, since we’ve been working on this, she has not been shy to share with the world that she knows that she is enough! She has become a mini advocate, so we also decided to turn the collection into a movement. The “ I Am” movement encourages and teaches girls the fundamentals of knowing what their value means! We love using influence to inspire.
Why is the Message so Important?
When I was my daughter’s age, I didn’t know what value meant or that I was ok just the way I was created. I didn’t know that being enough at the moment could be real. Generations have definitely changed over time and it’s quite different from my childhood. She’ll be faced with situations that weren’t as prominent while I was growing up. Therefore, I want her to be secure in who she is during every season of her life.
I want her to know that she will change and evolve, and her value will increase during each stage of that evolution. I can’t say this enough: It is easier to build strong kids than to repair broken adults. The message is important to me because it’s part of my way of breaking generational cycles. It’s important for her because she will be the new generation that will lead and learn in a different way and I want her to continue to share that legacy.
Why is education so important to you?
Education is the foundation in building, grooming and preparing our children. I firmly believe that child development starts in the home, but the academic structure given to them teaches them what they need to learn in order to progress in life on levels that will only get by being in school.
I instill in both of my children that education is the blueprint of their future and how they navigate through life. It’s the building block that stimulates their brains and prepares them for whatever is thrown their way. I explain to them that education is power and no one can strip you of what you know. No one! I want them to continue feeding their minds about any and everything. It’s their birthright and I want them to know how privileged they are to learn freely. I do not take that lightly. I want them to know that they are our ancestors’ wildest dreams and never take learning for granted.
What message do you and Peyton want to share with young girls?
The message that we both want to share is for every girl to stand tall, stand strong, and to always believe in themselves. I take pride in showing Peyton how to push through when she may feel like giving up or if things aren’t so good at school one day. Because she knows that I’m here to encourage her, she wants to do the same for other girls too. My daughter is pretty confident and I love that about her.
I want her to share her confidence with other girls to inspire them so they’ll know that they are beautiful, smart, loved, enough, worthy, awesome… The list can go on and on lol! The mission behind the Peyticakes brand is to create products, projects, and movements that will help girls embrace their beauty, talent, worth and strength and to be ok with who they are!
This article was first published at Citizen SHE United, and advocacy group in Louisiana that is building an aligned base of Black Women who inform, advocate for and enact a collective policy agenda to address the needs of Black Women across the state.
In Citizen SHE United’s first Letter To Black Women of 2020, Danielle Wright, Division Director of Navigate NOLA, pens a poignant love letter, honoring all the ways in which Black Women, bravely and mostly without acknowledgment, lead and serve the masses toward our collective liberation.
All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave
– But Some of Us are Brave (1982)
My love letter to black women seeks to elevate and celebrate the unique bravery endemic to African-American women carrying out abolitionist work daily. This work often goes unacknowledged by society at large and even goes unacknowledged by us, the black women doing the transformational work of disrupting systemic racism. This work often goes unacknowledged because intersectional erasures leave us without a lens to understand the depth of our contributions not just to black women and to black people, but to society at large.
Black women are standing on the shoulders of ancestral giants who have paved the way and also hard wired our DNA (epigenetics) to create a legacy of bravery through paradigm-shifting acts of social justice. What is particularly unique about the bravery that black women have exhibited across time has been this theme of forward-thinking or foresightedness as the impetus behind performing acts of bravery.
In her famous 1850 speech, “Aint I A Woman, “ Sojourner Truth challenged white women suffragists around the politics of respectability of that era and suggested that such privileges associated within these politics of respectability, shaped by the Victorian Era, should be extended to women of color. She also challenged a movement that excluded enslaved black women from the fight for equality of all women. She had the vision for what academic scholars refer to as black feminist theory and intersectionality. It was because of her foresight, she began laying the groundwork for educator and feminist scholar Anna Julia Cooper’s scholarship in her 1892 book entitled, “A Voice from the South,” in which she so eloquently articulated the challenges that existed for women of color at the intersection of race, class, and gender during that time. As we reflect on the contemporary challenges that exist for women of color today, Anna Julia Cooper’s work is still very relevant. Her work has inspired many of our contemporary feminist scholars such as Kimberle Crenshaw, Melissa Harris-Perry, Patricia Hill Collins, Beverly Guy Sheftall, and Monique Morris.
The colored woman of to-day occupies, one may say, a unique position in this country. In a period of itself transitional and unsettled, her status seems one of the least ascertainable and definitive of all the forces which make for our civilization. She is confronted by both a woman question and a race problem and is as yet an unknown or unacknowledged factor in both…May she see her opportunity and vindicate her high prerogative
–Anna Julia Cooper, 1892
There are countless examples of black women recognizing their opportunity and vindicating their high prerogative throughout history. In the 1800s a black woman named Lily Ann Granderson established a “midnight” school for slaves in Natchez, Mississippi. The school operated from 11 pm to 2 am. She operated during this time because Mississippi law prohibited the literacy of slaves and they were at risk of facing severe punishment. Granderson educated hundreds of slaves at her school. Today, black women continue to disrupt inequities in public education as teachers, school social workers, advocates, educational administrators and professionals working in educational policy.
In the 1964 Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer testified before the Credentials Committee about her efforts to exercise her right to the benefits of full citizenship through voting, and the many challenges that she faced doing so in the deep south area of Mississippi. Today, black women have emerged as a collective powerhouse in the U.S. electorate.
In 1991, Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about the sexual harassment that she experienced while working for Clarence Thomas, she paved the way for today’s Me Too Movement. She was the original voice of the voiceless as it relates to the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women.
Black women continue to instinctively create space for their own healing while simultaneously breaking down barriers to create space for themselves and other marginalized groups. We participate in such acts and observe other black women performing these acts and acknowledge them as ordinary because we have normalized such extraordinary bravery. We do this by showing up each day to corporate workplaces where we are the most underrepresented group, educating students of color in an inequitable public education system, addressing the exacerbated vulnerability of people of color as mental health professionals, serving as elected officials despite the fact that we remain underrepresented in state and local politics and bringing children into the world knowing that we are three to four times more likely to die than our white counterparts during childbirth. We continue to face a wage gap even larger than women overall. Despite all of this, we are leading the nation in labor force participation, burgeoning entrepreneurship, and voter participation. All of what we contribute to the world is revolutionary and an act of abolitionism, whether we are referring to the African enslaved women who built the original levee system in New Orleans or the black women who are consumed with the day to day struggles of meeting their basic needs and the needs of their families, it is all incredibly revolutionary.
Collectively, these brave and revolutionary acts are performed because we have the vision and foresight to understand what these acts mean for future generations to come. Sending all the love that the universe has to offer to black women. May our strength flow on forever…
About Danielle Wright
Danielle Wright currently serves as the Division Director of Navigate Nola and is responsible for the oversight of the development and implementation of the 7 social-emotional and community wellness programs that fall under the Navigate Nola Division.
Danielle Wright is a social worker and public health practitioner. She is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA.
Danielle has a Doctorate Degree in Social Work from Tulane University. She also holds master’s degrees in both Social Work and Public Health from Tulane University. She is certified both in Infant Mental Health (IMH) and Disaster Mental Health (DMH). She gained IMH certification through a one-year-long Infant Mental Health fellowship with the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) Department of Child Psychiatry Harris Infant Mental Health Center. She has served as an adjunct clinical field faculty member at Tulane University’s School of Social Work.
Danielle has worked across various clinical mental health and public health settings such as LSU’s Behavioral Sciences Center, The City of New Orleans Health Department, Jefferson Parish Human Service Authority and The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and Communities In Schools.
Danielle is committed to making a difference in her community and enriching the lives of the New Orleans citizenry. She is a member of several volunteer service organizations such as the Links Inc., Crescent City Chapter and African-American Women of Purpose and Power.
“Letter to Black Women” is brought to you weekly by Citizen SHE United. For more information visit www.citizensheunited.com.
Last year a was introduced to the man behind Exhibit Be. Over the past few years, New Orleans has become flooded with beautiful murals around town. From photos of local NOLA Icons to photos of Activists. Brandan “bmike” Odums is the man behind a few of them.
In 2014 bmike created Exhibit Be. His canvas was an abandoned five-story apartment complex located in Algiers. Brandan, as well as dozens of New Orleans street artist, filled the abandoned halls with paintings of black heroes.
“Exhibit Be” (sometimes spelled “ExhibitBE”) drew an army of viewers and became a local icon of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as New Orleans’ most exciting 21st-century artwork to date. Simultaneously, the blue and violet portraits in Odums’ murals became iconic.
Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to see Exhibit Be but I’ve visited his studio in the Bywater called Studio Be. And this Saturday I’ll be checking out his first museum titled “NOT Supposed 2-Be here” located on Tulane University campus.
Odums said that “NOT Supposed 2-Be here” includes several simultaneous themes that touch on ecology, racial identity and autobiography.
To learn more about Not Supposed 2-Be here, Click here
It’s 2020 and State Superintendent of Education John White is ready for a change. Yesterday he announced his resignation and every local and national publication was buzzing with the news.
White, who survived pitched political battles with two governors, made the announcement in a letter sent by email to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who will be in charge of finding White’s successor.
Read more here
This article was first published at www.blkteachergriot.com
The 2015-2016 school year was easily the most traumatic work year of my adult life. I was a teacher at an alternative high school in New Orleans, a job very similar to one I left in Philadelphia. Alternative schools are intended to address the push-out crisis by creating spaces for students who have not found success in traditional schooling environments. Some of these students may not thrive in large environments; some may have been pushed out of the charters that claim to be educating “all” of our kids. Some are in the criminal justice system, or young parents caring for children of their own. The possibilities are endless, and serving these youth comes with a unique set of struggles and challenges. Having worked in the field for a few years, it’s a population that I am very comfortable with. It is also one that I care deeply about.
Despite my passion for, and comfort with, alternative education, that year led me to question the very foundation that I had built my career on. I cried a lot, vented on Facebook, journaled during professional development meetings and frequented happy hours with other educator-friends while we soaked it all away over margaritas with chips & salsa (yes, we’ll need another pitcher). I worked out for self-care, got a therapist to maintain balance and dug into my yoga practice to begin meditating regularly. I did the usual things one does when they’ve got a stressful job.
What I realized halfway through this school year was that my desire to center Blackness in the classroom, to help my students unlearn most of the things that the media told them about themselves, still had to be done within a deeply racist system.
With teachers, all of the above are done with student stories sprinkled in between. Exasperating, funny, touching and annoying moments with kids that make the job everything that it is. But that school year, kids weren’t the main topic of conversation with my peers and I. We talked about them, sure, but much more of our dialogue was spent on how racism played out in our daily grind. We vented about administrators whose savior complexes were evident in the very way they spoke to and about students. We talked about how meager the expectations were of our low-income, predominantly Black kids. We talked about the inability of our white coworkers to even acknowledge the differences between themselves and their students, so great was their desire to be colorblind. And more than anything, we talked about how these behaviors indicated the same age-old (and, well… racist) idea that these Black students should not be expected to excel.
What I realized halfway through this school year was that my desire to center Blackness in the classroom, to help my students unlearn most of the things that the media told them about themselves, still had to be done within a deeply racist system. Perhaps this isn’t shocking to folks of color who are teachers, but after 9 years in the profession, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
So what exactly did this toxicity look like on a day-to-day basis?
Extreme White Saviorism
Many of the white teachers and administrators reveled in the idea that they were essentially “saving” kids from themselves and their communities. This drove most of them to prioritize befriending kids rather than encouraging any academic or personal development. One particularly infuriating example — let’s call him Mr. Frank — taught special education students who struggled behaviorally and academically. In this setting, it meant that his class was full of the Black boys who could not sit still. Students dubbed it the place you go to “listen to music and eat snacks.”
In meetings, Mr. Frank spoke openly and often about all the academic tasks he felt like students were incapable of even trying. He nodded along when other white coworkers claimed that it was a great thing if students ended up working at local grocery stores after graduating, because at least they weren’t “in the streets shooting each other up.”
These ideas help to explain some of the trash that passed for rigor in his classroom. He let students print Wikipedia pages and paste them to tri-folds for final project work. He excused them from completing assignments and rarely failed kids regardless of what their effort or attendance looked like. He used his classroom time to take kids to the store, buy them food, and hand out money.
Let’s pause here, because many of these things sound incredibly sweet when done by a family member or friend. And yes, relationships are super important when teaching. But building them isn’t the only part of teaching. As educators, we focus on building relationships with kids in order to better teach them. To do this, we have to actually believe in their intellectual capabilities enough to push for their academic growth. Mr. Frank didn’t see the second part of the equation as important. He thought so little of the kids’ intelligence that there was no urgency in actually educating them. He was there to be nice to them. To call them his “boys.” To make friends.
He greeted Black kids as the n-word and jokingly called a young woman a “ratchet ass bitch” in front of a group of males in order to get a laugh from them.
Over the course of my year there, it wasn’t difficult to see how Mr. Frank’s desire to “save” these allegedly broken Black kids prompted him to treat his class as a fun holding cell… it was simply somewhere to put kids that everyone else deemed too incorrigible to learn. Because of this, Mr. Frank could do whatever he pleased. He greeted Black kids as the n-word and jokingly called a young woman a “ratchet ass bitch” in front of a group of males in order to get a laugh from them. His behaviors prompted three Black women (myself included) to push back with administration but we were constantly drowned out. “He means well,” white administrators told us. Which leads me to other ways that white supremacy creates toxicity in educational spaces….
The Privileging of White Voices and Opinions.
Outside of Mr. Frank’s outrageous everyday actions, another obvious indicator of racism in our workplace was the constant approval of white opinions and the subsequent shutting down of voices of color. A white teacher told students that their definition of racism, one that recognizes that all whites receive benefits and privileges from systems of white supremacy, was wrong because it made white people uncomfortable. He justified his assertion by coolly stating that he could speak to the issue because his partner was mixed race.
Over the course of the year, several teachers of color had complained about Mr. Frank’s behavior, specifically about their discomfort with him using the n-word and how his decision to do so made the workplace feel unsafe. They were told several times, “He has his methods.” Early in the year, a young Black woman was hired as his co-teacher but didn’t last in his classroom a month before needing to be placed with another educator. She expressed to me that he often seemed unprepared to teach and when she asked for lesson plans or outlines, she was scolded. He told her, “You don’t ask questions. I’ve been doing this for years. I’m the surgeon, you’re the assistant.” When she went to the principal with complaints of being treated condescendingly, she was reprimanded for causing trouble and made to sign a contract stating that she would never discuss Mr. Frank with other teachers while on the school premises.
If you wanted to address issues of microaggressions that made the workplace toxic, you didn’t discuss it at work in hopes of bringing about change. You went to happy hour with people you trusted and cried.
Later in the year, when I tried to organize a meeting with a few teachers of color to talk about how best to deal with his language and brainstorm coping strategies for the growing list of racial microaggressions at work, I was called into the principal’s office for a meeting with her and the dean. I was asked to apologize for my unprofessional behavior, despite the fact that I had previously addressed the principal with my concerns and was dismissed without any promise of further action.
All these instances taught an easy lesson: if you had issues with how white teachers treated you, you kept your mouth shut. If you questioned how certain practices and behaviors were impacting students of color, you kept your mouth shut. And if you wanted to address issues of microaggressions that made the workplace toxic, you didn’t discuss it at work in hopes of bringing about change. You went to happy hour with people you trusted and cried.
Valuing Intention over Impact
Intention is often the moral compass that guides problematic white teachers in the spaces. It was at this school that I learned how heavily white people leaned on their good intentions. Because these teachers and administrators, Mr. Frank included, meant well… because everyone could couch their behaviors in the altruistic deed of educating Black kids with academic gaps… they could not possibly consider their actions problematic. When I realized this about my boss and coworkers, I began to see how strongly whiteness seeks to protect itself in schools. Everything from Mr. Frank’s “methods,” to teachers doing work for students they didn’t deem capable, to colorblind sentiments that white teachers used to make connections between themselves and the kids, were excused and never questioned because the people who did or said them “meant well.” It didn’t matter what impact this had on the kids and it sure as hell didn’t matter how it made staff members of color in the school feel.
Because everyone could couch their behaviors in the altruistic deed of educating Black kids with academic gaps… they could not possibly consider their actions problematic.
Issues like this that exist in education aren’t often addressed as system-wide problems indicative of attitudes and biases towards people of color. Instead we discuss the few bad apples, which in the education field means the teachers who don’t care at all, the teachers with ill intent.
The problem with this approach is that most all white folks, teachers and otherwise, never see themselves as the bad apples. They know that they mean well so they assume that they couldn’t possibly be a part of the problem. At this alternative school, the white folks who caused a great deal of the microaggressions could barely hear us decrying their actions and language. Our complaints were drowned out by the sound of them patting themselves on the back for their hard work.
Halfway through that year I reflected on nearly a decade in the education field and the experiences it took to get there. I specifically recalled going to grad school with people who made sweeping generalizations about Black and Brown communities. I remember coping with these microaggressions in the same ways I did years later as a teacher: I hung out after classes with fellow students of color. We laughed through our sadness, lamenting the fact that some of the people in our Ivy League program were already in positions of power in schools full of Black children. We scoffed at how proud they were for taking on the work of “fixing“ kids and schools, despite the lack of desire to fix their own racist viewpoints, language, approaches, etc.
I did not consider that fighting for my kids essentially meant fighting against these people, while simultaneously being expected to work with them.
Even back then, I brushed it all off over happy hours. And despite everything, I was still hopeful. I thought that I could teach Black and Brown youth in a way that centered them, their stories, their beauty, and their lives. But I did not see the battles that lay ahead. I did not consider that those grad school classmates who thought so little of us were already running the system and starting the charter schools. I did not consider that fighting for my kids essentially meant fighting against these people, while simultaneously being expected to work with them. It was a hardship I was unprepared for when I first started teaching in 2007 and now, I have enough experience to know that it is a battle I expect to fight for the rest of my career. I’m almost embarrassed by my ever-present optimism, but what drives me to keep going is the hope that one day I’ll be doing this work within an institution void of these issues. This would save me from a career of holding my tongue until I get to half-priced drinks with other teachers of color who have learned that silence is the only way to stay in the ring.
This article was first published on www.askmissheard.com
“You know the term, ‘woke?’ Yes, that is exactly what it means to be money smart. It means that we are giving our children a solid foundation about the knowledge of money.” This was just one of many explanations Rashaun made relatable to us on last week’s conversation.
Rashaun Harris, Financial Coach, Marketing Guru, mother of soon to be two, and bonus mom to one visited, Ask Miss Heard’s weekly LIVE show and dropped mega gems on the topic, “Teaching Our Children Money & Finance.”
Smiling from ear to ear she enlightened us on how she grew into an expert about money for herself. “When I was young, I thought that my family was rich. I mean we did everything. We always shopped and we always went on vacation. But when I went to school, I was attracted to my friends’ parents – their lifestyles. So I asked, ‘What does your dad do?’ The answer was always, ‘they owned this business and that business.’ I decided then, that I wanted to study business and do the same.”
Rashaun studied Marketing graduating Cum Laude from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA. Upon graduation she went on to work for two Fortune 500 companies in their marketing and sales departments running circles around corporate America.
But with feelings that corporate America was only the floor for her, she bet on herself and her abilities when she took on the challenge of owning and operating her own division of a financial service business. She then licensed herself in investments, annuities, and life insurance. Rashaun’s business grew over six figures in revenue within two years. Through developing strong relationships and a grassroots social media approach she is now an expert in all things money.
Rashaun went on to explain that we don’t realize how our behavior and how we speak about money transfers directly to our children. “If you are in a tight situation with your funds, don’t complain about it out loud. Children begin to have negative attitudes and take on the mindset of deficit and not abundance.”
When asked about how to get started she gave us the magic word “allowance.”
“Before we begin to give allowance, it is important that this habit become one that is consistent. Allowance rates can match the child’s age so this should increase every year. Also, allowance should not be taken away as a penalty or punishment. If the child makes a bad grade in school, do not take away their allowance. This can create negative thoughts around money and how money works in real life.”
The conversation continued with suggestions for teaching kids money through technology, how to practice shopping with your children, and introducing entrepreneurship. Rashaun also gave these tips for what we should be doing at different age levels.
- Ages 3 to 5: Explain what money is. Use cash around preschoolers when you go to the store because plastic is too abstract. Let them collect coins in a clear container so that they may see their money grow. Show them that five pennies equal a nickel.
- Ages 6-10: Start with a weekly allowance at age six! Take your child shopping with you to give them hands-on experience making need versus want decisions.By age nine, children can grasp the basics of budgeting. Open a savings account for them at your bank if you haven’t already.
- Ages 11-14: During middle school children are presented with peer pressure from friends and advertisements. It is important to hammer the idea of saving to pay yourself first and smart shopping of needs versus wants. This is also a good time to introduce them to the stock market and compound interest.
- Age 15-18: At this time you are thinking about college and the possibility of your child moving away from home. You are practicing those foundational skills. If your child has a part time job discuss tax related issues. Also, encourage them to set aside money for college expenses. Reinforce the negative power of compound interest on credit card purchases!
Our talk with Rashaun Harris was nothing short of informative. If you would like more information (she has all these gems in a PDF booklet), or want her to teach you more about money she can be reached at [email protected]look.com or her Instagram @_aboutherbusiness_.
This article was first published on www.educationpost.org
Can we all agree that the basic care and development of America’s children—yes, every single one of them—is a cardinal virtue that should live unbothered by race, class, geography, ideology and partisanship? And if publicly funded education systems are the single most powerful investments we make as a society to fulfill our responsibility of raising healthy kids into capable adults, shouldn’t politicos of all stripes share a good-faith policy agenda to advance our goals?
Yes, this is another lamentation about the passing away of the once-beloved bipartisanship in education reform policy. It was beautiful while it lasted. I’m sorry it died.
Leading Democrats running for president have all but said they will outlaw school choice, charter schools and parent power—a promise likely to unjustly trap millions of kids on the margins in education dead zones where their great potential will be lost to poor preparation.
Across the aisle, Republicans have become unlikely supporters of handing over $700 billion annually to public schools with no accountability, standards or expectations. It’s a gold medal recipe for an education system that is mostly a jobs program for government workers who fight harder for their own rights than they do for better student outcomes.
The left will say their opponents are hell-bent on “destroying” public education, which causes them to incessantly shout “save our schools” rather than “save our kids who are in schools.” For their part, the right will say liberals will stop at nothing to defend the unionized teachers who act as a solid voting block for the Democrat party. That’s true.
Lost in the volley are parents who only want their children to have a fair shot at succeeding in work and life.
EDUCATION IS DEEPLY PERSONAL, MUST BE DONE WITH THE CONSENT OF THE PUPIL AND THEIR GUARDIAN, AND ISN’T WORTH MUCH IF GRADUATES AREN’T ABLE TO PURSUE MEANINGFUL WORK WHEN THEY EXIT THE K-12 SYSTEM.
In a politically, religiously and ideologically diverse country we’ll always disagree on some fundamentals in education. We may never fully agree on how public schooling should be shaped, what it should offer, who should run it, what it should teach, how its money should reach the children who drive its investments. But these are system-centric concerns that miss the point. While we argue (stupidly, in my opinion) about the education bureaucracy, its budgets and its army of employees, we lose sight of the fact that education is deeply personal, must be done with the consent of the pupil and their guardian, and isn’t worth much if graduates aren’t able to pursue meaningful work when they exit the K-12 system. On that last point, only 3% of Americans believe high schools excel at preparing students for college, and only 5% believe students are prepared for work.
Political polarization isn’t new. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. In education, however, we may be more frayed than in the past. The need for commonsense policymaking has never been greater. It’s clear we desperately need to return to the question of “how are the children,” and start defining our leaders by their capacity to unite us around solutions.
CAN THOSE LEADERS BUILD A NEW COALITION, A NONPARTISAN ONE THAT LOVES CHILDREN MORE THAN IT HATES ITS OPPONENTS?
Can those leaders build a new coalition, a nonpartisan one that loves children more than it hates its opponents?
Can they attract people of good faith, high integrity and sharp policy skills—across the spectrum of beliefs—to fight for an education system that is student-centered, results-focused, properly supported and transparently monitored?
Can they put away childish squabbles and be the adults we deserve our leaders to be?
If we love our children as more than props in labor disputes, more than pawns in ideological struggles, and more than nameless, faceless units in classrooms, we will find a way to work with those we differ with politically but agree with on one cardinal truth: the unsurpassable worth of every child.
Children are innocent, blank slates. Clean canvasses. Malleable, movable, and unknowing to what exactly life is all about. It’s hard to look at them and not feel some sort of joy. They carry the ability to bring out our best, most gentle selves.
I received my gift, my son, at the young age of 20. And while I thought I knew what ALL being a mother would take, I didn’t. I had no idea of what great a responsibility I signed up for. The ability to put this little person before myself became second nature. My old self was being removed. It really is a different kind of love.
A Mother and an Educator
I carried this responsibility as I chose to become an educator. The impact that I would have on children and their future was one of the first lessons I learned in the profession. I was now contributing to the outcome of lives. I was a mama to 30 at one time. I often took home much of my workload to grade papers, complete lesson plans, and make phone calls to parents. While my son did his homework, I did mine. Sometimes he went to bed and I stayed up to finish or would wake a few hours early to get a fresh start with whatever was undone. There were so many
Saturday mornings dedicated to making an anchor chart or creating an exemplar to use for the next week. I worked hard.
As my son got older, he began to struggle in school. He was now dealing with more than one teacher. Common core had its shifts and they were working on him. Every teacher taught using their own style. Needless to say, all styles did not work for him. Plus he lived in two homes. For a child, it was a recipe for disgust. He grew so frustrated. His grades suffered.
He needed more of me and my time. So we made some adjustments. One home during the week (I am also a co-parent) so we could practice good habits. I began to spend our time reinforcing whatever he was learning in each class. Reinforcement for him was a new approach. We did videos, we went to the library for changes of scenery, we used my classroom and its Prometheum board, board games, thinking maps (graphic organizers), real field trips, powerpoint presentations created by him, grocery store visits, reading while en route to football practice, flashcards, sticky notes everywhere, you name, we did it.
Of course, the work I needed to complete for my own classes began to become a second thought. So I hired a tutor for my son. That worked for a while but I found there was nothing like giving him MY time. Plus, it allowed me to see and understand how he learned from a parental perspective. He needed one on one. He needed patience. He needed to be monitored and redirected a bit more than some other students. And he deserved it. I do this. Who was I not to give it to him?
The Balancing Act I assume that everyone with a full time profession and children have to work hard to keep their lives balanced. I am just not an expert at it (at least not yet). Here is where I struggled so I came up with a plan. Staying organized and prepared has helped me become a lot better and I am proud to say that my son and I are handling it.
But bigger than anything I learned how much focus, commitment, and discipline it takes to take care of children. Whether you’re an PARENT or a TEACHER, if you have the responsibility to care for a child, the responsibility is not to be taken lightly. The world has enough uncertainties for them. Don’t be the adult that adds to that.
If you are a teacher, recognize and take responsibility for the POWER you have. Yes, our profession is hard but it is what YOU chose. We all know and feel the injustices of it. Rather than complain, figure out what the solution is for you. The impact on the lives you have inside of your classroom will move beyond that one year you are present. If it is your job to teach a child to read, DO IT, at your best. Reading is too important to their future. If it is your job to teach a
job mathematical foundations, DO IT, at your best. If it your job to teach a child science or social studies to build knowledge and make connections to the real world and its history, DO IT, at your best. They don’t have YOUR POWER and much of what they need to get to their next level is up to you.
So to ALL PEOPLE who are responsible for children, take care of them. Eventually, these precious children, will be taking care of you.