As the teacher’s strike grinds on, both the teacher’s union and government are trying to claim the moral high ground and win a public relations battle through the media. Meanwhile, dedicated individuals within the system feel abandoned because parents are not rising up in protest.
Most parents are turned off by the rhetoric from all sides and feel helpless to effect change. Many feel intimidated or simply ignored by a system that defaults to rules that can seem incomprehensible. And what happens when parents feel they are on the outside of their child’s public education experience?
We stop acting on behalf of the school community, rather we focus on own children to ensure they do well. We get involved with their extra-curricular activities, which is where we feel our efforts can make a difference. We help our children pursue the things they excel at as we let go of the idea that a well-rounded public education will enable them to succeed. The fact that our children cannot thrive if others around them are struggling is not something that we feel can be addressed by working with the school system.
This disconnect is a challenge being experienced across many sectors as people turn away from large public institutions and seek to work through a partnership of locally-based, more responsive organizations. The results are varied but as it seems unlikely that we will return to the days of old, we might as well get on with figuring out how to do this well.
Now a group of Trafalgar Middle School students has written a letter asking parents to take action because important parts of their educational experience – dances, field trips, report cards – are not happening (see story on Page 1). This passionate call for help shines a spotlight on how pathetically out of touch the adult dialogue is: adults are locked in a struggle for control, arguing over the definition of essential services provided by teachers. Others are trying to ignore that anything is wrong.
Students are telling us the situation is wrong and what is essential to them. We need to work together to support them.
None of us ever earns the right to give up – like childbirth, this is pain with a purpose. There have been some successes when individual teachers and schools collaborate with their parents and community resources so let’s tell those stories to give us hope. And let’s tell the leadership of all groups involved in this sorry mess that it is time to let go of the rhetoric, simplistic positions and old grudges because we are ready to move beyond that even if they are not.
Indifference is the real threat, not those who challenge our positions and thinking. We can either play a constructive role in the oncoming changes or get drenched as the waves crash over us.
And we must be respectful of our youth by clearly communicating what learning opportunities and services we are committed to providing to them. We must stop dangling some of the opportunities in front of kids with promises that they will happen if adults can find a way to get along. How are we going to respond to their calls for support? Let’s give them the gift of clarity and show them what mature and creative problem-solving looks like.