Being our Best, for the Kids
They need us.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve learned a lot and observed a lot about people, both good and what appears sometimes to be the absence of it.
The anger and misappropriation of intentions so many people have about and toward one another about so many aspects of education was, until yesterday, the most egregious recent thing I’ve been processing in just the last month. But then there was the Covenant School shooting - pure evil - just like the rest. The cold, hard reality of yet more innocent lives taken puts all the political and policy in-fighting and misjudging into perspective.
If it teaches us anything, it should be that our kids need to come first in everything, instead of strengthening rifts that divide us.
And we all need to be their best role models
I heard from many, when I criticized a show and its producer for criticizing charter schools and the people who support them, that I was not being the best role model to challenge that popular, accomplished, African-American star. My friends at Eight Black Hands echoed this sentiment; I was the wrong voice for that message.
With how quickly we exchange information these days, and how little we engage personally with each other anymore, it’s easy to forget the importance of not just trying to understand where one another is coming from, but that we are all coming from a different place as well. It was interesting to hear from people who all started on third base, for example, that they assumed I was too…when actually, there wasn’t even a stadium at the time.
But we all deserve a voice, and anyone who actually knows something about their field should be entitled to speak. I have never let someone tell me when my voice was welcome and I’m not about to do so. That voice has contributed - along with hundreds of other voices I have had the privilege to work with - to lifesaving opportunities for kids who don’t look like mine.
I’m always willing to listen to people with good intentions who may not see it that way, especially those who are willing to do the same, for me. Having come from a family of very challenged immigrants and being the first generation to do a lot of things, having a voice has special meaning for me.
But our own education and individual conditions aren’t the issue today. It’s the children who matter most and that’s who we have to unite to support. On that, I know we all agree.
So my number one goal is to build a supply…
A supply of great new education opportunities for students whose God-given talents need nurturing, support and cultural literacy to tackle the opportunities, challenges and adversity that come their way.
Because guess what? More parents than ever before have choices…and need them.
And they can’t be the same old same old options. Tradition can work for some. Four rows, old-fashioned classroom, teacher teaching, bells ringing…it’s all good, for some.
But educators also need to be transformational, taking advantage of every kind of tech platform, including AI and ChatGBT (even though it needs a lot of work and improvement). Our educators also need to learn how to personalize learning with and without technology tools and avail themselves of all the resources that help students learn the way they are wired - from Khan Academy to game-based learning.
What we can’t do is stop finding the best ways to engage, motivate, educate and sustain student learning, and welcome families to be part of that.
And at the same time, we must help our kids be safe, which is of course the most important thing we should be concerned about before we can even teach them.
Education can’t save our kids from evil and wanton violence.
But education can help educate a nation and build community.
And strong communities are good for strong mental health, which according to the experts, should be our number one priority right now if we are to save our children’s futures.
We need to be productively engaged in educating and supporting students to develop into whole, balanced, resilient people who fight fire with reason - not fire - and see each other for who they are, not who they think they are.
You’ll have a chance to hear more about that soon
My latest podcast, “Why Aren’t All Schools Healing Environments?” brings together two educators, from Chickasaw Public Schools and Hope Youth Ranch - Yass Prize Awardees, in fact, with Erica Komisar, the leading authority on the impact of external forces on student’s mental health, to talk about what’s causing the stressors on our kids, the self-medicating, and what we can do to mitigate the impact of an unhealthy climate on our children.
We talked about how smaller school communities breed more familiarity which helps improve outcomes, what some are doing to treat “average” as well as exceptional kids, and the role that drugs, social media and absent civic institutions does to our kids. You’ll want to keep your eyes out for this episode of in Piazza, wherever you get your podcasts.
My prayers are with all the families of Covenant, their communities, with all our kids and with you. We have so much to fight for. Let’s keep our eyes on what the real battles are about.