Sitting in a doctor’s office may seem like a strange place to come to grips with the need for quality schools, but my visit on a steamy day in Baltimore brought clarity to my understanding for this. As the nurse, medical assistant or whatever her title is completed the preliminary tasks taking blood pressure, pulse, weight, and other basic tasks, we engaged in a polite conversation about her personal background and current situation which included the status of her obvious pregnancy. It was intriguing to hear how education played a key role in her life and how she was determined to provide her daughter with a similar experience. The young woman told me how much she benefited from having a stay-at-home Mother who was able to provide daily support and guidance, and how the local school program aligned with the family values. Her Father as the bread-winner in the family made sure that they lived in a community that valued education and supported an educational system that recognized the need to develop the potential of each student.
What made this conversation so captivating was the reality that this young woman would not be able to be a stay-at-home Mother. She had done her due diligence investigating the effectiveness of schools and school districts where she currently resided. It was painfully clear that the couple needed to move if they were going to find the kind of school they wanted for their daughter. In order to find the location they were seeking, both parents would have to work. The parents also understood that finding jobs conveniently close to their home was probably not going to happen. On top of the financial realities, she and her husband knew that having quality time at home as a family was also going to be a challenge.
I asked about the feasibility of looking into charter schools or private schools. The soon to be Mother knew that was not a viable option. Putting her daughter in those schools took away or significantly limited the opportunities for her daughter to play, socialize, and simply spend time with the friends in the neighborhood.
As a lifelong educator, I was acutely aware of the obvious need to improve schools in cities, especially in low socio-economic areas. This brief conversation made it abundantly clear that the need permeates a wide spectrum of people and locales. Waiting for more funding, better systems, and higher quality of educators throughout the system is like “Waiting for Godot.” The need for quality schools is much more than the flood of data painfully showing how many schools are failing to provide the kind of experience that these parents want. The need for an effective school system is a personal issue, personal to parents, students, communities, and to our nation. Charter schools and private schools beg the issue. Schools can be improved without the massive infusion of funds and without complex staff development. I will layout a number of things that can be done now and done efficiently—stay tuned.
by Ron Gleason, coach and consultant at Sweetness & Light School
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