Today our school staff had the opportunity to view the documentary, "Waiting for Superman." It was riveting, and I can understand why the movie inspired discussions, made people angry and made many sad. I can understand the creation of the education page of the Huffington Post as a forum to discuss what is good and bad in education today and acknowledge it's creation as a positive action in the face of what seems like an unsolvable education crisis.
Watching the movie, I was moved to tears by the devoted parents portrayed as they struggled to do everything in their power to provide their children with the chance of a better life through an education filled with challenges, high expectations and rigor. The children themselves, who seemed wise beyond their years and desperate for a chance to prove themselves worthy in a society that values self-determination and ingenuity, also impressed me.
As a teacher, the first thing that came to my mind when the dust settled and the impressions had a chance to find a place in me, was how I wished that all of the parents I come into contact with were that passionate about their desire for an excellent education for their children. I must say that most are, but I also notice that because our school is a high-performing school, a charter school and located in a desirable location, the expectation is that the school will provide an excellent education, however support from parents in the form of simple things like consistent regular attendance, arriving on time daily and dressing in appropriate school clothing with safe rubber-soled shoes for play and jackets on rainy days, become options that come on a parental whim for some, or when some parents are willing to take the upper hand with their children.
This is not a stereotype of all parents I come into contact with, but what I don't see daily, is the passion displayed in the parents shown in "Waiting for Superman." For those parents, the barrier to a better education was cause for tears. I wonder if we have arrived at a point of expectation, of entitlement and convenient respect for schedules, rules and routines? I was impressed by the parents who yearned for their children to have just a chance at a better education and saddened by how dejected they felt when the opportunity, the lost lottery, slipped by.
I teach at a school that is valued for its educational excellence, parent involvement, creative enrichment and lovely campus. It is an old facility, built in the 1950s, but well cared for by it's teachers and staff. The small and closely-knit staff spends hours of their time and hundreds of dollars of their own money embellishing their classrooms, exploring new curriculum and drumming up excitement teaching required subjects in new ways with methods learned through professional development and advanced degrees.
Parents spend an inordinate amount of time raising funds to support enrichment, smaller class size, provide instructional aides for the classrooms, and support a science lab, computer lab and arts program. We are the model of what a school should be despite the lack of district and state supplied funds. We depend on the Supermoms and Superdads to help us create the school climate we all want, but we also would like to see the passion for what we provide in the classroom, what we are attempting to give the children supported with trust in us, trust in our educational knowledge and trust in our love for what we get up to do everyday.
We do not earn six figure incomes. We do not have control over promotions and raises. We do not control our class size, the curriculum we are mandated to teach or the school calendar. We do, at my school, do the best we can with what we have.