Tag Archives: parent activist

Thankful for Education bloggers and shiny new pencils

magictrees

Dear Readers,

It’s been non-stop behind the scenes action here.

Our latest cause for celebration was this post by the great Diane Ravitch,
who reblogged Jersey Jazzman’s post. Then it was picked up by local
media here.

It’s  great that we got some national, state and more local exposure.  Eventually, more people will  understand what’s  happening and  our movement will grow. We’re doing everything we can and it feels good when our efforts pay off. Being noticed and written about by such incredible, highly esteemed forces working to save public education, is quite an honor. We understand that we’re part of a bigger struggle on a state and national level, as well.

I used to love getting new school supplies when I was a little girl. I still do. So, getting Ms supplies is fun for me, and I allow  myself a few things, too. A new notebook. A few pens. Colorful post it flags. Glitter. When  M checked out his  supplies for the upcoming school year,  M  said, “I can’t wait to start first grade. I love my school and want to stay there forever.”  He examined his new pencil case and I watched his eyes light up. I want that light to stay there for this coming school year.

schoolsupplies

Every time M says he’s  excited  to go back to school, I’m thrilled he feels this way (and it’s more proof that his Kindergarten experience was  good). But, then my heart  sinks. I can’t let him know exactly what’s going on. We plan for him to go back to the same school. That’s all he needs to know for now. My hopes are that he and other children won’t feel too many drastic changes. But, I can’t help but be concerned. I support his excitement. I contain my fears and let them loose elsewhere, away from him.

petunia

It’s a beautiful day. Even with the worry, the unknowns, and the fears.

The sun is shining and it’s time to play outside.

Elana

What’s going on in my town

activistdata2

Dear Readers,

Lots has been going on in our town. I’m happy to report that one of the best education bloggers out there has written a great post about Montclair, NJ. Thank you, Jersey Jazzman! Read it here.

Last week, we got a letter to the editor in The Montclair Times (link still not available) so here’s a scan of it and titled, “A wrong turn  for our schools.” wrrongturn

Plus this coverage.

And yesterday’s paper (7/17/2013) had this great letter to the editor from another resident.

So, that’s it for now. It’s  WAY TOO HOT.

Hope you’re staying cool, wherever you are.

Elana

Day 28: What we’re up against and a woman who stood up

Dear Readers,

I’m in awe of Wendy Davis. It may be slightly off topic to education, but not really if you consider it a civics lesson of the best kind. Her courage,  determination, and clarity are extraordinary and I’m compelled to mention her here. I draw inspiration from her bold act standing up for women’s rights.

upagainst
Up Against

This is what it feels like, what we’re up against in our fight against corporate ed reform policies and the new strategic plan in our town. It feels like David and Goliath. It feels like the little guy up against the BIG POWERS THAT BE. It feels like small voices not being heard. There are moments of victory and it feels like we’re making progress and are being heard and noticed. It feels like a mountain that can’t be climbed. It feels like a wall stands before us, impenetrable. It feels like maybe there’s a small crack in the wall.

It feels like parent power, teacher power, student power, must come together to withstand the waves crashing down on us; the impossible race to nowhere; the wall of obsfucation, greed and lies. The reformers’ endless resources, our lack thereof. It feels like the revolution needs a nap. It feels like we can’t stop. It feels like we have no choice. It feels insurmountable sometimes, impossible, it feels disturbing. It feels painful to watch and be in it and fight it. It makes me angry. It hurts we have to spend our energy this way.   It also feels energizing and uplifting to be taking action, real concrete action to change things. It is inspiring and hopeful to discuss education and what we want for our children with knowledgeable, kind, smart, funny, interesting, talented, unique parents, educators, and fellow residents. It’s a relief to have people I can speak with openly about all this.

I won’t ever stop fighting for my son. If we multiply that I WONT GIVE UP ATTITUDE by more parents, that will be the real sea change, the mountain to climb together, the wall to break through —-standing up  together.

Love and peace,

Elana

Day 27: The day after and swimming in the pool with friends

Dear Readers,

Last night M cried before going to sleep. “Mommy, will I ever see my class friends again?”

I said, “Yes, you’ll see them. Most of them will be going to your school again in the fall. And friends are friends. We’ll see some of them in the summer. Plus, you have camp coming up, and you’ll make some new friends there.”

M wasn’t convinced. “But, Mommy, I want to know which of my friends will be at my camp. I want my old friends.”

We have these conversations every time there’s  a beginning or an ending. Before school starts, before it ends, before camp, and then by the time camp is over, he’s made new friends and doesn’t want to leave them.

I told him we were going to see one of his class friends the next day. He fell asleep. Finally.

I fell asleep right after him. I woke up in the middle of the night, disoriented. I didn’t know what day it was. After going back to bed and sleeping in (until around 8am!) I felt better. This graduating K business is exhausting. Endings usually are followed by a need to rest. But so are beginnings–all that excitement,  fear, and loss mixed in with  the unknown ahead. Until you know, you don’t know.

We took our cat to the vet today for her annual checkup. I need to call tomorrow morning to get the results of some tests the vet said she needed to run. Ringo has lost some weight. She’s 14 years old. Senior kitty. I spent today trying to not to think about it. I’ll know more when I call in the morning. But of course there’s dread. What ifs. I push it all out of my mind. The same way I reassure M that yes, he’ll  most likely see his friends again, I tell myself, everything will be OK. I can’t even allow the thoughts in. What’s the point in fretting too much when you don’t know and you can’t know until you know and until then, you just don’t know? Being comfortable with unknowns is difficult, and  one thing that works for me (sometimes) is to get very involved in the present moment. Literally, only be here now. It isn’t something I can always sustain, but when I do that, it helps.

It’s the same with friendships, beginnings, endings, transitions, comings and goings, all life’s separations. We need to tell ourselves that we’ll see our friends again. That our cat will be OK. Until we know differently, we have the hopes and wishes and that moves us forward. It’s as if we must choose to be happy about what is NOW, what is good right now, until we’re confronted with news that might shatter that. We’re  here now.

M was thrilled to invite his friend over to play in our little pool this afternoon. It was proof to him  that he’ll  still see his friends. A person needs concrete proof sometimes. Or maybe often, that what’s  real is real. Saying it is one thing, but a six year old wants to see it in action. Until then, it’s just words. When will we get there? And then we get there. When will my friend be here? And then they arrive. And they are here. Now, it is real. And the fun begins.

The afternoon passed with M and his friend playing and splashing and laughing. The other parent and I chatted in the shade and kept an eye on the kids. It was easy. Not all play dates are, but this one was. Every time we make a connection with someone, it feels good. Since it’s been almost three years since we moved here, we’re still new in town, but every new friendship makes this feel more like home, and makes the thought of what is happening here feel harder. Because know we know more people and care about more people. Nothing is hypothetical anymore. It is here. It is real. The friendships are real and what threatens us is also real.

And it all comes down to that. People. Friends. Our cat. Having fun and being silly whenever possible. So, I hope, I hope that the work I’m doing with our parent group here in town will have an effect and that we’ll  change things for the better.

I know that kids learn when they can  move around and DO things. So, I’m not worried about “summer learning loss.” Children need to play. They learn best through play. They need some unstructured time where not too much is planned and they can just BE.   I’m certain M will learn a lot this summer.  But mostly, I hope he has fun. I worry about the future but I’m also determined for us to have a happy summer. To not go into future worry about what might happen, but instead, to keep our eyes on the prize, to take every step we can to create change, and to allow ourselves to enjoy our lives as best we can while we fight hard for  our schools.

I’m glad M told me he was sad about missing his class, about it ending. And at the same time, he’s really looking forward to the next step. I don’t know if there’s a way to not feel this ambivalence. I’m not sure life is any clearer when you push one feeling aside for another. It’s  just one step, one splash, one friend at a time. And it’s quite possible to be completely thrilled one has finished something big,  and  at the same time, deeply sad that the something big is over, and you have indeed finished it and are moving on. Graduating.

Nemo said, “Keep swimming.” That’s what we’re gonna do. Keep swimming.

Thank you again and again to all of you for sticking with me through this crazy month, for posting,  liking, and encouraging me, and to the recent newest subscribers–welcome. Just a few more days of the WordCount Blogathon 2013, which will end on June 30.

Good night and good morning,

Elana

Day 26: Graduating from Kindergarten, Voting Rights, Love & Equality

Dear Readers,

M finished Kindergarten today.

Image

Our K class parent had  the lovely idea for each child to bring in a flower to add to a bouquet for their teacher this morning, the last day of school. M picked these for her.

teachflower

teachflower2

Also today, DOMA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Finally. A great victory for Equality in America. These two images were circulating today. I don’t know who made them, but they say so much, I had to share.

equalityheart
lovewins

On the other hand, Voter’s Rights were set back. I’m still reading about it and trying to digest what has happened. Read more it about here and  here.

M gave me this note  written on a tissue (not sure what’s up with him writing on paper towel and tissues lately, but there you have it. Just  another mystery.

mmomnote

This is really worth a watch. Karen Lewis, Chicago Teacher’s Union, president, speaks the truth.

http://chicagoist.com/2013/06/19/ctu_president_lewis_blames_elites_f.php

Congratulations, M! You did it! Hooray! So proud.

Kgrad

Love and peace,

Elana

Day 24: WordCount Blogathon Haiku Day–We Stand Strong.

 

Berkeley state of mind

Dear Readers,

It’s Haiku theme day on the WordCount Blogathon 2013.

I’m loving writing a short piece!

This is my message to the people who are trying to steal my son’s
education. And it is also for everyone who is attempting to steal from all our children in public schools across America; And for all those who abuse and hurt children and students, parents, and teachers  with high stakes testing, over testing, standardized testing, and terrible reformer-deformer education practices devised by billionaires who are greedy and corrupt and who are enriching themselves and destroying people’s lives on the backs of our most neediest and vulnerable citizens. These people should be arrested for crimes against education,  children, and democracy. But in the meantime, here’s my Haiku.

You came for children.

We won’t let you take them down.

We stand strong in front.

Love and peace,

Elana

Day 14: …And so now I’m a parent activist

Dear Readers,

How do you know you’re a parent activist fighting the good fight for public education? Here’s a few signs in no particular order:

  • You begin and end every conversation with “The revolution.” Or “We have to fight this.”
  • People start telling you their public education horror stories. Often finishing with, “So, I moved my kid to private school and now he’s doing great.”  Or,  “Now we home school and she’s doing well.” Or, “I don’t know what we’re gonna do.”
  • You  quote Margaret Mead, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Gandhi, Einstein, or Fred Rogers, when people ask you for the time, directions, or to please pass the butter. Other favorite people to quote include Albert Einstein,  Carl Sagan, Jim Henson, or any character from Sesame Street.
  • When you start singing Phil Ochs songs — your child begs you to stop.
  • The laundry pile gets bigger every day and no matter how much laundry you do, the laundry wins. Because  sometimes you put it off  “for the cause” and the pile gets outta hand. You feel guilty. The family needs clean clothes. This is an ongoing struggle in and of itself. You still like clean clothes, too. Eventually, laundry gets done.
  • You remember when you were so happy to be done with preschool payments and were looking forward to your kid going to public school.  It seems like a long time ago, but it was only a year.
  • You have files on your computer with links you’ve collected  and can find them in seconds whenever you need them. High Stakes, Testing, Common Core, Duncan, Broad Academy….
  • When you meet a fellow parent who’s familiar with the public ed. system, you can speak in shorthand bullet points: NCLB (No Child Left Behind), RTTT (Race to the Top), Duncan Rhee, Christie, Zero Tolerance, boys, taxes, moved here for the schools. And you both know exactly what you’re talking about. You both shake your heads. You end with, “Can you believe this is happening? And “We fight on.” You hug each other.
  •  Your home office space has become a crowded pile of papers and piles labeled PRESS,  CORRESPONDENCE, EMAILS, REALLY GOOD ARTICLES, etc. Your floor is under there somewhere. Your cat likes the piles and sleeps on them to keep you company while you work.
  •  You end up at night lying in bed looking at the ceiling and not able to sleep because although you’re exhausted, you’ve had 5 cups of coffee and are wired,  you’re worried about your kid’s future education, and your head spins in a  million directions. So you can’t sleep.
  • You use words like “resistance” and “the movement” and “we have to do this” as you go through your day. You wonder how anyone could have ever protested and organized anything before social media existed. But many have, and often successfully. You think of Rosa Parks every day. This fuels you. You know you can do this and you know you’re on the right side of history.  You’re amazed by the power of people spreading the word online, at bus stops, at parties, in passing. Standing up. Sitting down.
  •  Some people look at you funny when you tell them what’s going on. Students, parents, and teachers thank you for doing what you’re doing. Others shrug, resigned, and say, “That’s how it is everywhere.” You tell them the revolution is in progress. You’re reassuring yourself, as much as them, that you believe you’ll  make a difference even if its hard to tell that right now.
  • You believe and know this to be true:

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”—Albert Einstein

Goodnight, and good dreams,

or good morning,

wherever you are.

Elana