Tag Archives: Advocacy

Twitter for Parents in the Eduworld?

road

Image Credit : http://www.sxc.hu/

The Journey to Finding Your Voice and Place on Twitter

When I first began my Twitter journey, I was consumed by all the information available. I drank everything in; constantly re-tweeting posts so I could have a record of articles I wanted to read, jumping on every chat that showed up in my feed, and reaching out to authors and other individuals that I had respected from afar. The experience was exhausting, but so worth the late night info binges!

After much time, I feel that I have finally found my Twitter voice. As a parent interested in education, it has been a windy road. Finding a chat that genuinely wants, not just welcomes  a parent’s lens is not a given. There are certainly educators who are not interested in conversing with non-educators.  I may have also brought my baggage with me. I spent just as much time looking up terms in the beginning as I did sharing my thoughts. Cutting through the edu-jargon and acronyms took time.

One thing I had to remind myself as I got more into the Twitter world, which is easy to forget, is that there are people behind those posts. Some are nice, some not so nice.  Some with valuable information to share, some….. And some individuals have agendas that don’t include me or other parents. Twitter is a reflection of the workplace for educators. Some strongly hold on to hierarchies, even antiquated ones. Some really want to change those paradigms and reshape education as a true partnership with not only parents but students as equal players.

All those hours sifting through chats, hastags, and follows, I have found people that really challenge my mind, respect my input, and encourage more interactions. I have found educators who respect parents making the effort to learn more about education. I have found chats that appreciate and seek parent points of view. I am always appreciative of educators who are evolving and refining their perspectives. Those are the people I want to learn with. Those are the people who inspire me to push myself to reach for more.

One of my goals as a Parent Leader has always been giving parents a voice; enabling them to have a seat at the table. Twitter has been an instrumental tool in allowing me to contribute in conversations with teachers and administrators. In order to successfully find your way, you have to hit a few bumps and then pick yourself up and carry on. The journey is part of the prize.

Some of my favorite chats include:

#PTChat, #NYEDchat, #COLChat, #ArkEdChat, #TMSHawkChat, #FinnedChat

This post is dedicated to some truly special educators:

@TonySinanis, @DaisyDyerDuerr, @thomascmurray, @JohnFrtisky, @donald_gately, @timdwalk, @DavidHochheiser

Thank you!


TALI Hosted Diane Ravitch And I Was There!

Last week I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see Diane Ravitch speak to Take Action Long Island (TALI) in Woodbury, NY. The audience was filled with over 1,100 educators, parents, activists ready to learn more about the state of public education in New York and the country.

Topics of her speech included: the widespread attacks on unions (which in her words are an attack on the middle class), Race to the Top (origins and effects), High Stakes Tests, Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Cyber Schools, Teacher Evaluations (APPR), Data Mining, and ALEC. Her comments were succinct and insightful, and she provided many sources to back up her analyses.

Her explanation of high stakes testing really struck a chord with me, especially since my school aged children are right at the heart of testing years. Her words resonated one at a time, as she discussed the goal of these assessments – they don’t close the achievement gap, they measure them. She spoke of the achievement gap, which is more accurately an economic gap because it is clear that economically challenged students suffer the most from high stakes tests. She explained that tests aren’t scientific instruments, but social constructions. As many parents know firsthand, she explained that high stakes tests destroy real teaching as instruction inevitably becomes “teaching to the test”.

The educators in the room all applauded when she said that the true purpose of public education is to nurture and promote character, integrity, and citizenship.

Diane shed some light on charter schools, exclaiming they are not public schools, but private schools using public money. They cherry pick students and either kick out or deny students with IEPs and English Language Learners. These students are then sent back to public schools where all students are guaranteed an education. The problem becomes that public schools are depleted of funds because monies are going to local charters, cyber schools, and vouchers, leaving the district without proper funding for these children. The most remarkable fact she shared was that even after these schools weed out “undesirable” or challenging students, they still score lower than public schools. Charters have been wrought with scandal. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t hear about embezzlement, impropriety, or other questionable acts. The sad truth about charters is that they have no local allegiance, only a desire to make a profit.

There were positive moments when Ravitch shared the reason why this moment in public education will pass – because it’s wrong. She said we all must take action to ensure this happens. Speak up, tell politicians that high stakes tests are wrong, that basing teacher evaluations on tests are wrong, and that we won’t stand for charter schools, vouchers, and cyber schools taking our public school monies.

After an emotional hour, she responded to a question by a member of the audience. The crowd roared as she ended her talk with this sentiment – I have a dream….that all Long Island will opt out of high stakes tests.

For more information on Diane Ravitch – http://dianeravitch.com/

ALEC exposed – http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Making the Grades, Todd Farley  – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Grades-Misadventures-Standardized-Industry/dp/098170915X

Network for Public Education website – http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

United Opt Out National website – http://unitedoptout.com/


Building Home-School Partnerships

Executives Shaking Hands

Image credit:  http://office.microsoft.com

One of the most effective ways to advocate for your child throughout their education is to learn the culture of your school/district and build partnerships with the people who will be a part of your child’s educational journey. Team members constitute your Parent Teacher Association (PTA), teachers, administrators, and other professionals that work with your child throughout the day.

PTA

WHY? The PTA is a wonderful opportunity for parents to learn the ins and outs of your school. PTA organizes amazing events for students, fundraises for important programming, and stands as a group to advocate for all students. By involving yourself in PTA, you have an opportunity to connect with faculty, staff, and other parents in your community. Oftentimes district information is shared via PTA. Face to face meetings provide valuable moments to interact with your principal, superintendent, and/or other school representatives.

HOW? The first step is joining. Membership forms are generally sent to families the first week of school. Dates and frequency of meetings vary from school to school. Volunteering in PTA events give you access to school and also present opportunities to get to know the principal and faculty on a different level. Taking on leadership positions like the chairperson of committees or executive board positions offer occasions for personal growth and development. They also give you a chance to participate in decisions that will impact your child and the school at large.

Your Child’s Teacher

WHY? Your child spends a very large percentage of their waking time with their teacher. He/She gets to know your child in many ways; academically, socially, and developmentally. On the most obvious level, your child’s teacher is responsible for educating your child. In a more complex view, your teacher understands your child’s learning style, sees your child’s social strengths and weaknesses, and is in a position to assess your child’s development in relation to peers and expectations. Teacher/Student relationships can be very influential in a child’s life, impacting decisions such as career choices and other future plans.

HOW? In the beginning of the year most teachers reach out to parents and ask for information about your child. Do it! Being responsive to teacher requests and taking part in early dialogue sets the stage for future conversations. Being honest about your child’s strengths and weaknesses strengthens your relationship with your child’s teacher. By being open and respectful, you will create the groundwork for effective advocacy throughout the year and possibly years to come. Being proactive as concerns arise by emailing, calling, or sending a note to school addresses issues and opens dialogue for resolution.

 Administrators

WHY? Depending on the size of your school, you may or may not have a vice principal, but you definitely have a principal. These individuals are responsible for many tasks throughout the building; working with teachers, overseeing curriculum, managing staff, fulfilling district goals to name a few. These people are also there for parents if problems come to light.

HOW? Oftentimes parents enter an elementary school for the first time, and flashback to when they were a child. The principal’s office was a scary place students were sent when they misbehaved. As a parent, it’s important to break that mindset and recognize that the principal and vice principal are resources for you. When issues come up that occur outside the classroom, or if you have a broader concern regarding your child’s education, the principal is often the best person to address the questions. The principal also is involved in student placement from year to year. That is a really important reason for them to fully understand the personality and learning style of your child.

Other Professionals

WHY? There are other professionals in the school that play a role in your child’s education. If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP), your team might also constitute a case manager, occupational therapist, speech therapist, school psychologist or physical therapist. These professionals also serve as resources for parents if you have concerns about your child.

HOW? If your child has an IEP, you will attend regular Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings. For other parents with questions, contacting these professionals should be as easy as contacting your teacher. Generally your teacher will let you know if they believe a problem exists. But you should not hesitate to contact someone if you are worried about your child.

These ideas are just a starting off point for creating positive partnerships with the key players in your child’s education. The most important thing to remember is that you are the number one advocate for your child. You know your child best, and represent him/her from the home perspective. That perspective is just as important as what happens in school. You also need to know how to follow through and support school efforts in the home. Partnerships work best when all team members are respected and heard. Good luck with your team building efforts. Post experiences or comments here!


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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