A friend of mind sent me this excerpt from the book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson with a brief note attached to it that simply said, “Stay strong.” As I read the excerpt I wondered if it would be too pretentious to post as a blog entry. Given my current situation this excerpt became quite poignant, compelling, relevant and yes, well . . . pretentious.
A Return to Love – Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
A few blogs ago I shared how I was banned from volunteering in my daughter’s classroom last school year because I was outspoken, via my blog. My daughter’s situation has improved, however, I had someone ask me if I would consider just laying low over the next two years within our elementary school; and I responded, “No.” I was chosen to represent the state of Missouri at Mom Congress not because I was lying low, but because I was standing tall, because I care about what happens in our school, in our district, in our community. It was my years of service that led me to Washington. As a parent I have rights afforded to me when it comes to my children’s education as well as how I participate and engage in the education process. I want to be an active and involved parent for my daughter. My central focus is my daughter and her academic success. As studies have shown (more to follow in a future blog), parental involvement has been proven to lead to academic achievement.
I have been involved in my children’s school and the district for 10 years. Parental involvement is not a matter of social status; parental involvement, in my book, is a job with responsibilities. Parental involvement should also be inclusive not exclusive. Any parent, willing to be involved, willing to donate any amount of time, should be provided the opportunity. But how do parents get involved in their child’s school?
So if parental involvement is the key to academic success, why are parents hesitant to get involved? As I have stated in previous blog, “United, we are one voice for our children,” however, how can we be united when parents may be intimidated to get involved, feel they are unwelcome or not needed?
So, how does your school treat family engagement or parental involvement?
So many questions, what about answers? Hmm . . . that is the tough part; I wish I had the answers. My only advice, if you want to be involved in your child’s school, be persistent, ask to become involved, show up and proclaim that you are here to help. Don’t give up, as a parent, involvement is a right and know that you are not alone. Parent engagement stems far beyond bake sales and classroom parties. Parent engagement is being involved for your child, having an open line of communication with teachers and administrators. It is looking at your district as a whole and asking, “Where is my greatest contribution to my child’s education?” You will be surprised by the opportunities where parents can be an asset to their school community and most importantly to their children.
Where do teachers and administrators come into play? Teachers and administrators need to be supportive of both the parent-volunteer organization as well as any parent that wishes to get involved. Parents are involved at varying levels and should be respected and welcomed for whatever time and/or talent they can donate. Teachers and administrators should support all parents. Working parents, single parents or parents hesitant to get involved for a variety of reasons deserve the same respect regardless of their level of involvement. Teachers and administrators should be receptive and help ensure that parents are afforded opportunities to be involved.
Do you know your rights as a parent? A friend of mine sent me the link to an article by Dr. Meryl Ain. She provides the “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” I would like to share an excerpt from this article.
Parents’ Bill of Rights
1. You have the right to be your children’s best advocate and expect that their unique and special needs are met by the schools in a safe and supportive learning environment in each grade in each school year.
2. You have the right to communicate with your children’s teachers, principal, and school nurse as often as you see fit.
3. You have the right to easily access and understand information about your children’s schools, school district, teachers, administrators, facilities, policies, procedures, and programs.
4. You have the right to have access to your children’s educational records, information regarding services offered by the schools, and expectations about your children’s instructional programs, grading criteria, attendance and behavior.
5. You have the right to be treated with respect, fairness, and understanding, free of discrimination and prejudice, by all staff, faculty, and administration in your children’s schools and school district.
6. You have the right to attend all public meetings, including PTA, Board of Education, and committee meetings.
7. You have the right to complain, without fear of retaliation, to teachers, building and district administrators, and Board of Education.
8. You have the right to attend Board of Education meetings and address the board during the public audience part of the meeting.
9. You have the right to know official complaint procedures within the school, school district, and outside agencies, and pursue them if necessary, without fear of retaliation.
10. You have the right to ensure that your children are learning in safe, healthy, and caring schools, free of discrimination, prejudice, bullying and harassment, and that their physical, emotional, social, academic and special needs are met on a daily basis.
Posted on February 14, 2012 by Meryl Ain, Ed.D. Retrieved from: http://www.parentinvolvementmatters.org/articles/parents-do-you-know-your-rights–71.html)
Reflecting upon the rights stated by Dr. Ain, I do have the right to advocate for my child without retaliation and as a parent, I deserve respect, especially given the years of service I dedicated to the school and district.
According to the article I should be able to address concerns about my child’s learning environment without fear of retaliation from any entity. If I want results for my child or want results for a better school community, it is my duty as a parent to speak up. It would be irresponsible to be silent and not take a stand on issues pertinent to quality education.
Who am I to my children? I would hope a role model; I would hope a soft place to land; but most of all, I would hope their advocate. In the face of adversity, as I continue to advocate for my children as well as my right to be involved in my children’s education; I will stand tall for as the excerpt states, “playing small does not serve the world.”
I am a parent. I am an advocate and an active participant in my children’s education. I will not shrink or disappear because by me being outspoken upsets others. For as the excerpt states, “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Simply stated, I am here, I am engaged, I advocate . . . for my children.
I have so much more to say about parental involvement in education. I have come across pertinent research regarding family engagement. Researchers from Brigham Young University, North Carolina State University and University of California, Irvine recently released a study discussing the relationship between parental involvement and academic success. Please stay tune for my next blog entry discussing this research.
I always end with a pertinent quote that encapsulates the theme of my blog entry. So I as judiciously work towards that next great moment, I believe this quote speaks volumes as to the next chapter that is unfolding in my life:
“Most of life is Hell, it is filled with failure and loss. People disappoint you, dreams don’t work out, hearts get broken. And the best moments in life when everything comes together are few and fleeting. But you’ll never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going. So that’s what I do, I keep going.” ~ Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish Hammond in the USA limited series event “Political Animals”