Sunday, April 27, 2008
Celebrate the Child
“Mothers will go where their children are being celebrated, every time, in every town, in every city.” Bill Strickland
This past week my school hosted a spring family night. Hot dogs and hamburgers were served along with performances by our jumprope club, our ballroom dancing club, as well as our staff and student choir. The next day our Assistant Principal sent an email to the staff with much praise and high thanks for all of the participation.
My school has a large base population living in public housing right on the outskirts of our city. Frequently it is difficult to attract parents to come to our school, though the trip, for most, would require little more than a short walk across the street. Our AP noted in the email the significant turnout of base parents and I thought of the Bill Strickland quote.
For those of you who don’t know him, Bill Strickland is an innovator who has funded and created his own schools and training centers to help the under served populations of inner city Pittsburg. He has received the MacArthur “Genius” Award for leadership and integrity in the arts, among his many other accolades.
His quote is referring to a gallery that the had opened at his school to celebrate the work of the students. He spoke of the drive to get parents to come to the gallery openings, and how he hired a man to encourage the parents to come. He described how the number of guests at their openings grew with each invitation because mothers will go where their children are celebrated.
Immediately I thought of our school.
I thought of the lengths that my school goes to to encourage our base parents to come for teacher conferences and the inevitable low attendance. I thought of my own frustrations with with parents who do not seem to offer the support that their child so desperately needs. Then I thought about celebrating their child.
I teach the fourth grade, so I wondered how many parent teacher conferences parents may have already been to that did not center around celebration. I wondered about a history of calls from the office that were devoid of celebration. At some point, I imagined, you begin to dread that call, to disdain the invitation, to ignore the school that looms, like a wall across the street. I thought of the conferences that I haven’t had with my base parents, and wondered if there would have been much celebration in the event that they had visited.
Sadly I fear that our results oriented society would not offer much hope for celebration at the parent teacher conference. This concerns me. What concerns me more is that I don’t know that I have to answer for how to provide the platform for celebration. I firmly believe that every child has a gift and talent to be cultivated and drawn forth by, among others, educators. Additionally, I believe that I am working every day to draw the children out of themselves, heads held high with confidence. But I also recognize theirs and their families strong adherence to the standards that our society has set in place. Grades and testing results measure, ultimately the child. While I do believe that there is a need for valid assessment of understanding and capabilities, my concern is that, increasingly, it is at the expense of the child. That, I suppose, is an entirely different blogpost.
Here, I am at an end, though I realize that I have not concluded my thoughts. Ultimately I feel that I am not at a conclusive place. Perhaps one of my three readers out there in cyberspace might have some thoughts on the matter. I just can’t get this notion of celebrating children out of my head.
See Bill Strickland speak here.