The Atlanta Citywide Education Progress Report is live! This report breaks down very important information that all stakeholders need to review most importantly regarding how the school District in the City of Atlanta engaging families and communities in the school turn around process.
In order for us to change the lives of children and families, we must find the heartbeat to how they learn. This is often times found in the homes and communities where they live. However, we as Educators are not present in the communities of our schools. We think we are present because we have monthly family events or we send our teachers two by two for home visits. However, engaging families and communities requires more than just give aways, food and balloons. We have to speak the language of the families we serve. I’m not talking about simply dialect. Yes, its factual that we still need more resources translated in various languages, interpreters and more support for helping non-English speaking families to understand the work that we are doing to educate their child(ren). Engagement is what helps education to progress in any city or school District. Is progression happening within Atlanta, of course. Does this depend on the school, community and zip code; absolutely. These are age-old dynamics that may have morally changed but systematically old habits are still in place.
Too often we read blogs, reports and articles to gather information but how we use the information effects change. Here are some ways in which all stakeholders can help their school Districts make progress for all students:
- Engagement beyond emotionalism
- Change that embraces conflict
- Respect that reaches every person
Engagement beyond emotionalism doesn’t mean be heartless. It encourages us to not put so much of the pomp and circumstance into the way we reach families. Engagement is built on empowerment yet destroyed by emotionalism. Too often, parents carry around negative emotional connections to schools and teachers. Empowering parents helps them to lead academically, find resources, help with homework, choose colleges that fit their child’s abilities and most importantly help academically, financially and mentally prepare them for the world ahead. If we can do engagement beyond emotionalism, we can tap into learning styles. If we begin to move away from the excitement just seeing our children perform but also celebrating them as they build, create, present, speak and lead, then we create a healthy balance.
Change that embraces conflict takes away the us vs them scenario. In every school Board meeting, if you observe the public comments parents and stakeholders appear to be on one side and school leaders and policy makers on another. We change this with leadership. Leadership must be willing to embrace conflict. Everyone is not going to agree with change but we can create affect ways to implement change. It takes the leaders to be transparent and honest with stakeholders about decisions that have to be made. In one of our community meetings regarding development, one of the older residents made this statement to leaders. “I’d much rather prefer you to say that my community is changing and in a little while I won’t afford to live here. This way “I” can make arrangements on what I would like to do with my home as opposed to being told what to do by others who haven’t and won’t live here!” People resist change because they feel like it’s happening to them and not with them.
Young people will say to me when I’m discussing discipline with them this famous line, “I ain’t gonna respect them because they don’t respect me!” It’s the perception of respect that prevents us from reaching every person. Our children see through our actions which shapes their perspectives. Children hear our dinner tables discussions, phone calls, how we “get someone told”, our tweets and how we treat others who we like, don’t like, who worship like us, look like us or have many differences. Respect is the action behind love. Students and parents who have been consistently overlooked, experimented on, not chosen, talked down to by schools and teachers don’t feel respected. In fact, when they see and hear respect in missions, visions and in public hearings, they don’t react because respect hasn’t reached everyone. In order for respect to reach every stakeholder, they must not only feel welcomed but be encouraged to be present. They must see themselves in the faculty, staff and school culture. School districts that ensure respect reaches every person have the hard conversations about race, sexuality, healthcare, affordable housing, gentrification and polices that change the success pathways of our children.
As you read the Atlanta Citywide Education Progress Report remember the three things that school districts and stakeholders can to do ensure that schools make progress so that students can succeed.