“Supporting Our Students, It Takes Everyone” National and Local Discussion

SOSEvery1 Columbus Watch Party 2

The following includes my opening remarks to set the tone for our local discussion and the national Education Nation live broadcast in Baltimore on “Supporting Our Students, It Takes Everyone.” After my introduction, there are some of the questions and comments that were raised in this rich, lively discussion.

Believing is all a child does for a living.  – Philadelphia Poet, Kurtis Lamkin

Tonight we are talking about how to keep that hope alive. You are here because you play a significant role in the lives of children. Either you are a community leader, a direct service provider or, like me, a parent on the front lines of trying to maximize your child’s development everyday. Parents can act as change makers if we work together to solve our problems.

And we do have problems to solve. When black and multi-racial students who graduate from high school struggle to get a college degree and face daunting job prospects, we still have work to do. And let’s look at our city, Columbus Public Schools, the largest district in our state. On the State School Report Card, Columbus City Schools received an “A” for overall progress so we are moving in the right direction. We have strengths from which to build. But the district received “D”s and “F”s for achievement and an “F” for closing the achievement gap.

We can draw upon science to help us solve our problems. I can only share my perspectives as a white educator who cares deeply about providing high quality learning supports for all of our children. When I enter a conversation on race, I become awash with feelings of fear, shame and guilt. And the emotional intelligence educator in me knows that I am beginning that conversation with the use of my survival brain. This is the part that allows me SOSEvery1 Columbus Watch Party 10only two choices – fight or flight. Now when it comes to fighting, I teach nonviolence. I escort insects out of our house and release them into the wild so fists aren’t an option for me. But I fight with my defenses, my excuses. And that’s not good enough. We have to have the courage to lean into these hard conversations to solve our toughest problems.

So I know that first, I need to calm down. I need to breathe. Do it with me now. Let’s take three collective deep breaths. This opens us up and gives us access to the logical part of our brain and the creative part of our brain so that we can bring our best selves to work on these thorny issues.

And we can do this at home with our children. What if each time you felt angry with what you saw on the news, you told your family, “I need a minute to calm down.”? Or when you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and fear from the violence you see on our community streets, you ask your family to give you a moment to calm down? You may plop down in the middle of your living room and just breathe. Those moments will teach your child self-management skills. So that when he goes out into the world and you are not there to protect him, he can deal with intense feelings with emotional intelligence.

So I am working very hard to model self-management skills with my son. I am supporting his learning at home. I am exposing him to differing perspectives to raise him with an open mind. And I am so busy about my important business that my head is down. And I haven’t look up long enough to see across the street – to the child who is my son’s age. For whatever complex family reasons I cannot possibly understand, he is alone, angry and hurt. And it seems to build day by day. He takes it out on his video games or occasionally kicking a cat but there is a stranglehold on his spirit. And one day, he feels like he’s going to explode. His Dad’s collection of guns are left out for cleaning and this son is alone in the house yet again. He picks up a gun and walks outside feeling overwhelmed by his life. He sees my son who is playing in the yard. He knows my son receives lots of attention. And he shoots my son. And my life as a parent is over (deep breath).

This is the meaning of “It Takes Everyone.” It’s not enough to care at home. It’s not enough to only love our families. We need to care for our neighbors, our community, our city schools. We need to lift our heads long enough to notice one’s another’s pain and become compassionate. Get involved. Get into the conversation.

Tonight we will be hearing from the Education Nation national panelists in Baltimore on six topics related to: 1. parent engagement in learning, 2. healthy physical development, 3. social and emotional development, 4. Baltimore and how they have worked to heal after Freddie Gray’s death and the protests following, 5. advocating for equity in schools and 6. supports for higher education.

We care about your questions and comments during each segment so please submit them on your index cards at your seat. It is our hope that this will energize our local conversation. And we are committed to following up. So please fill out your interest cards so that we know what topics you are SOSEvery1 Columbus Watch Party 1committed to discussing further and how you would like to see this conversation move forward.

The following are some of the questions and comments that were submitted from our local Columbus Watch Party:

Columbus is “resource rich” in the words of a Kirwan Institute report. What can be done, where can one go to find out about the resources available?

The Columbus Urban League has an initiative called Neighborhood Violence Intervention Program which deals with the youth who are not engaged in school but greatly impact what goes on in school such as, gang-involved youth. Does Baltimore employ any strategies that address the challenges with these youth?

The principal and some of the teachers pick random children to fail or mentally abuse causing them to want to give up. How do we correct this action and help our children regain trust in their educators or principals in order for them to have the same equal opportunities as every child in school wanting to learn? How do you remove the negative perceptions of a child’s character as he/she moves through K-12 and even college?

Since approximately one out of five school-age children speak a language other than English at home, how are schools engaging with parents who speak another language at home to bring their knowledge, experiences and perspectives to the school to make connections?

What resources are available to connect youth and families to social and emotional skills during the summertime outside of school particularly those children who have emotional challenges?

We need to have courage in facing our problems and the belief that we can make a difference. Mentoring, pairing a caring adult with a child, can make a significant difference in a child’s motivation to learn and achieve. They feel supported. So many of the national panelists referred to relationships being central to success. We work on family literacy so that there is reading together at home creating connections around stories. Poverty can have a huge impact on academic readiness and success to how we work to meet kids’ needs whether its good nutrition throughout the day or mental health supports, we have to look at all those ways that we can meet children’s basic needs so that they are able to learn. (paraphrased from comment by Alleshia Gillison, Parent Teacher Association)

In Columbus City Schools, we are working on policies that address the whole child. We have implemented Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports to reinforce positive behaviors. We are just starting a Restorative Justice program so that students who regularly get suspended can take responsibility for their actions and give back to the school community to make amends. We have resource officers and police in our schools to develop those relationships with kids in as many as seventeen of our schools. And we have partnerships with the City of Columbus to promote higher education through events at our city parks. We will be engaging in the college education signing day in late April. (paraphrased from remarks by Michael Cole, Columbus Board of Education).

I am grateful to FutureReady Columbus for organizing this event and for the partnership of the Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology providing an ideal venue. Thank you, #EducationNation, #ParentToolkit and Pearson for such a high-quality dialogue at the national level giving us much to discuss at our local level. I hope you’ll watch this success story of an incredible mother and her son from the national broadcast…

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