As seen on 5/27/19 in the Midland Reporter Telegram op-ed article:
All of Midland seems to sigh with relief, as we tie a bow on this school year and look forward to summer days, free from school lunches, homework, sports practices and stress. The 2018-19 school year has pushed us all to the breaking point and we are DONE. We made it to the finish line.
If we look through the social media feeds of any local mama – or if we look through the social media feed of MISD – we can see evidence of all the good work and effort that have been put into this year, to make it a wonderful time of learning, excellence and growth for our kids. We have had so many wins as a community. We see so many areas of promise when we begin to look for the bright spots among our education system and community.
We have had talent shows and science fairs, math teams and career days, obstacles overcome and learning goals achieved. In fact, if you look within your own sphere of influence, you can probably highlight a list of great accomplishments and achievements of the kids and teachers in your life. Growth and promise abound.
But. (You knew there had to be a “but” coming, didn’t you?)
We also see problems and hard circumstances, individual children who are failing to learn or failing to thrive in their homes. We see schools within our district which are “failing” by state standards, and we see newspaper articles referencing 212 educators who are leaving the district, this semester through mid-May alone. How do we, as Midland residents, reconcile the bright social media feeds and the happy kids in our homes with the local and regional perception of our schools?
I have been digging into the process of education in our community and as of now, I am far from having final definitive answers. However, I can tell you something you probably already know … but just don’t want to hear. The children in Midland who are thriving are the children who have adults advocating for them on an individual basis. The schools in Midland that are thriving are the schools that have adults speaking life and truth into the campus on a daily basis. And the teachers in Midland who are thriving are those who have a support system surrounding them, affirming their calling and supporting them in their sacred efforts to love and teach children with excellence.
You want to help turn the tide of public perception about education in Midland? Choose a child or a campus or a teacher and put your time and love and compassion there. Stay with it. Don’t quit when it gets difficult. Don’t say, “but I’m just so DONE with it all!” And DO NOT tell yourself that it is someone else’s job. It is YOUR job and it is MY job.
If you find yourself sitting at your kitchen table or your boardroom table, griping about systemic problems which seem too daunting to solve within our education system, please stop yourself right there. Do the personal work of relationship. Be the adult who helps the individual child to thrive. Be the thoughtful person who drops by with sweet tea and good ice and an encouraging note and just leave it in a teacher’s lounge. Be the listening ear who supports the teacher who is on the front lines every day.
We will have personnel turnover, poor morale, negative press and community outcry unless and until we begin to relate to this school problem on an individual level, each taking responsibility for our place in the mess. No one will be elected or hired to solve the problems within our district because that isn’t how these sorts of issues are solved. We, as Midlanders, must press into the problems and work with love and kindness and commitment there, until we run out of things to gripe about.
Today marks the first week of summer. That means you have about 12 weeks to identify a relationship to cultivate, to begin fostering friendship and trust, and to make a game plan for how you will be one transformative individual who helps to turn the tide in Midland schools.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have other solutions to suggest.