When my husband and I made the decision to have our first child attend public school, I was a nervous ball of guilt. I was sure a better mom would have taken in laundry to afford private school (do people still take in laundry? Is that a thing?) or would have sacrificed her sanity to homeschool her oldest while also having a 3 year-old, 2 year-old and infant in the house (I’m not saying other women couldn’t stay sane and do this, I’m just saying I know my limits.) In short, I felt like a bad mom.
Over the last 5 years of having kids in our local public schools, I have seen what a positive decision it has been for them and for us. Not just a neutral decision or a “worked out okay considering the circumstances” decision, but an honest to goodness positive in the lives of our family.
The transition from guilt-ridden skeptic to public school defender has made me realize that our public schools struggle with some major PR issues. But this makes sense– our schools serve EVERY child that needs them and sometimes there are going to be problems. In this day and age, “problems” often go viral as people try to one-up each other in the level of outrage they feel about how a teacher handled an issue or what school administration did. I see the value in this as sometimes public pressure needs to be exerted to help change a situation (I’m in favor of letting people know if a school has inherently racist dress code policies when it comes to policing how girls wear their natural hair), but I also see situations where a teacher is unnecessarily publicly humiliated for how she handled a situation.
I spent a wonderful year as a paraprofessional (i.e. teacher’s aid) in a public school resource classroom as I worked my way through college. I loved those kids, but I’m sure I made some dumb mistakes in how I handled things. And I can imagine how horrible I would have felt if instead of talking to me, a parent had decided to post their version of the story online, ruining my professional reputation and creating a PR crisis for the school.
When we’re mad, we post. When things are running smoothly, we tend to be silent. So this year when our school system celebrated “I Love Public Schools” day, I decided to remember all the great moments we’ve experienced and posted about them on my Facebook page. I wanted to counter some of that narrative about how dysfunctional, uncaring, and cold the public school system can be with our actual experiences of loving professionals who treat our kids like their own. I know that isn’t everyone’s experience and I am a strong proponent of advocating for your kids, but I don’t want to be silent when things are going well. Let’s praise these educators for the hard work they do and the ways they invest in our kids.
So here are my #ILovePublicSchools posts from earlier this year:
One day my child choked on his sandwich and his assistant principal helped him cough it up. Two years later and he still insists she saved his life, although I think that might be slightly more dramatic than what actually happened. Either way, #IlovePublicSchools
In order to have a physical moment of connection with my struggling child, some mornings his teacher would put her arm around him during The Pledge of Allegiance and hold her hand over his hand over his heart. She knew just what he needed, which is why #IlovePublicSchools
Two years after she was my son’s Kindergarten teacher, she brought her church group to Christmas carol at our house and they dropped off cookies. I mean seriously, #IlovePublicSchools because #Schoolsarewhereteacherslive
A year after we moved out of her school, our old principal called to tell me she still missed my kids and hoped we were doing well. #IlovePublicSchools because that’s where you find passionate administrators who value each student.
When my child found a picture he thought was inappropriate in a magazine during a “cut out a picture” activity, his teacher took it extremely seriously- threw the picture in the trash, thanked him for telling her and apologized to him for the fact that he saw it. That moment of honoring his conscience when she could have minimized or justified that picture. . . I can’t tell you how helpful that was in our ongoing discussions about how we honor women and don’t objectify them. For him to know that his teacher was on the same page as his parents, it’s just one more reason #IlovePublicSchools
Although I know the clicking noise drives her slightly insane, my child’s teacher allows him to do his Rubik’s Cube if he finishes his work. The fact that she knows what motivates him and supports his interests is why #IlovePublicSchools
When she told me that learning how to teach my challenging child had made her a better teacher and how thankful she was that he was in her class. . . #IlovePublicSchools
The music teacher gave my mostly tone-deaf child a solo. That kind of kindness is why #IlovePublicSchools
In an IEP meeting, the school’s occupational therapist cried when she talked about the positive progress my child had made. Knowing there are people in that building who love your child like their own is why #IlovePublicSchools
When I had concerns about the internet safety at school, the principal connected me with the district’s Chief Technology Officer who spent 90 minutes answering my questions and talking me through the problems and potential solutions. That kind of attentiveness to parent concerns is why #IlovePublicSchools
My kids still think the Occupational Therapist (from the public school system) who came to our house for years to work with one of our kids was just a family friend who liked spending time with them. Her ability to provide services while also building relationships with all my kids is why #IlovePublicSchools
My daughter brought her book of adoption pictures to school and said, “I need to be sure and show this to the librarian because she’s adopted, too! She’ll love to see my adoption pictures.” Having people outside our home to normalize and value her story is why #IlovePublicSchools
When I told the team that my child was having trouble with meltdowns at home, they arranged for a sensory break in the afternoon to try and help the rest of the day go more smoothly. #IlovePublicSchools because they care about what happens to these kids even during the hours they aren’t at school.
When the teacher had a question about how to handle a recurring issue with my child, she asked me if I had any tips. #IlovePublicSchools because they want to work collaboratively with parents for the good of the child whenever possible.
When my kids wanted to race in a citywide Fun Run but the cost was prohibitive for our family, the school’s PE teacher made sure the kids could participate without any awkwardness or shame to the kids or our family. The sensitivity of our teachers and administrators to the financial situations of their families is one more reason why #IlovePublicSchools
I was juggling a couple noisy toddlers in the back of the auditorium when the principal walked over to me. I thought she might remind me to keep the kids quiet, but instead she wanted to give me a heads-up that we were almost to the part of the performance where my child was going to bust out some amazing dance moves and she didn’t want me to miss it. She loves him, that’s why #IlovePublicSchools
The kids all got cards and a little gift from their bus driver and the bus helper on the last day before Winter Break. #IlovePublicSchools because even the support staff are focused on communicating kindness to our kids.
Some of my favorite people and best friends are women I met while waiting for our kids to get out of school. #IlovePublicSchools because that’s where MY friends hangout.
Two weeks ago I heard a school board member address an issue I was concerned about and he said he was open to hearing parent feedback. I contacted him, he responded promptly and invited me to speak to the school board with the assurance that he thought they’d be open to hearing from me. I got support from our principal, did a little more research and then spoke at the school board meeting last night. The school board members responded with concern, a desire to fix the problem, and expressed gratitude that I came. #IlovePublicSchools because we elect people to represent the needs of our kids who actually care about the needs of our kids and deal respectfully with parents.