Feb 15, 2011

Why I LOVE Public Education

It's time for a positive public relations campaign! We need to make sure the public hears what is GREAT about our public schools! I am limited to my own experience as a student, teacher, and a parent and I realize that not everyone has the same experience in public schools; but here's what tops my list of public school JOYS:

  • KIDS!  When I was one, I didn't always fit in, was at-risk in junior high and high school, and didn't always love school. But in retrospect, I am so grateful for my time in public schools. I grew up in suburban Chicago and attended an elementary school with a lot of diversity (100+ languages spoken!) There was always a peer who who helped me and a group of friends that I considered my second family.  As a parent in Iowa,  my children attend a public school with a similar demographic to my old elementary school (yes, in Iowa!)  This huge mix of culture and diversity really prepares them to be global citizens. They learn about the world through their interactions with their peers. As a teacher, I love my students! We become a little family, sharing chores that keep the classroom running, sharing learning and sharing conversations. They are so smart and so funny sometimes that my time with them very rarely feels like work.
  •  COMMUNITY-BUILDING! It starts in the classroom, where students and teacher become a little community. It spreads to a building, and if you're lucky, it moves throughout a district and/or a town. My students partner with the community in several projects each year. They are all labeled "at-risk" of dropping out and the "bad vibes" go both ways: they don't like most adults in the community and most of those adults don't like them. Community projects help everyone be more accepting of each other. As a parent, I want to see more of this at my children's school: we have such a wonderfully diverse population and if we interacted more we could all learn to appreciate and celebrate that fact! Where else can such community building occur but in a public school?!?
  • GLOBAL VILLAGE-BUILDING! We start by building small communities, but why stop there? So many kids in my classroom and in my neighborhood suffer from poverty. They don't get to go on vacation or see the world outside of their towns and they don't even have access to technology to see the world via the Internet. I LOVE the fact that public schools can give students the opportunity to look out a window to the world. A small field trip, a guest speaker, a Skype meeting with someone halfway around the world, or an introduction to a Google app: any of these things we do in our public schools can show kids the world outside. If they can see a glimpse of the world outside of their hometown, then they can dream a better life.
  • HOPE! In my professional life, I have seen some kids who are really beaten down by personal traumas and tribulations. By the time I see them, they have sometimes suffered for fourteen or more years. But despite all of that suffering, most of them still have hope! They still want to learn! They still come to school each day and get that twinkle in their eye when they understand something! They can still laugh! When I see these kids not only survive, but succeed, it is hard not to LOVE my job and LOVE public education--without it, none of the above would be possible.

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