Saturday, June 25, 2016

Be the change you wish to see

This is the second part of a trilogy.

The first was be the last stop.

Be the change you wish to see was something I heard during parent orientation for my daughter's new high school. It is not a new thought. I have heard others reference it. According to BrainyQuotes, Mahatma Gandhi said it long before that mom did.

The thought has bounced about in my head for the past month. I need to figure out how to be that change as she transitions to a new school with new opportunities for her, and new experiences for us.

Let me back up. After six years, Ashley recently graduated from a pre-K through 8th grade school (she started in third grade). As with every learning environment (make that every environment) there are things I would have changed. After she spent kindergarten in public schools, I home schooled her for first and second grade. I made the conscious decision when she went to a brick and mortar school I would become hands off and only step in when there was a serious issue. 

I certainly won't say I was always successful, but I tried.

I will say I never felt the school was open to change, though over the six years we did see some changes take place. A notable one was the switch from sending home a packet of paper each week to the electronic PIE (Parent Information Envelope). Personally I preferred the papers because I felt once the switch was made I didn't see all of the information, but other people rejoiced in going eco-friendly and had children who did not always bring home the PIE (it was automatically sent home with the oldest child in each family, not necessarily the most responsible one). 

I could not convince them to make a similar change with the school newspaper. That still went home only twice a year, and on paper. As leader I hoped to change it to electronic, which would have reduced expenses and allowed us to send it home more frequently.

Other changes I wanted were to encourage recycling and composting; the recycling bin in the cafeteria was always overflowing with food waste. I also wish they stuck with capping classes at 28 (which is still large) instead of changing that number to 30 when she was in 6th grade, or at least communicating that change to parents. 

In general I wish there had been more communication between those at school and the parents. They all say they are trying to teach children to be responsible (even as young as 3rd grade), but it came across as a wall between parents and teachers, when I thought we were all on the same team. To my part when I lead a club, I emailed the parents and kept them in the communication loop. When I took pictures at an event, I emailed a link to the parents so they could see the photos. Some appreciated it, most ignored my efforts. It just wasn't part of school culture for parents to think they should receive communication from those who spend time with their children.

Now she is about to start a new school. A new chapter. One that encourages parental involvement (at least in theory), but does not require it (her former school required 25 hours a year from each family, and had a complicated system for keeping track of those hours -- another thing I would have changed). The parents who are involved are there because they want to be there for their kids. The school seems receptive to new ideas and suggestions, in ways we never felt possible at the smaller K-8 school.

We know the next four years will fly by. My advice to Ashley is to try new things, explore new opportunities, see what she really loves. Advice to Don and I should be similar -- get involved, try new opportunities, see what we love. In only four years she will be flying the nest and going to college, which brings a new stage of life for all of us.

We want to embrace this time. I want to be the change we wish to see at her school, in the community, and in the greater world. I want to be a role model for her so she grows up knowing change is possible, but only through someone being the change (and that she can be that someone). I want to enjoy these next four years with her, just as I have enjoyed the last 14.

Rather than complaining about what is wrong (in my mind), I want to lead the change to make it better, or at least understand why it can't be changed. 

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