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I grew up in a community that is now known as one of the poorest counties in Mississippi. When I return home for family visits, poverty is on every corner. Buildings that were once housed prosperous family businesses are now boarded up or burned down. Most residents work out of town or are unemployed. Whenever I ask my mother, a lifelong educator, about the stark contrast from the town that was part of my childhood, she replies in a sad voice, “Education, education, education. We stopped teaching children to read for the love of reading. We stopped teaching children to dream big dreams. This is what you get.” To my mother, education and economics are inseparable. She often told me, “Without an education, options are few. An educated community is crucial to its survival. Part of that survival is teaching children to learn to enjoy learning”. One of my mother’s core beliefs is to teach children to love to learn and they will become big dreamers. Big dreamers invest in their communities.
My mother taught me to love to read. My reading led me to becoming a dreamer. Dreaming taught me to face life without fear or hesitation. Reading was also my escape from country life. I grew up in household with very little extras but I had an abundance of everything. I was surrounded by educators, professionals, and kinfolks who showed me how things were done by allowing me to see them in their career settings. I also saw them with books in their hands at every turn.
I read books before I started school. My earliest memory of reading was to my grandfather. He would sit in his Lazy Boy chair rocking back and forth while I read to him from my small chair. Because he was hard of hearing, I read at the top of my voice. He had the patient of Job as I read one story after another. Reading to my grandfather was a routine I continued to end of his life. As an adult, my return visits to my grandparents always included stacks of magazines and newspaper from other cities. I would eagerly share with him who I met and where I have been while I read to him articles from places he never got to visit. He would smile and grin and give commentary on the politics and economics of municipalities as if he lived in each one.
When my grandfather became ill, I returned to Mississippi until he passed. Every evening, I read stories to him. Every evening. Often, I wondered if he heard me but I read to him anyway as I did as a child. Loudly. Bible passages, novels, news stories, even some of my favorite childhood books was read to him until he took his last breath.
My love of reading to my grandfather has transitioned to reading to school age children in area schools. I realized that my interactions with the many children I see during the holidays as Ms. Santa must go beyond giving them toys with a temporary shelf life. Catherine Ramsey, a lifelong educator and fellow book club member, taught me by her actions at Christmas. As a gift to her, she only wanted book club members to give books to young girls. She wanted to plant seeds of loving to read while they were young. Catherine Ramsey has never met my family but their philosophies about life and education are exactly the same.
Private, public, charter schools, and daycares have all called me to visit their schools to read. I have donned my famous Ms. Santa suit for the Girl Scouts. I have been the Queen of Hearts for Valentine Day and I have dressed as a Leprechaun to cheer on test scores in March for Buena Vista Enhanced Option School. I have been Spiderwoman at Grace Eaton and a Reading Princess at Hull-Jackson Montessori. Name a holiday or occasion and I have a costume to help incorporate into a story. My visits may seem outlandish to the casual observer but many educators encourage me to come often. My visits also bring community into the classroom and introduce children to professionals who not only work but serve. I have managed to recruit other entrepreneurs to join me. Why should I have all the fun?
My visits with the school children are not limited to the classroom. Escorting several classes, community groups, and families to the Frist Center helps incorporate the arts into story telling that is meant to encourage loving to learn. The visits to the Frist Center at the beginning of the school year have helped several students along with their families to become museum regulars. I have been told by parents and teachers alike that they have seen improvements in test scores and attention spans. The students come to the Frist Center to create their masterpieces inspired by their favorite books they have read at school.
No matter where a child attends school, all villagers must be active participants in helping create environments where loving to learn is at the forefront. We must all look for ways to make learning engaging and exciting to equip the next generation to help keep our communities vibrant and economically strong. Loving to learn produces big dreamers. And big dreamers invest in their villages and communities.
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Most large family gatherings have the normal family disagreements. But if you ever want to ruin a “good argument” during the holidays, just mention charter schools around the educators in my family. At the dinner table sit female educators who are teachers, principals, and college professors who will send the turkey and dressing running for cover at the very mention of charter schools. The topic of charter schools is hotly disputed between my mother and my aunts who believe “the devil is in the details”. Asking these fervently experienced Titans of education to explain why they love or loath the idea of charter schools minus the passion has left me, occasionally, looking for the turkey and dressing’s hiding place.
In Tennessee, Governor Haslam has lifted the ban on the number of charter schools statewide to allow more charter schools to form. The reasons for allowing more charter schools are as numerous as the stars above but it is important to review some of the pros and cons of charter schools. *
Pro: Charter schools provide families with public school choice options. Parents will have the ability to choose the school best suited for their child.
Con: Charter schools, due to their small size and limited numbers, will provide only some families with public school choice options, thereby raising issues of fairness and equity.
Pro: Charter schools can act as laboratories of reform, identifying successful practices that could be replicated by traditional district public schools. Also, by waiving regulations in a limited number of schools, the most prohibitive policies can be identified and eliminated for all schools.
Con: Successful reform models such as New American Schools and Core Knowledge have already been identified. Why not attempt these reforms in existing schools? If rules and regulations are so burdensome, they should be waived for all public schools.
Pro: Through school choice, competition within the public school system is created, pressuring school districts to reassess their educational practices.
Con: Charter schools have an unfair advantage when competing against district public schools since they tend to be smaller and free from regulations. Charter schools have access to federal funds and other revenue sources.
Pro: Charters will lead to overall systemic reform through the pressure and competition of the choice mechanism.
Con: Charters are too limited in scope to adequately pressure the entire public school system.
Pro: Charter schools, unlike traditional public schools are held accountable. If charters do not perform, they are not renewed.
Con: Charters are not accountable as they are freed from rules and regulations intended to ensure quality in public education.
The pros and cons listed above should be studied and weighed very seriously. What works in one community may not work in another. What I have founded more fascinating than debating the pros and cons of charter schools is what is often overlooked; the role state legislators play with the expansion of charter schools. The majority of charter school arguments take place in legislative sessions (not at family dinner tables) since the programs that enable choice in public education are legislative enactments. Who you vote for (or don’t) determines what educational programs are received in your community. Too often, the communities that need the most educational options have residents who are least likely to vote.
One can have the best ideas and plans on how to educate your communities but how public dollars are allocated is determined by an elected official not the school and the families that make up that school. In order to help change the crisis in education, families must become more informed of educational choices and involved in school district issues. Parents must also be engaged politically by voting for individuals that have their family’s best interest at stake.
A child’s education, whether charter or public, is dependent on the family foundation, the skills of the teachers he or she encounters daily, the leadership of the principals, the effectiveness of the school district, community engagement and who write the laws in state legislatures. In order to have more positive outcomes surrounding the education of children, parents must do their homework on issues and make sure they are investing in their child’s future by voting in every election.
In 2012, the survival of public education will be determined by who is elected to the highest office in the land. But locals must give as much priority to state and county elections. They are equally important especially when it comes to education.
*Data compiled from NCSL Issues and Research.
Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
Join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes along with Mocha Market Magazine as we celebrate women who are redefining power and influence. From celebrities to authors to leaders to educators to mom-next-door, hear from women who are impacting the world around them while empowering others to do the same.
Tune in on Saturday, March 10, 2012’s for an interview that has been a year in the making! Hear from internationally renown creator of Mattel’s So In Style Dolls, Stacey McBride-Irby. Stacey designed the most diverse cultural line of dolls ever created for the world’s most premiere toy company. During her fifteen years at Mattel, Stacey also designed numerous fashions for the Disney Princess Collection and for the iconic Barbie line.
In addition to designing for Mattel’s Disney Princess Collection and the Barbie, Stacey designed the highly sought after AKA Doll in celebration of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Centennial in 2008.
Stacey will share about her new business venture with the One World Dolls Project and how her partnership with Trent Daniels will give her an opportunity to use the power of play and collector dolls to reflect genuine diversity and not limit her creativity to one group of people or organization.
Living Your Best Life, a radio show that empowers, inspires, and motivates us to live our BEST life, is heard on 760AM The Gospel in the Middle-TN area, Inspirational Networks, military bases and on Ustream.TV worldwide from 9:00-10:00am CST.
For more info on the One World Doll Project click here. To Purchase Limited Edition Obama 2012 Dolls click here. Previous post about Stacey McBride-Irby here. To learn more about why Stacey McBride-Irby’s doll are such an inspiration to me click here. To win a trip to LA to meet Stacey McBride-Irby click here. TEXT pictures of your favorite doll or your favorite doll story to INSPIRE to 99000. www.twitter.com/bugsact