I was recently slapped in the face! Call me idealistic, but I misjudged the allure of self-improvement to those who have been disenfranchised. In an effort to address the needs of my school’s parents (and the community at large), I both conceptualized and scheduled a Health & Wellness Series, consisting of the following workshops, to which all interested adults can attend:
February 12th 2014
Eating Healthy on a Budget
(Plus food & mood, asthma and diabetes)
Provided by Renaissance Healthcare Network
February 26th 2014
Provided by A.I.R. Harlem/A.I.R. Bronx
March 5th 2014
(Make the most of your money)
Provided by Food Bank of New York
March 12th 2014
(Effective childrearing methods)
Provided by PS 30M’s Guidance Dept.
March 19th 2014
Provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act
Provided by The Children’s Defense Fund
Outreach was conducted: backpacked flyers, school messenger, one-on-one calls by a CLS Parent Committee, neighborhood flyer distribution and postings, an outreach collaboration with the other co-located DOE school, yet only 13 parents attended; we have roughly 300 students in the school. I felt defeated. In a last-ditch effort to recruit additional parents, both the pre-k guidance counselor and I went to the school lobby to enlist some additional parents to attend. My school is not merely co-located with another DOE school but also one of several Success Academies (Eva Moskowitz’s network of charter schools).
I hate to admit this, but the charter school parents where happy to attend the workshop while parents of my school expressed little to no interest, even when personally approached. There is no distinction in socio-economic status! The charter school parents who agreed to attend resided in the neighborhood, as do the majority my school’s parents, yet there was a desire that they possessed that some of my parents lacked.
It was a disheartening revelation that honestly made me lose a degree of faith. My job is to turn my school into a hub of the community to the extent that the hurdles that hinder academic success are lessened if not completely eliminated. This requires the identification of those needs, whether they are mental, physical, or emotional health assistance, and the subsequent enlistment of local services/programs that address these needs, which honestly go beyond the child. A child’s ability to learn is impacted by his/her environment, which includes the home and community. Thus, the Community Learning School (CLS) Initiative requires me to also identify and answer the needs of students’ parents and community members, which is an aim of the Health & Wellness Series.
But what do I do when the very thing that my parents deem is needed, is also the very thing that they disregard? I now realize that it isn’t merely a matter of identifying the need, I most also contend with a flawed mentality before I can really spur change.