As I walked my son, Zack, to school on Thursday last week, he and I kept bumping into each other as we made our way up the street. We were both carrying large, unwieldy bags: shopping bags crammed with composition books, sharpened pencils, colored folders, magic markers, colored pencils, plain labels, sanitary wipes, 3 rolls of paper towels, and $6 in an envelope for art supplies. This was not Zack's idea of what he needed to feel prepared for school that first day: this is what the teachers suggested the classroom might need, which they did not have the funds to purchase.
For me, actually living the state of the education system has been eye-opening in a way I don't like. I can't help but think about all the other New York City public schools in my borough where maybe the parents don't have the money to laden themselves down with supplies. How do the teachers in those schools manage it?
They make hard choices: notebooks instead of books, pencils instead of art class, and they grit their teeth and get through the curriculum with imagination and determination, hoping that the lack of bells and whistles won't keep her charges from being engaged in the process of learning. But without a lot of parent engagement -- with or without the school supplies -- the teacher is climbing an uphill battle, and America's children (and America's future) is paying the price of the lack of sufficient funding and support for our schools.
The Mom Congress and Parenting.com are hosting a blogathon this week to help raise awareness about the importance of parent engagement in our schools. During the week of September 12-16, Parenting.com and their Mom Congress are asking moms and bloggers to raise their voices, and write open letters to your kids, explaining what you will be doing to help them get the best education possible. It's a great way to show how many of us are deeply involved with our kids' schools, whether on the PTA, being a classroom mom, making donations, helping at fundraisers, baking cookies, running special events, you name it.
Tweet your post with the hashtag #mcblogathon, and Parenting.com will spread your wisdom to their 100,000 followers and add your name to the list of moms who want our schools to get the attention and funding they so desperately need. (Plus, you'll be sharing ideas with all the other moms out there, a really valuable resource!)
And if your kids' school is in dire need, get this: Mom Congress is sponsoring a School Transformation Contest that will award $20,000 to one school that is short on funds and some dreams they need fulfilled! Amazing. The contest is open through the end of September, so consider linking to this contest in your blog post as a way to let your friends, family and followers know about it. And if you want to be a part of the Mom Congress, like them on Facebook to join their ranks.
As for me and my part, here's my letter to Zack:
School is such an important part of your life, in ways you are too young to understand. But I want you to know that I am working extra-hard to make sure that you have as much fun, enrichment, discovery and joy in school as possible—as well as all that pesky handwriting you dislike so much. (Here's hoping it goes a little better for you this year!)
I wanted you to know that I help your teacher, your classroom and the whole school by volunteering my time when I can, making cookies for the fundraising bake sales (I know you loved the gingerbread moose I made last year: tasty, and they helped your school!), buying some art supplies here and there, and writing a check when I can to help fill the budget gap that gets wider every year. Last time the principal checked in with us about it, another $100,000 had been cut from the operating budget.
I know, money sounds boring, but believe me, it plays a big role in opening horizons and worlds in front of you, in sparking your creativity, in creating fun and play as well as work in your everyday activities in your school.
I just wanted you to know how much I love you, and that helping your school be the best it can be is all part of me wrapping you in a great, big mother hug and preparing you for the world as best I can.
I love you, Zack! xoxo, Mama
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