Monday, February 28, 2011

Moving out of reaction and into action

I haven't been among those spilling much digital ink about the extraordinary circumstances that have unfolded since the evening of Tuesday, February 22, when Mayor Taveras announced that all of Providence's 1,926 teachers would all be receiving dismissal notices effective at the end of the school year. There's been newsy and bloggy coverage, of course. For the latter, I suggest you check out Tuttle SVC and Both local blogs have been usefully and thoughtfully sharing news and analysis.

Last week was February break for all three of my kids and for the first couple of days, we were on a vacation and they were front and center in my world. We returned from a few days away directly into the news that the city plans to terminate all teachers. When I wasn't working and/or being with my kids, I was connecting with PPSD parent and teacher friends (including PPSD parents who are PPSD teachers) to try to make some sense out of what's happening. As part of the district's Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), I participated in a briefing with Superintendent Brady on Thursday morning; the notes we took to share with PTOs district-wide are here. The MLK Elementary School PTO has put the notes on its blog here (same notes, different location). The PAC is also working on organizing a city-wide conversation among parents in response to this situation and in order to be proactive about standing up for our kids' education in the face of what is yet to come. With other neighborhood parents, I've been planning a community meeting to discuss the terminations and next steps of school closing and program cuts with the four East Side PTOs (MLK Elementary, Vartan Gregorian Elementary, Nathan Bishop Middle School, and Hope High School) which will happen at King on Wednesday evening, and which was written up today the ProJo's news blog (not sure why; here it is). And I chose to shelve the column I was going to do for April's East Side Monthly in order to write about parent and teacher reactions to the terminations, which I will share with you as soon as I finish it.

So, it's been busy with all of that and the usual business of living life, which included our clothes dryer catching on fire just a little bit over the weekend. Super-exciting. We're fine and already enjoying a lovely new dryer* which is really great as I am a devoted practitioner of laundry as stress reliever.

And now it's Monday--what remains of Monday--and this blog is back in nearly daily business. I'll share as much as I can from my perspective as a public school parent who wants the very best for all kids in all schools in our city; who supports teachers and celebrates their commitment, expertise, and dedication to our children; who wants stability and forward progress for teaching and learning in our schools; who is working to understand the magnitude of the financial challenges that Providence is facing; and who seeks responses that are possible, fair, and the least damaging to the most vulnerable among us.

The first action: be present for my kids. I suggest this to all parents who have the capacity to make it happen. I heard from a number of teachers today on the elementary level that some kids were really shaken by this news, dissolving into tears in class, full of anxiety that their teachers and/or their schools would not be here anymore. Those teachers are pros, and helped their kids get settled and centered, and the day went on. And that's exactly the point: for a lot of kids, their teachers and their school are among the few points of stability they might have. Family and neighborhood circumstances might be unpredictable or chaotic. For many kids and the neighborhoods that they live in, the consistency of a school community is a tremendous benefit, and the thought that it could disappear is frightening.

I think our home life is fairly stable. I also think that my kids are likely to pick up on the angst and stress that's in the air. Look at how I spent my time in the past week--how could they not? So I am reminded to be calm, be reassuring, and keep things as fun and cool as possible at home so that they can go to school as their strongest, most confident selves and be there to be strong for their friends who might be having a really hard time with this. So for now, while everything else is happening, that's the action that I feel really good about.


* Totally uncompensated and unpromoted shop local note: this lovely new dryer came to us just 48 hours after the last one burned out from Atomic Appliance on Wickenden Street. If you're anywhere nearby and have need of a major appliance, shop there for better prices and service all around.

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