Soapbox and a snapshot

February 10,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

(Stepping onto my soapbox for a few minutes...)

Yesterday's post resulted in a flurry of positive and interesting responses when I put the link up on my Facebook page. Topics touching on educational issues can rub raw, sore parts in people's hearts and minds. If I once thought parenting an infant and then a toddler and then a preschooler was hard, I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be to parent an elementary school child, and I had absolutely zero understanding of how painful and difficult it would be to help a child on the autism spectrum succeed in a public school classroom. We want the best for our kids: we want what shouldn't be unreasonable: to send our kids off for 6 hours or so each day to a place where we want them to learn--yes--and grow and thrive. We want them returned to us whole, not damaged. We want them to be happy, to feel good about themselves. Some parents may criticize my outspoken feelings about the homework issue, and peg me as another lax parent who can't be bothered to spend time on school work with my child. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. But I have always been unwilling to sacrifice the happiness and completeness of either one of my children to the drudgery of worksheets. Those aren't examples of what homework should be, to me. I think any work done at home should complement what the child learns at school, and be an area in which each individual child should be able to showcase their own strengths.

Anyway, I do believe in the public school system, which is why I fight to make it a better one for all children. I think if we are to see any changes happen within our public schools they will need to come from parents working with teachers to made the system a better and more equitable one for all.

(Stepping off)

**********************

In the middle of lots of angst about schools and L. and the education system in general I was lost in thought when a student came by my office to chat with me. As soon as he appeared, I pulled up the faculty portal on my computer and got ready to address any concerns/questions he might have about the class and/or his grade.

"Oh no, Professor M." he said. "I'm just here to talk!"

Which floored me a little, because very seldom do students drop in just to talk. I am always so happy when they do, though, and this young man had a lot of great thoughts in his head about where he wanted to go as a college student, and what he wanted to do in life. He didn't really "get" school before, he told me but here in college he feels his mind opening up and unfolding, and he wants to fill in the "blank spots" by reading as much as he can. He's been spending a lot of time listening and reading Martin Luther King's speeches, he told me, and he reminded me that there are so many other amazing speeches out there by Dr. King it almost seems a shame that all we do is focus on the big one--speeches like this one, that has always been a favorite of mine, and this one, too.

"Thanks for talking with me," my student said as he left.

"Thanks for coming by," I said, and I really, really meant it.