Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ghandi speaks to parents of District 150

District 150 is a train wreck.

There. I said it.

The Peoria school system has been awash in more controversy, budget woes, personality conflict and parental uprising than probably ever in its history. While I'm not going to list all the issues here, the end result is that parents are scooping up their children and running away like District 150 is the white paneled van that's been circling their cul-de-sac.

I've read SO many comments and written a few of my own to Board Members, reporters, and the like. The one thing I have noticed is that while I can appreciate the community expressing their displeasure with what is happening to the school system, there is more that they (we) can do.

Like... help our kids.
Like... get involved.
Like... give your teachers a hand.
Like... make it more about education than monetization.

That's where Ghandi comes in. You know that famous quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world"?

Yeah, he's talking to you.

The District is an entity that has big problems. That's a given. We can express our outrage all we want, but let's not forget the little people, shall we?

These kids are for the most part impervious to the District's woes. All they know is they're going to school to learn. And while the teachers are experiencing their own struggles and controversy, their bottom line is helping our children succeed in this world. That's why they became teachers in the first place.

So here's what you can do. Be the change. Be the change in YOUR school. Turn the focus down from the grand scheme that is District 150 and look to see what YOU can do to help YOUR child's corner of the world. I guarantee any assistance you offer will not be turned away.

Many people - especially the working parents - will say, "I don't have time". There are countless opportunities for you to make a difference that don't involve a lot of time on your part. For instance, did you know that most or all of the supplies used to outfit your child's classroom came directly out of that teacher's pocket? One teacher I spoke to said she spends - easily - between $1,000 to $2,000 of HER OWN MONEY each year to make her room exciting and stimulating for her students. You can help just by asking for a list of supplies that your child's teacher may need on a regular basis - it may be anything from flash cards to paper towels to plastic baggies.

And for those of you that think teachers have a sweet schedule working 9 to 3 with summers off... how do you think those lesson plans get written? Those homework papers graded? Those little decodable books stapled together? Ask your child's teacher if you can give her a hand grading papers, compiling books or helping out in the classroom every so often.

And, OK, here's the BEST bonus.

Your kid will think you're really cool.

And so will his friends.

I volunteered as a "Picture Person" for a few years, which entailed going into the classroom once a month for about 45 minutes, talking about an artist, then doing a project based in the style of that artist. I know nothing about art, so it was a true learning experience for me. But what I got out of it more than anything was 26 eager kids who would stop me in the dropoff line in the morning to say, "Ms. Kennard! When are you doing Picture Person again?"

That's making a difference in 45 MINUTES A MONTH.

It doesn't matter whether your child is in primary, middle, or high school. I promise that your efforts - no matter how big or how small - will not only improve your school (thus improving District 150 just a little bit...) it will also show your child that you care, and that you are involved in his or her life (even if your kids are at that age where they don't think they want you to be).

So if you have time to complain to your neighbor, comment on that story or write a letter to that board member, you have the time to drive over to your child's school and ask, "What can I do to help?"

If every parent would ask that question and take that time, I bet we'd all be amazed at our power - as parents - to be the change we want to see in District 150.


  1. Amen, Amy! It drives me crazy when people are more than willing to stand around the school parking lot complaining, but never lift a finger to try to improve matters. Thank you for writing this. I hope you plan on submitting it to the newspaper, too.

  2. Change means challenges, and speaking out and speaking up are far bigger feats to tackle.
    Somehow certain people were voted to be in authority… was it seriously by “popular” vote or was it more about not only getting your head out of your ass but also getting off one’s ass to go and submit your ballot?

    The same parents who complain and do nothing also tend to be those that 1) don’t take the time to actually read anything constructive and 2) won’t/can’t accept that they are part of the group to which you are referring. “Pointing fingers” is simply easier for these parents.

    You could not be more accurate about what a small block of time does for one student – let alone a few kids in a classroom. Granted, many parents have demanding full-time jobs, but if you approach it to your superiors that you are fulfilling Community Service, it might help them re-think their involvement in the lives of our children, our future, too. Seeing students recognize me for participating in school activities and every day functions was pretty rewarding in itself. It’s something I have (somewhat selfishly!) been missing so far this school year. But I am being the Change for my daughter and my volunteering opportunities will arise again soon.

  3. You are so right on this subject, Amy. From the time that my daughters entered school in the 80's, I have been listening to parents say "I don't have time to volunteer." Baloney! Every parent can spare 30 minutes a month and more. Even if it just sitting and listening to their child at the end of the day, or watching them do their homework instead of running them to soccer or dance or letting them play video games, that time will make a difference in their life. It will eventually show up in their attitude at school because they will be more prepared, more eager to learn. A teacher can always find something for a parent to do. I know several who take books home to staple. It's an easy job that can be done in front of the tv or at the kitchen table while little Johnny is doing his homework, but it is a HUGE help to the teacher. Picture person is a blast! The call is out there, parents. Step up and meet the challenge!

  4. I'm sighing as I read your post. If it was only that simple. The problems in District 150 run far deeper than a lack of volunteers. True, volunteerism can lessen the impact of a dysfunctional school and classroom, but the significant underlying defects relating to personell, management and decision making must be addressed for the children of 150 to receive the education they deserve. Until that happens the exodus will continue. Families in general are not willing to sacrifice their childrens education (and safety) to make a public statement.


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