Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
At this time of year, I can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit. Whether it’s hanging the lights, decorating the tree, sipping on egg nog or making a list for Santa, I love the holiday season. But because I already made off with a new Keurig and pair of Nike’s for my birthday, my wish list this year to Santa is going to look a bit different. Here’s what I’m wishing for this Christmas...
1. I wish that pre-K wasn’t a political fight anymore.
In 2012 the United States ranked 35th among developed economies in school enrollment for three- to five-year-olds, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. And since then, despite overwhelming evidence showing the value of pre-K education and a constant drumbeat of support from our president, not much has changed. This means that, at every level of government, we are underfunding early education and placing the burden on American families, particularly families that don’t have an extra $20,000 lying around every year for private pre-K. For American schoolchildren to meet the growing demands of the 21st century, they can’t enter the public school system behind. We need every child - literally every American child - enrolled in preschool from the age of three. It’s fine to debate over the style of preschool or to haggle over the standards or curriculum of these early education programs, but the fight against universal, free pre-K has got to end.
2. I wish that teachers were millionaires.
Well, not really. But I do wish that we could pay them like the professionals they are. I wish we paid them like doctors, lawyers, engineers, police officers or firefighters. This would mean upping teachers’ pay. And upping it significantly. It would mean giving them real benefits, support staff and perks - just like every other professional in the world. America’s students will continue to flounder if teachers keep fleeing the field, and the best and brightest up-and-comers avoid the profession altogether. The undervaluing of teachers shows that we - citizens, taxpayers and parents - are inadvertently undervaluing our children’s education. This has to change, for everybody’s sake.
3. I wish that students had the support they truly need.
Millions and millions of America’s kids are struggling. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, addiction or a dozen other issues, the majority of our children need extra support. Our schools must have the funding they need to hire more nurses, psychologists, nutritionists, college and career counselors, crisis counselors, chefs, trainers, coaches, secretaries, custodians, gardeners, and support staff. When you surround kids with real support, you greatly increase the odds that all of them will reach their potential. Today, when you walk into any school in America, you see the same things that you see at the DMV - a lack of staffing, support and resources. You see old equipment, outdated facilities, long lines and depressing furniture. We cannot afford to let our kids continue to struggle simply because we won’t pay for the fixes.
4. I wish that people cared more.
If people cared more about America’s public schools, we wouldn’t have teachers begging for supplies, principals begging for devices and districts begging for qualified teachers. If people cared more, we would have the funding we need to make our public schools great and, in turn, our students great. If people cared more, then local, state and federal governments would care more. The purse strings would open, and the change would happen. But for some reason - despite everyone in America conceptually knowing the great importance of a good education - we still don’t seem to care very much. And thus, we get what we pay for: average to below-average schools producing average to below-average students.
5. I wish that community colleges were free.
Nobody should be denied the opportunity to go to college because they can’t afford it. That said, free college for all is probably a ways away in our country. So, we should do the next best thing and make our public community colleges free to everyone. This will obviously cost us some big-time money to set up and maintain, but the impact it will have on individuals will not only change their lives but our economy as well. The U.S. economy is predominantly driven by consumer spending. Therefore, simply stated, the more people learn, the more people earn. This naturally leads to more spending and economic activity, which will be a boon for all of us.
6 I wish that joy spilled out of our schools.
How sad was it when your child started dreading school, hating homework and complaining about their teachers? Remember the days when they were bouncing-off-the-wall excited to go to school? We can’t make kids (or allow kids) to grow up before their time. We need schools - even high schools - to be places of play, places of optimism and places of joy. Practically speaking, this means that we as educators need to calm down about the homework assignments, standardized testing and Advanced Placement classes. And it means that students need to have fun at school, all the way through graduation day. School needs to be a place kids want to be, for if we can bring out their joy, there’s no question that we’ll bring out their best.
Ben Campopiano is a vice principal at Northgate High School in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.