The day after tomorrow teachers across the state of Arizona are going to walkout of their schools in protest of the current state of the Arizona public education system. I have a mix of thoughts. Mostly though, I support Arizona’s school teachers.
The rhetoric and commentary that surrounds this walkout is your typical jump-on-a-bandwagon or vilanize-someone fodder. I’m not going there. I don’t think there is a perfect or harmless way to stand up for what’s right. In the case of Arizona’s public education system, light needs to be shed on what’s wrong and the leaders and lawmakers of our state need to be held accountable for leading the way in a serious overhaul of the current system. There are facts that can’t be avoided in regards to Arizona’s public school system. There are people who will suffer because of this walkout, specifically single-parents who are trying hard and work a job that won’t allow them the freedom or resources to find another safe place for their kids while the schools are closed. And there are people in the community, many of them teachers, who will be using these missed school days to offer free assistance and child care to support the needs of the community during this tumultuous time.
But one issue this whole #RedForEd movement has drawn my attention to, once again, is the vital role parents play in the education of their children.
I am not a homeschooler. My two sons attend the public schools in our neighborhood. My oldest is a freshman in high school and my youngest is right behind him in the 8th grade. Besides the first couple years of school, my kids have been in the Arizona public schools. Most of the time they have had great teachers who took time to understand my kids as individuals, their learning styles, met with us when there were concerns, made accommodations where there were needs and just went the extra mile to light a flame of eagerness to learn in my kids. And I am so grateful for them! But before my kids started 1st grade I spent time at home intentionally learning their learning styles and teaching them to read and write and engage with curiosity their environment. As the years have gone on I’ve continued to observe my kids and adapt to their needs and I’ve tried to provide the resources and tools to help them develop the God-given potential within them. The Arizona public school system is one of those resources.
For me, I can support these teachers as they seek the needed changes for Arizona’s students and educators because I know ultimately I am responsible for finding the resources necessary for my kids, and with or without a good public education system I will find them. I don’t believe I am solely responsible for delivering every form of education my kids need, but I am responsible for fostering an environment that leads them in a love of learning and for providing them resources that help them learn best.
I know not all parents have the time or resources to spend hours at home with their kids, or to pay for someone they trust to do so. I know that many depend on the great teachers in Arizona’s public school system to provide a safe environment for their kids to learn, and without them, their jobs and/or their kids’ safety is in jeopardy. But whether you’re a poor, single mom, or a mom like me who doesn’t homeschool and depends on the resources of good teachers of math, science, language arts, history, music, etc., to educate your kids, we as parents are ultimately responsible for our kids’ growth and development.
I’m praying as this crisis hits Arizona more parents will take an active role in their kids’ education and the church in Arizona will take more public role in helping parents raise their kids, especially single parents.
Parents are leaders. They are teachers. They are this first and primarily in their children’s lives whether they have good resources or not. Leaders do not do everything for those they lead, they delegate and set an example that inspires those following them to do what they envision them doing. Teachers are chief learners who invite their students to be like them- to love learning, be curious, engage their environment and ask good questions. Parents are teachers and leaders and if we see ourselves this way we’ll guide our kids and find resources to help them grow. The teachers in the state of Arizona are one of our most valuable resources. We need them, but we won’t put all of the responsibility for our kids’ education upon them. That’s part of the reason why I refuse to be upset with teachers for walking out. I support them because they are a highly valued resource for educating my kids. I don’t want my resource destroyed, I want them flourishing. Arizona’s government should see Arizona’s public education system that way. We should see it as a great service and resource worth investing in.
I have spent years thinking that passivity was the most peaceful way to avoid trouble and be “Christlike”. In recent years my eyes have been opened to the falseness of that thinking. Standing for what’s right is especially the call of Christians. Doing justly and loving mercy are not juxtaposed to each other, they are hand-in-hand with each other. The current state of Arizona’s public education system is wrong. It is right for teachers and parents to take a stand and call attention to the wrong. It is also right for those same teachers and parents to spend time meeting the needs of the children and parents in their communities whether the government does what’s right or not. This is where I pray Christians in Arizona will stand out. I pray we’ll not be blamers and shushers who complain out of one side of our mouths and passively do nothing out of the other side in a faux meekness that looks nothing like Christ. I pray we’ll call on the Arizona government to provide the needed curriculum, resources and reimbursement for educators that helps Arizona’s children flourish and succeed. And I pray we’ll form co-ops and groups and free childcare and tutoring and services for those in our community who need resources and don’t have them.