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Why I am passionate about education and parent engagement

I am passionate about every aspect of education, from the administration framework and hierarchy to mentoring scholars. I am an individual that likes to be “in the know.” My desire for knowledge stems from being a child who floundered through the school system.

I was the child that wore hand-me-downs and was the eldest child of six children. My mother was not academically savvy and she had to work to support our family even though my father was of high rank in the military. I felt very alone, without guidance, and angry that no one noticed this child who was filled with life, love, and excitement waiting to be tapped. Absolutely no one noticed.

I wanted to be the child who was called to speak on the intercom. I wanted to be the child that helped in the office, library, and with other errands that the “smart, well dressed, and socially-desired scholars” were doing. I felt that the school staff, office administrators, teachers, and my mom and dad had let me down for my entire academic experience.

I dropped out of school in the 10th grade. I continued to flounder: hanging out in malls, on military bases, and with other children that had dropped out or were skipping school. I yearned for someone to advocate for me, for someone to “see me.” I found myself making mistake after mistake with dead-end jobs and ultimately being a statistic of the welfare system.

When I had my children at age 18 and 19, I vowed to be involved in their academic experience, whether I was accepted by the administrative staff and teachers or if I was a thorn in their side. I re-taught myself; as they learned, I was learning.  I accomplished that by attending class with my children, taking notes and participating in class with all of the scholars, asking for extra homework so that I could complete and submit myself.  The scholars and the teachers embraced my willingness to learn and be retaught.

I was able to heal that child inside of me by advocating and being there for my children to help them maneuver through the educational system and have those opportunities that I desired. I lived at their schools. I fought many battles, but also encountered many wonderful individuals that wanted success for my children. I feel the difference was I was there and I was visible, open to being re-taught, trained in new curriculums, techniques, and jargon.

My children are now very productive adults and thank me many times for being there, regardless of how difficult it was at times. Now, I have two little kindergarten scholars; even though my adult children and my little people are generations apart, I hold the same concept of regarding parent engagement — being there, present, visible, open to being re-taught and trained in new curriculums, techniques and jargon.

I want to challenge you to look inside and see who you are. Are you the child that has open wounds from the guardians in your life not advocating for you, and now you are not advocating or are scared to advocate for your child? Are you present, visible, not “too cool for school”? Are you actively part of your child’s academic experience or are you allowing them to flounder?

Each of us has an opportunity to heal that child in us that was lost in the system, lost in our parent’s mistakes or willful ignorance. We just need to come out of our comfort zone- find a school counselor, express our willingness to engage, and allow those agencies that advocate for our children to teach us the techniques. We all have something to contribute.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.