Friday, March 27, 2009

Grandma Says: Parent Power

Grandma Says, a publication of Growing Child

Articles that appear from Grandma Says are focused on general parenting practices and philosophy and are not as age-specific as articles that appear in Growing Child.

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This is a true story. My granddaughter Rose has attended Villa Heights, a very good magnet school within her school district for the past two plus years.

Last fall, the school board announced that they planned to close this school, and merge it with a failing school across town.

It didn't seem to make good sense to many people to try to improve a failing school by closing one that succeeded so well. So, the families involved in the school, including my son and daughter-in-law, decided to try to save their school.

They worked closely as a team, contacting individual school board members and inviting them for visits, to see why this unique school worked so well, and how its uniqueness could be lost with the change.

They wrote letters and e-mails, made telephone calls and visits. They planned and worked together, and they persisted for a period of months.

Finally, the school board announced that they had reversed their original decision, and would allow Villa Heights to continue to exist. One school board member specifically mentioned the power of the parent action in making their decision.

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I tell this story because it is enormously important that parents understand that one of their important roles is to advocate for their children. The world has gotten increasingly large and complex, with bureaucratic administrative decisions often not being made in the interest of anything but some bottom line.

As things go wrong in many communities, quick fixes are often sought which are definitely not necessarily in the best interests of children and their families. At times it may seem as though individual parents can do little in the face of a steamrolling system.

But this is not so. Parents are the ones who know what is best for their children, and they are the only ones who can make those ideas known loud and clear. What a triumph for this group of parents, who refused to give up on the excellent school, and insisted that others pay attention to what they already knew about the importance of keeping their school.

What a lesson for their children as well, to discover that individual opinions do have an impact and can influence the course of events. The systems of government they learn about in school seem remote and all-powerful, but this experience helped them understand that in a democracy, individual efforts can be extremely effective.

This was a concrete lesson in learning that working for an idea may have powerful effect, and that we are not helpless to take action on our own behalf.

The children also understood that their education was important enough for busy parents to attend meeting after meeting, to spend hours working on the common cause. What better self-esteem booster could parents give their children than to show such support for their school!

As parents, you will encounter situations in your own communities that are not providing optimum conditions for your children, whether it is television advertising, unsafe neighborhoods, or mediocre schools.

Keep this story as a reminder that parents have the power to effect change on their children's behalf. And only parents who want the best for their children have the emotional strength to persist and the power to succeed.

© Growing Child 2009 Please feel free to forward this article to a friend.

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