Dear Decaturish – City Schools of Decatur has a ‘private school’ mentality
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The population of the CSD has changed dramatically over the last 15 plus years. We have gone from an under resourced school system to an affluent one. While this socioeconomic shift has gifted the schools with resources both monetary and through parental engagement, its fostered a “private school” mentality.
My concern is that the community at large have forgotten that we are a public school system. While “Pennies for Patients” and “Food Drives” and supporting schools in Houston are well intended, they are ill directed in their purpose. And very obvious to this writer that they have not been sufficiently examined. The classes are rewarded for raising the most; money, food, clothing, etc with pizza, ice cream, donut parties. I am certain these efforts are well intended. I fear they do more harm than good.
Many of our children cannot participate in these drives. Many of the families in the school system rely on food kitchens to supplement the feeding of their families. Therefore our schools become another place where they are reminded that wealth determines their worth.
Participation in the reward is for the entire classroom, however, it is not a real win for everyone because the entire classroom could not participate due to financial constraints. And the children know who participated and who did not. It “unevens” the level playing field that public school systems are to cultivate. Our children need to be rewarded for their efforts in the classroom and not by how many cans or pennies they bring or raise. Some homes have neither. It further marginalizes a group of children who will sadly be marginalized soon enough in their young adult lives. It’s very, very clear to ALL children who cannot participate. My youngest asking me with innocent eyes, “are all black people poor, Mama?”
Further, what does it say about the generation we are raising that giving deserves a reward. Giving is an act of generosity. So we teach that giving and receiving go hand in hand?
The same goes with teacher gifts and teacher appreciation. I believe they deserve all of it. But there must be a better way for them to be recognized than a envelope going home in a backpack to raise money for a gift card. Or when children are asked to bring fresh flowers for the teacher. So a young child proudly finds a dandelion for the teacher she loves on her way to school only to see a parent bring in a huge store bought bouquet. One can only imagine the instant shift from pride and love to shame and unworthiness.
This is not about teachers receiving well earned and deserved recognition. Or about gathering much needed canned foods for the bank. It is about at who’s cost. Every teacher will tell you they did not go into education to become rich. Therefore, collections for teacher gifts teach all of our children that financial contributions are the only ones that really count. It would be my guess that every teacher would prefer a heartfelt handmade card where a child could show how much they love and appreciate them, in their own words, over a $100 Target card. They went into education to impact lives and facilitate learning for ALL children. To know they have made a difference in the lives of even 1 child is a reward and in and of itself.
We do need financial support from our parents and our community. Its forum needs not to be in the classroom is all. My point is that if it cannot be created or produced in the classroom setting, it need not be allowed in that space. We owe our children their dignity and respect regardless of the financial landscape of their private lives.
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