Pausing for the Cause: Parent Empowerment in Action

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If you’re like me, your weekly schedule is jam packed, running from one obligation to the next as I try to balance the various commitments of marriage, fatherhood, work, and civic duties (in that order by the way).  Especially since school started back last week, it’s taken some time getting used to the new pace of activity in my life (coordinating pick ups, drop offs, gymnastics or ballet, late night meetings at work, family dinner at least 3 times a week).  Establishing time for each of our weekly commitments requires my wife and I to have a dedicated calendar meeting each Sunday afternoon to make sure we’re on the same page about division of labor and coordination of activities throughout the week.  Frankly, by the end of each week I’m totally wiped out.

Fortunately, we don’t plan any activities on the weekend (aside from church and family movie night).  This allows us the opportunity to rest and recharge by actually sleeping late on Saturday mornings (or relatively late, I mean I do have a 3 year old and a near full term pregnant wife- neither of whom can sleep past 7 or 8).  But, during the weekdays, I have to prepare myself to really go hard.  So, usually at about this time mid-week, I come up gasping for air as I try to make it through the daily 5:30am-9pm non-stop grind of scheduled activities each day.  What’s helped me this week is having two experiences that remind me to pause for the cause, while simultaneously re-energizing me.

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The first is attending a local school governance council meeting last night.  I happen to work for my local school district as a member of our strategy and innovation team, and in my role I am charged with building the capacity of local schools to organize and create visions for themselves and their school communities.  It’s really fascinating work that affords me the opportunity to learn about the educational process from top to bottom.  It also requires attending a lot of evening meetings with the schools I support, working with principals, parents, community members, and district officials to coordinate support and build leadership capacity at the local level.  Last night, I saw the result of some of my initial coaching come to fruition in a standing room only packed house meeting at one of my school’s.  I also had the opportunity to speak to the entire audience about the importance of the work, but more importantly I go the chance to see parents taking charge and leading the work themselves of stewarding their children’s educational future.  It was amazing and inspiring.  Though I had to miss my daughter’s gymnastics class for the 2nd straight week, this made it seem worth it (though I’m determined to minimize this occurrence as much as possible…but you know sometimes with busy schedules these things happen).

Afterwards, I zipped across town to my youngest daughter’s school open house (a private school, she’s in pre-k with the same teacher my oldest daughter once had).  Though I arrived late, it was still good engaging with other parents and to see the packed room of parents willing to brave the monsoon outside on a late Wednesday evening.

Leaving that meeting I compared it to the ones I witnessed earlier in the day- from the meeting where there was only 8 of us around the table attempting to make representative decisions for an entire school community, to the standing room only crowd, to the invested group of private school parents.  This is my daily work, really my life’s work: figuring out ways to empower families and parents to lead.  I personally don’t believe that power is given, it’s either taken or found.  In most of my work thus far in education, what I’ve seen is that the most disempowered families are generally those who don’t yet realize the power they truly have (and there are systemic barriers in place for them to exercise their power as well, but I believe that’s secondary).  I know that most parents are just as busy as us.  We all have things to do.  But it’s great to see glimpses of what this could look like in action when we really put our minds (and schedules) to it.  Now it’s my job to create more of this in public schools.

Looking forward to the grind of today, as I work to build more family and community members capacity to lead.

SDW3

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