It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

My experiments with truth in education.   

I thought I’d swim, float, back stroke even. Then, tread water with the doggy paddle.  But I’m drowning. It’s temporary, I know, but as I look out over the horizon I see the next high tide pouring in to wipe out the rest of the little folks like me.  (Little folk = big brain and big heart)  For now, I escape by running up that green bank over there to my right (bed, home office, front seat of my car) and hold dearly onto the one solid tree while little brown boys and girls scream and yell and clamor, until they run up beside me. Hold on, it’s coming.

Could I have ever imagined the water so murky?
Years of critical examination=eyes sharp, categorized, nimble and quick.  Now in the doing, the practical, I grow endless compassion.
Can this lone wolf see it through the darkest night in order to make it to the other side?
I am reminded of that famous story.  The one about a God son walking in the shoes of man. Well, I don’t feel like Jesus.  Not today, anyway.  I’m a method actor like Stanislavski, fully immersed.  The role I’ve been given?   The beloved teacher.
A strong memory influences me.  It is my preparation. My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. M, who wrote in my clunky 1980’s autograph book—
             Who will ask me Who? What? Where? When? Why and How?
She’s the teacher who later told me that she’d lie and say she was my Jewish aunt. ‘Make sure you go to that school,” she said.  The good school where my Jewish friends would go naturally. (Jewish will always mean a better education to me since then)
Mrs. M was strict and stern and big and fat (she had rolls on her neck and the kids counted four, not two boobs.  I once counted 8, when her brazier was tight enough). She wore lipstick every day and she was a piano player with long nails that tapped, tap, tap on the white keys.  She transformed naturally into a director in the afternoons as she partnered with the other “top class” teacher to put on the annual full length play. I still remember the lyrics to Anything Goes.
Mrs. M inspired me.
She inspired me to be an educator and an artist.
She had all of us in her heart, in the palm of her hand. You could hear a pin drop and there was time for us to play, yes! But we worked and listened and we wanted to learn and she wanted to teach and she had so many years of experience.  She had bags under her eyes and she had glasses on her desk.  Her face was caked with powdery cosmetics.
She knew things and she knew me.
I chose her without thinking, even before I knew I was going be cast as the beloved teacher.
How would Mrs. M fair these days—with the new school model? What would she rate?  How would she measure up in a new teacher project school, the school with the motto—“put the teacher in-the-line-of-fire?”  Would she go down in history as a superhero or villain?
Who out there can dare to teach, speak, believe [in truth] and keep a job at the same time? Who out there has this privilege?  Anybody?  Who that NEEDS to teach, to pay the bills, without a Daddy?
How many good souls are we losing a day— in this war on educators, this war on schools, this war on our democratic society?
Are we done with it?  Is ‘education’ a commodity? IS that what everybody’s fighting for?
If it’s really about kids, and this is the solution, then boy—we’re really starting off with a huge crack in the foundation. Like: when did we ever think one person could be responsible for the education of a whole child?
Did we think we could create a professional learning community while changing the ground rules so that we’d all race to the top?  How can we all win, then?
When did we decide it was okay to stop working together?
When did we decide we’d do it better by empowering those with less experience?
When did we think schools could be bureaucratic induced bubbles, trampled over by reports and accountability and factories for the time consuming task of reinventing the PENCIL, while blindfolded?
How can we make a child who can’t sit still for very long take a six day long test=9 hours, not counting the extended time and the proctoring?
How can we hold any one individual responsible for the education of a whole child?  Who would give any one person the belief that they have so much power?
Anyone who believes that they are alone responsible for the welfare of a child is deceiving themselves.  We are not that powerful.  IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD.
A child who is on medication or who’s hungry (or scared of Daddy), a HOMELESS child or one that’s being raised by tired work-horsed to death folks is a whole village responsibility. Or even the offspring of middle class, working class educated folks scared to death of slipping into the cavernous dungeon of poor schooling— that child cannot be saved by one person!
It takes a village to raise a child.
You can teach humanities and play classical music until you’re blue in the face and you can teach to read and write text based evidence in style, but any child will die when you send him out into the village starving.  That child will fight you when you close your door at night.  You’re selling them.  You’re selling them a false hope if you don’t take care of the village, don’t you know?
This strange demon we call racing to the top.
Parents are TERRIFIED and OUTRAGED and SILENCED at the same time.
Teachers are blinded and FEARful.
Administrators RUN but can’t catch up, RELIEVED they don’t teach black stares.  Many of them LOST carrying their own crucifix.  They are secretly ashamed.
We are BULLIED every day from all sides.
Parents, students, principals, evaluators, experts and anyone else you can imagine.
No one knows who to trust.  We are lied to and misinformed.  BAMBOOZLED.
It takes a village to raise a child. Yet, we’re pitting educators against each other. We’re dismantling schools piece by piece, like dispersing families, divorcing, dissecting, dismembering, disjointed- dysfunctional.
Sorry, but you need to know—no one can do what really needs to be done alone.
We have been duped into believing the oldest myth in the history of humankind.
Waiting for Superman? Ha!
We are not a yes-no, a right left.  We are a whole, think Pizza pie and the deliciousness of it, how the cheese melts on all sides.  Education is organic, holistic.
Each and every one of us has an intricate purpose in the education of a child. And even if you’re doing your best and can afford to shelter your child from the “public” chaos, don’t be fooled.  Your little boy or girl knows.  They see FREEDOM is not for everybody.  They see we are forced to pick and choose.
It takes a village to raise a whole child.

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