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Raise Your Hand Today

Published in ChicagoNow, December 9, 2013

Today, December 9, 2013, is Raise Your Hand Day. In its message to Congress, the National Education Association asks our politicians to champion student success by "meeting the needs of the whole child." That means more emphasis on addressing issues like poverty, hunger, homelessness and sub-standard housing, violence, and unemployment, and less on standards and testing driven education. In The Principles That Unite Us, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, groups like the Schott Foundation, and community organizations like the Chicago-based Journey for Justice Alliance have put together a list of common beliefs in support of education and social justice.

As parents, educators, and community members, we are all stakeholders in the education children receive in our public schools. Schools are the anchors of our local communities and good schools makes our communities stronger. So we should all be invested in what is happening in our local schools, whether we have children there or not. If we want to stop the excessive high stakes testing and teaching to the tests, the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, the rote instruction our children are receiving, and the dearth of joy, free thinking, and creative learning seen in many schools, it is up to us to tell the educational-industrial complex and politicians to change direction.

As part of Raise Your Hand Day, you can email your opinion to Congress. Or tell a teacher how much you appreciate their work. Or email the principal in praise of good teaching and, if you like what your principal is doing, email your school district superintendent or CEO about it. Or better yet, email your local school board members and let them know how you feel about the education the children in your community are receiving.

Teachers are struggling these days, trying to educate their students in a tough environment. Their status as professionals is under fire. Their pensions are in jeopardy. And their job security is based on their students' standardized test scores, which I question as a valid measurement of good teaching. While there have always been excellent teachers and teachers who fall short, the constraints imposed upon them by the current educational climate are driving many of the best ones out of our public schools.

Want to be inspired rather than depressed? Check out Katrina Fried's 12 Rules the Best Teachers Live By.

Above all, whenever you can, advocate on behalf of all of the children at your local school. In my blog post Parents Need to Advocate for Children in our Schools, I stated,

"In their “race to the top,” public schools often leave the most vulnerable children behind. If you are fortunate, they are not your children, but regardless, they are the children of your friends, relatives, or neighbors. Which makes all of them your responsibility. Be informed, advocate for what is right, and watch out for all of the children. When you are part of a caring school community of parents, teachers, and administrators working together in the best interests of the children, you can begin to relax."

If you "raise your hand" today, do it in support of all of our children.


by Laurie Levy
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