Some Friday mornings find me standing over a copy machine in one of my daughter’s public elementary schools helping prepare things for her teacher. It’s a habit I began last year, and I enjoy the opportunity it gives me to connect with and support a place and people I’ve grown to love. This year there’s a new poster over the copy machine and it struck me with its simple profundity. I recognize a few faces in the collage of pictures — children of teachers on the campus — some attending school within the same walls, others off to high school and college and families of their own. But underneath there’s one simple question: “Is it good enough for them…”
And I picture a weary teacher standing in front of the copy machine, dealing with the paper shortages and paper jams, minor frustrations piled on top of the bigger ones that come with this job. She looks up and sees her own smiling children and she asks herself, “Is what I’m doing good enough for them?”
That is a high standard. A higher standard than any state-mandate or district directive or curriculum goal. Asking a mother or a father if something is “good enough” for their children immediately raises the bar. No outsider is setting this bar for my daughter’s school. It’s being set by the teachers and campus administration. It’s a concrete reminder that our local schools are full of committed professionals doing the absolute best they can with the resources and constraints they have to educate the children entrusted to them according to the basic tenants of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto your very own children.
And I wonder what it might look like for our whole community to look at our public schools alongside a picture of our own children and ask: “Is it good enough for them?” Because some of us have the resources and the privilege of choosing differently; we answer that question no and can enroll our kids in private schools or choose to home school. Some of us have no real skin in the game, with kids who are grown and settled in other places, so we leave the question to the younger people.
There are lots of reasons we might simply remove ourselves and our energy and our resources, outside of our mandated tax dollars, from the system and move onto other things, leaving a gutted system behind. We might look at the headlines in our local paper trumpeting the failure of so many of our campuses and shake our heads, grateful that our children aren’t in those schools but not giving too much thought to all the children who are.
But what would it look like if as a community we looked at our schools and asked ourselves the very same question this group of teachers is asking: Is it good enough for my child? And if the answer is no, we find a way to engage. I am grateful for the freedom of choice we parents have regarding our children’s education, and I do not judge people who choose differently than me.
But I do not think our engagement with our local public schools is connected to whether or not we have a child on the campus.
The situation we find ourselves in as a community means all hands need to be on deck. Adopt a local teacher. Mentor a high school kid. Show up and listen to a first grader read. Educate yourself on the bond initiative and make a decision based not on what is most expedient for your own pocketbook, but what is most necessary for our town. Look at our community’s public schools through the lens of the Golden Rule, engaging and investing and leveraging your energy and your resources and your privilege as though your own children’s education depended on it.