As a mom who does part-time work for the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools, I saw it as my professional as well as parental duty to see the much-hyped documentary Waiting for Superman. So I went, with a group of friends, to see what filmmaker Davis Guggenheim had to say about the state of the American public school system. Many of the criticisms I had read in advance of the film are fair. I doubt Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, is really made of Kryptonite and I am sure even Metropolis has had its fair share of failed charter schools.
But the film masterfully paints the heartbreaking picture it sets out to -- one of too many youths being cheated out of the American Dream by the failure of their public education. The film's narrative revolves around five of these kids, bright and adorable -- and dead serious about getting a better education. Their parents believe they can achieve and are committed to doing right by them, regardless of the sacrifices that may entail. And this gave me pause.
Do my kids even realize that there are parents out there that have to work two jobs, take the subway an hour each way, and leap tall buildings in a single bound in order to give their children what my kids are pretty much getting right up the street?
So last Sunday I took my 13-year-old son to the 11:15 a.m. showing at Sundance. What would a middle class white kid have to say about failing schools in some of the nations poorest neighborhoods? Would it make him think differently about the school he was attending?
His immediate post-film concern was that this was my way of telling him I had entered him in the lottery for the SEED School featured in the movie -- a weekday boarding school in inner city D.C. Once I assured him we were out of district, we could get down to talking about his reaction to the film. In all, I think he found it interesting, even though he couldn't fully relate to the lives of the featured kids.
He had lots of great, unanswered questions: How does teacher tenure benefit students? Why doesn't the film show any of the non-charter public schools that are doing well? Was poverty the reason that most of the poorest performing public schools in Wisconsin are clustered along lower Lake Michigan? But, when I asked him what he found most surprising about the film, his answer echoed mine -- how incredibly motivated the kids and their parents were about doing whatever it took to get a better education. They weren't just waiting for a superhero; they were actively looking for phone booths.
Next Tuesday, the MMSD is coming together with community partners including MTI and the Urban League to host a public conversation on education and reform in Capitol City. While we are not South Central, Madison has its fair share of issues. It will take more than the simple formula presented at movie's end to tackle big issues like the achievement gap and school funding.
Maybe it is best the district is reaching out, not waiting for Superman. I'm not even sure phone booths exist anymore. But yes, I will still be slightly disappointed if Superintendent Dan Nerad doesn't show up to Tuesday's night meeting in tights and a cape. Talk about a conversation-starter.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.