I am learning – and getting better – at doing this for myself.
My bravery this year, though, comes in standing up for Emma, my daughter who is now a junior at Bakersfield High School.
She was a sophomore at a different school last year, a school my two older daughters had both attended there and we had been happy with the education provided them. Somehow Emma always seems to be in the crossfire of educational mediocrity as well as lack of visionary thinking.
This Summer, the school elected to terminate the student newspaper. Being the editor of the paper was one of Emma’s educational goals. She had been Managing Editor her sophomore year and the natural progression would be toward editor. Student newspapers are one of the primary avenues for students voices to be heard.
For mediocre thinkers and educators, this is a dangerous thing.
The school knew I would ask for a transfer. They had seen our written educational plan. Most parents don’t do the level of educational planning we do, but I am not like other parents who don’t realize they and their child have educational rights provided by law.
I stood in the office and cried. “I never wanted this for my child, never.” I had changed high schools in my sophomore year and my personal guideline is once a child begins high school, we wouldn’t move or change school districts. I remember how tough it was to change high schools. Now here I was, asking to change high schools. It went against everything I believed in
I didn’t want to transfer Emma yet I knew I had to transfer Emma in order for her to pursue her educational plan.
She was frightened and angry, I was frightened and angry: to top it off the first day of school was her sixteenth birthday. The silver lining was how much friendlier and how much more reasonable the administration is at her new school. They actually see students as individuals. They appreciate parent participation. Their campus doesn’t look like a prison.
They have a dynamic AP program. Their performing arts program has a reputation as top notch in the district.
Emma auditioned for the first play of the year and got a great role, something in all her time at her other school she never managed to accomplish, even though she has talent in both acting and singing. She made friends quickly and once again, when I walk around with her on campus people call out, “Emma!” and “Hi, Emma.”
When I talked to a student at her old school – we went to see the Fall play there to support the students who we will always adore and support – the student said, “It just isn’t the same here now.” Her journalism teacher who is now retiring early said, “There is an Emma shaped hole at our school now.”
I was raised to respect people in authority.
Thankfully, I was also raised to ask questions and to think rather than agree with whatever "authority" says.
I was also raised in a home where my parents had to fight for my brother, who had Down’s Syndrome, to receive an education back in the 1960’s. I have had to fight for my son with autism to receive the appropriate education he is entitled to by law.
My daughter Katherine attends a top notch East Coast school – one of the seven sisters colleges – and has been accepted at Princeton for graduate school. She graduated fifth in her class from the high school Emma left. Katherine's educational success is partially because I wanted what was best for her and she knew I would do anything to come alongside her to make it happen.
If you are a parent out there reading, even if you are quaking in your boots, you must stand up for a decent education for your child. He or she deserves the best. Stand up for it. Who cares if you are one of “those parents”? It is good and right and yes, I think holy to be one of “those parents.”
There are times you may have to be braver than you think you are, but the payoff is worth it. In a way, I figure I am not only fighting for my children, but I am modeling for my children to fight for their children and to be active participants in the educational process.
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Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, performance poet, Mommy and mixed-media artist. Her word-love themed art will be for sale at First Friday each month in Downtown Bakersfield. Check out the links below to follow her on a bunch of different social media channels, especially if you find the idea of a Word-Love Party bus particularly enticing.
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