Monday, September 22, 2014

Around The Table With Lily Garcia.

Every now and then I receive emails about participating in certain campaigns and this past weekend I was invited to a conference for the New Jersey education system to meet the new president of the NEA Lily Eskelsen Garcia, to discuss key concerns, and issues in regards to back to school and otherwise. I have to admit I was a little nervous walking into a conference room full of educators, especially Lily Garcia because her resume is impeccable, and historic! However I was filled with excitement to hear what we were going to discuss in regards to public education. For a moment I felt a little out of place because I felt I didn't have enough "experience" to sit among such a great group of educators. I've only completed two years of college, and being surrounded by educators with a vast extensive experience in teaching was a little intimidating, yet very humbling. 
As we were introducing ourselves one by one around the table there was one particular parent advocate that really impressed me and when it was my turn to introduce myself, again...I felt a little out of my league because I was amongst a group of educators who have been teaching for years. I then felt super comfortable when Mrs. Garcia expressed her gratitude for my presence, and for sharing anything that I'd have to say. The fact that she mentioned "I am an motherhood" made me feel so much better and that's when I knew I was in the right place. 
There were so many stories, ideas, & experiences exchanged an in finding solutions as to how to "stop the madness" as said by Mrs. Garcia especially when it comes to "toxic testing", or overworking our children. Especially those with special needs, and/or disabilities where they can't even write down their own name because they're blind such as the story of Ethan Rediske which you can read here. 

I can tell that Mrs. Garcia has been "in the world" and having been a teacher before becoming president of the NEA has experienced, and seen a lot of what goes on in schools while traveling to different school districts. She definitely has empathy and compassion for everyone of color, and while I sat in on this meeting she was all action!

I've been living in New Jersey now for six years and having lived in other states I've had the opportunity to experience many different school districts.  My two oldest daughters are the only ones so far who have attended various schools in different states. My oldest who is now in college attended at least three different elementary schools as well as three different middles different states. And it was very interesting how every curriculum was different especially at the charter school they both attended when we lived in North Carolina. It was well maintained, and structured for an x amount of students, and very low key.  I think that's why when we moved from North Carolina to New Jersey I was a little overwhelmed at all the testing that they did and all the reading programs they have especially when my youngest daughter began first grade. It seemed as if they were giving double the work which in my opinion is not needed, but luckily my kid was able to handle double the writing, and double the reading. However...I do feel for the other kids who cannot be able to handle all that. I'm very grateful for my two oldest daughters who so far one has graduated high school, and that my 14 year old is not overwhelmed with all the work they incur...yet! Then again...that's the perk of being an honors student!   

I tend to get very involved in my children's schooling and try not to incessantly make complaints with the teachers or principal, but there have been times in the past when I had to in emergencies, but have long since eased up a bit. 

One thing I got out of this conference was that our children are important. Not only are they our future generation but they have a lot of potential and teachers need to realize that they are also the key to their success as well as the parents. I'm very grateful for educators & parent activists such as the ones that I met last weekend. They were quite lithe in their mannerisms and love the fact that they all have a voice, and are not afraid to use it. They were all bold in sharing their thoughts, and plans as to how we can find a resolve to all that is going on which has led up to negative experiences for both the teacher, and child today. 

I have quite a few friends who are educators and at least one of them has said to me, "It's just not fun anymore." They want out or are struggling to find a resolve in how to make schools a better place not only for the children, but for the teachers as well. 

The 90 minutes I spent in a room with these people was a great experience and I know that the NEA will continue to strive to find solutions to the matters at hand, and hope for a better education system in our children's future.

"And look where were are [today]: Nobody cares about real teaching and learning. We have turned these tests-something that means so little into everything. We are corrupting what we teach. We must end toxic teaching. We must end making high-stakes decisions based on one commercial standardized test."
~Lily Garcia, President of NEA

**all photos taken by Jen Marsh

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