Let’s Talk About “Open Door” Policies at Schools

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Many parents have trouble entrusting their children to strangers all day. So, my school, like many others adopted what is called an “open door” policy meaning parents can drop by for a visit during the school day to check up on their children to see what is going on in class. This sounds like a good idea in theory.  But having experienced it first hand, my school’s administration and I have learned a few things along the way that you may want to think about while adopting such a policy:

1.       Parents sometimes get too involved.

The spirit of the policy is to allow parents to come and observe what is going on in their child’s classroom. Many parents come in and do more than observe.

Often, parents come in and start conversations with their child or even other children. I’ve seen them bring in unsolicited food and snacks. Some well-meaning parents even try and help discipline students when they are talking or disruptive…the irony being that this "help" is often more disruptive than the behavior I experienced from the students, and I can’t exactly give the parent a consequence like I can a child.

2.       It’s not supposed to be an unscheduled conference block.

It’s great that parents want to stay up to date with their child’s grades and progress. The problem arises when they use the open-door policy to try and meet with their child’s teacher while they are supposed to be teaching.

My class is lecture heavy and when I am not directly delivering content, I should be monitoring student work and behavior. I can’t do that effectively if I have Jessica’s mom following me around inquiring about why should she earned a C+ on the last exam. We have a time and place to talk about student progress. If someone is in my class during school hours, they should only be there to observe.

3.       Parents lack context around lessons and classroom structures.

Unless a parent visits literally every day, a single visit to a classroom can potentially be misleading.

I had a parent come in while I was showing my 8th graders The Patriot. Two months later he comes in while I’m showing the class the movie Glory. He remarks, “Is that all ya’ll do in here is watch movies?”

  

The obvious answer is no, but from his limited perspective, I can see why he thinks that. After the tests in all of our major units, we watch a movie on that subject. The Patriot came after the American Revolution unit, and Glory came after the Civil War unit. In four months, we spent a total of four days watching movies, but because of his work availability, those happened to be the two days he came. Now, he thinks his daughter's social studies teacher shows movies all day and he wants to know why she doesn’t have a higher grade if we don’t do any work.

  

4.       Safety concerns abound.

You normally don’t think about safety concerns being an issue when you are just talking about parents, but you should. You would like to think that parents can be above the petty drama their children often get into, but sometimes they aren’t.

Parents can and will come into a school and confront teachers, admin, and even students they feel have wronged their child. They don’t always do this in the most constructive way and an open-door policy exacerbates that problem.

My school has now revised its open-door structure. Parents can still come in, but they must have a quick background check completed first. Parents are also told that pop-ins are for observation only, not conferences. Additionally, the front office screens their reasons for visiting and alerts the teacher upon their arrival. My school has actually even begun asking teachers “Is this a good time…” for a parent to pop in. I pretty much always say yes, but it’s nice to have the option of saying no depending on the day.

Make sure your school’s well-meaning open-door policy is actually conducive to learning.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Words of Wisdom from Indy’s Black Male Educators

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One of the most popular conversations in education is the need for more black male educators. Schools all over the country are looking for ways to increase the number of black male educators in their schools. Research and experts have expressed the need for schools to increase the number of black male educators. In just about every major city there is an initiative to increase that number. Currently, black males make up roughly two percent of the teaching force. Here in Indianapolis, where I live, I believe the number is right around the same. I know personally growing up seeing black male educators was not normal. I strive now to be a positive example, but more importantly to set a great example.

There is a no secret the power a black male educator can have on a school and community. Black male educators are some of the best mentors inside and outside of school for black students; the also have an impact on students of other races as well. Black male educators can shape perspectives of students as they grow up. They shape the perspective they have for black men in general just by the experience they have with them in school.  

I want to use this blog to introduce you to three black male educators in Indianapolis, who are doing amazing work to change the narrative and make an impact in education. 

Tolvi Patterson, Project Ready Coordinator Ben Davis High School

Being a black male educator means I have been given the opportunity to show forth my voice, utilize my influence, and revolutionize the educational platform. As a black male educator, I have the ability to see myself in my black students which makes it easier to build a connection that quite frankly is very hard for others to make.

For me, being a black male educator means moving the bar higher and equipping my students with the tools necessary for them to succeed in life. It’s understanding the backstory of the student that nobody wants to listen to, it’s dealing with the trauma, it's being a mother, father, big brother, pastor, leader and friend.

Being a black male educator is about being a hero and getting dirty, wearing every hat necessary and dismissing all stereotypes that say black men don’t care. It’s being a Father to the fatherless and loving them through everything good or bad. It’s protecting them and showing them what excellence looks like!

Lastly, being a black male educator is standing when you are weak and tired and knowing that your fighting for everyone who looks like you! It’s joy, pain, heartache, and reward. Being a black male educator is being present every day even when you have nothing left to give.

Byron Holmes, Director of Culture Urban ACT Academy

  

We are in an ever-changing world. Communities once plagued with drug-infested streets are now being restructured with new and refurbished buildings, retails spaces, real estate investment, community gardens, and I think it’s safe to say that hip-hop has successfully taken over the world. The internet has made entrepreneurship easier than ever, consumer technology is as accessible as its ever been AND STILL, there is no other field I would rather be in than education. 

  

I am humbled and honored at the task of helping mold, develop and inspire young minds on a daily basis. Being able to have a positive influence on students daily, many of which are battling adverse childhood experiences is a delicate and important job. That said, I am elated to see the influx of Black Male Educators #BMEs across the country in general and am especially the proud to be among such a phenomenal group of men that have accepted the challenge in the greater Indianapolis area. With the infusion of #BMEs into the school environment, we are able to reintroduce the world to Black men in ways that highlight the diversity we have in our learning, teaching, and leadership styles. In addition to that, we are able to disarm negative stereotypes held by people both within and outside of our culture and communities, thus ensuring that the legacy of the great #BMEs such as Dr. Carter G. Woodson, WEB DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and Matthias Walcox, lives on through our work.  So, what does it mean to be a Black Male Educator? It means that we are world changers, influencers, and keepers of a sacred and rich tradition.

Allen Mickens, Assistant Principal Tindley Preparatory Academy

A gift and a purpose provided by God! My name is Allen Mickens and I am a black male educator. Specifically, I am the Assistant Principal at Tindley Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana. Being a BME comes with such great responsibility and it is truly an honor to be a part of this special band of brothers. The impact that we have on the youth every day is truly one of a kind and it stretches beyond just what we do in the school setting. The way we carry ourselves outside of the educational setting is extremely essential as well. Why is this? Our scholars look to us to be role models, to nurture, and to hold them accountable in a loving manner. The impact and possibilities that we possess is limitless and truly untapped as more of us are coming into existence. I am a BME and I will be a champion for our kids and fight for them as long as I breathe!

Being a black male educator might not be an easy task, but it is rewarding for both the black male educator and the community.  Being two percent of the teaching force is not acceptable, but we know through intentional actions of the two percent of brothers holding it down in education, we will be able to increase this number and the impact in classroom across the country.

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

So, You Graduated. Now What?

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School is predictable.  You have some choices, but mostly once you make a choice such as which diploma track you would like to pursue, the rest of the plan is pretty much mapped out.  Even though you might know what your next steps will be: college, job, trade school, or the military, after graduation there won’t be a nice map to follow.  After graduation, you will have to map out your future and the task can be daunting.  Below, I have included a few kernels of advice to 2018 graduates.

Pursue your dreams.

This one can be tough for some of you.  In Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, there is a character named Diondra who is a talented artist, but her dad wants her to pursue basketball.  She has to decide whether she is going to do what she loves or do what her dad wants her to do.  Some parents will even refuse to support you financially if you choose a path they don’t like.  Remember, this is your life and you are the one that will have to study that major or go to that job day in and day out, not your parents.  Would you rather do what you love or be miserable, but make your parents happy?  One reality of being an adult is realizing your choices might not always make your parents happy, but it might be the best choice for your life.

Create an organizational system.

Regardless of your next step in life, you will need to be organized and take responsibility for meeting deadlines.  Your teachers won’t be around to remind you five times to complete a task.  You will have to find a way that works best for you.  That might be post-it notes, calendar reminders, mapping out a plan in a journal and reviewing it regularly.  An organizational system that might work for your friend, might not work for you.  Explore a few options before settling in on one.

Take advantage of opportunities, even if they scare you.

My one regret, when I was younger, was not taking advantage of two opportunities to travel and study abroad.  I was afraid to go to another country and I didn’t have much support from my inner circle.  Now, I am over this fear, but this isn’t feasible in my life at the moment.  I missed out on an opportunity to learn about other cultures and become a global citizen. After graduation, you will be in the prime of your life.  You will have opportunities that will enrich your life and shape who you are, but only if you take advantage of them.  Don’t let fear or friends or family members hold your back from opportunities.

Make smart financial decisions.

I have lived in Indiana all of my life and my parents were strict when I was growing up.  I had made up my mind that I was getting out of this state for college. Then my father, informed me he had earned the Purple Heart during the Vietnam War which meant my college tuition would be paid for if I went to school in the state where he was a resident.  My dad told me he would support my decision to stay in Indiana or to leave.  Although I was 17 when I started college, this is one of the first real adult decisions I made.  I decided to attend Purdue so I would not be in a financial hole.  You don’t want to begin your career with a mountain of debt, although some debt may be unavoidable regardless of what path you pursue after high school.  What is avoidable is frivolous spending or signing up for credit cards you don’t need.  If you can’t pay for it, you probably don’t need it.

Persevere through challenges.

Even if high school was a breeze for you, life after high school could be different.  I graduated from high school with an academic honors diploma, but I struggled with my GPA during my first couple of years in college.   I had to advocate for myself during my freshman and sophomore year.  I had to ask for help.  I had to find a mentor.  I wanted to give up, but I didn’t.  Whatever your course is, speak up for yourself when you are struggling and find a person or people who can support you as you persevere.

Practice self care.

Being a grown up is hard.  What falls through the cracks many times is taking care of yourself.  You have to take care of yourself physically and mentally.  You won’t be able to pursue and accomplish your dreams if your health is failing or if you are not mentally well.  Build in time in your schedule to relax and enjoy your next stage in life. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to believe you can be successful after high school as you enter the world of adulthood.

IPS/IEA 32nd Annual Multicultural Festival

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Multicultural fairs and events are critical to raise awareness and help with acceptance in our communities.  School districts should be at the forefront of ensuring their students, families, and communities have opportunities to learn about different cultures and practices around the world especially when people from different countries reside in their communities.  

Earlier this week in the MSD of Wayne Township, Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center held its 6th Annual International Festival: It’s a Small World After All.  A few days later on Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lafayette Square Mall, Indianapolis Public Schools in conjunction with the Indianapolis Education Association held its 32nd Annual Multicultural Festival.  The theme was “Celebrating, Honoring, Embracing Cultural Diversity and Racial Equity.”  It was another opportunity for the Indianapolis community to be exposed to other cultures.  My boys and I attended the festival at Lynhurst and they, along with my husband, attended yesterday’s festival with me.  Between the two festivals, there was only one overlapping booth which shows the vast diversity we have in Indianapolis.

During the IPS/IEA Multicultural Festival, there was a performance stage where ethnic music was played, groups danced, and stories were told.  Participants were also able to navigate around the festival and learn about different groups and multicultural organizations. 

We picked up two great resources at the festival.  The first resource was an African American Leaders activity book provided by the Center for Black Literature & Culture housed in Central Library.  As a black parent, I know I have to take advantage of any opportunity to expose my children to successful people who look like them.  The second resource was a book published by the Indiana Historical Society,  Indianapolis: a city of immigrants by M. Teresa Baer.  Just as it is important for my sons to learn about people who look like them, it is just as important for them to learn about people who don’t look like them and live in our city.  

Children will lack empathy, compassion, and tolerance when adults don’t make the effort to teach them about people who are different from them.  This is why cultural festivals, fairs, and events are important.  I’m glad that IPS and Wayne Township exposed students, families, and the community to the wonderful diversity in our city.

 

Lynhurst Center International Festival

Lynhurst 7th/8th Grade Center (LHC) in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township held its 6th Annual International Festival: It’s a Small World After All on Wednesday, May 16 from 4:30-8:00 p.m.  The cost was $3.00 per family and there were many activities to enjoy for the admission cost, but some activities cost an additional fee.  This festival was organized by ENL teachers Marina Veprinski and Nicholas Fine to celebrate the various cultures in the district.  

 LHC Orchestra

LHC Orchestra

 El Grupo

El Grupo

Upon entering the festival attendees were greeted with the melodic music of the LHC Orchestra.  Next to the orchestra performance area was an exhibit area filled with posters and pictures of various places around the world; it was an opportunity to learn about other countries.  El Grupo provided live entertainment throughout the evening and there were many activities to enjoy and vendors to visit.

 JJ taking a virtual reality tour of Jerusalem.

JJ taking a virtual reality tour of Jerusalem.

During the festival, WIMP (What is My Purpose) offered free haircuts, Imagination Jubilation painted faces, and the LHC Choir sang and danced.  There was also a trivia table, cuisine from various cultures, basket raffles, and a soccer tournament.  My boys and I didn’t get to visit every table or participate in all of the activities, but we watched the choir and orchestra perform, participated in trivia, tried Japanese candy, viewed some manga comic books, learned about the International Marketplace Coalition, and watched part of the soccer tournament.  My sons’ favorite activity was taking a virtual reality tour of Jerusalem.

If you missed the festival this year, I highly suggest you stop by next year for the 7th annual festival.  It is a great opportunity to learn about the different cultures and home countries of families on the west side of Indianapolis.

Measles and Hepatitis A Outbreaks Illustrate Why Schools Shouldn’t Cater to the Anti-Vaccine Movement

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Modern medicine is often cited as the most important human achievement. At the forefront of modern medicine is the advent of vaccines. Vaccines have almost completely eliminated diseases like Polio and Measles. Smallpox killed an estimated 500 million people during the 20th century alone but today has been almost completely eradicated by vaccines.

It’s hard for many to understand why anyone would have a problem with such progress but a small and vocal group of people do. This group of people, collectively referred to as the Anti-Vaccination movement, link vaccines to all of sorts problems, but most notably they allege vaccines cause autism. The entire movement has its roots in a widely debunked 1998 essay. Since then, the movement has only grown, in spite of the fact their claims have no basis in science. Today, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey lead the charge against vaccines.

Unfortunately, the claims of the Anti-Vaccination movement seem to be gaining traction. Government officials have recently begun catering to anti-vaccination ideas. Even President Trump has implied a link between vaccines and autism… much to the chagrin of his own experts. Many states and schools are now allowing students to skip vaccines for religious or ideological reasons. And right on cue, the country has seen an uptick in preventable infectious diseases.

Another common claim among anti-vaxxers is vaccines are unnecessary because many diseases have already been eliminated. But in fact, it only seems that way because of something called “herd immunity.” The concept of herd immunity dictates that if a high enough percentage of a population is immune to a disease then the rest of the population is effectively immune as well. However, the key part of this concept is that a large percentage needs to be immune. If people stop getting vaccinations for whatever reason, such as buying into the narrative of the anti-vaccination movement, then herd immunity disappears. This was the case this past October in Minnesota.

Minnesota had its largest measles outbreak in 30 years. Anti-Vaccination groups have aggressively targeted skeptical Somalian immigrants in the Minneapolis area with measurable success. So not unsurprisingly, the measles outbreak disproportionately affected Somali-American children.

But this isn’t simply the fault of Jenny McCarthy and her Anti-Vaccination zealots. It is also the fault of the states and schools for allowing people to choose whether or not they will allow their kids to get vaccinated. As of 2016, Minnesota was one of the few states that allowed both religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccinations. Other states have not learned from Minnesota’s poor example. Political groups in the southwest have put Texas at a higher risk for a measles outbreak because of the large number of children who are taking advantage of the state’s “conscientious exemption” to get around vaccination requirements.

Schools allowing students to remain unvaccinated now can have disastrous effects decades down the line. Michigan and Kentucky are in the midst of a hepatitis A outbreak now because of a combination of poor hygiene and soft vaccination requirements in the past that left many adults without ever having received the vaccine. The hepatitis A vaccine was only created in 1995. Obviously many people alive today were well past school age at that point, but many were not and some states like Indiana didn’t require a vaccination against the highly contagious disease until 2014. Now, they are paying the price.

Some school districts are overhauling their vaccination efforts, and some are even requiring them like they should have all along. Jefferson County Public schools in Louisville, Kentucky will require students to produce proof of a hepatitis A vaccine to attend school during the 2018-19 school year. Such a requirement is long overdue, but it's certainly progress that should be applauded…even if it took an outbreak of a preventable contagious disease to get to that point.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Some Rural Schools Are Facing the Same Problems as Urban Schools

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The funding debate is never far from the forefront in education reform circles. We devote a lot of time and energy bemoaning the lack of funding for schools, especially for inner-city schools. You know the story by now: Due to suburban sprawl, district to district shifts, white flight and even middle-class minority flight, urban school districts are left without the tax base and resources to adequately maintain their current standard of education and opportunity for students. This, of course, leads to poor test scores and cutting of extracurriculars which leads to even more students leaving.

This problem is not just an inner-city problem. Increasingly, rural areas reporting having the same issues, for the same reasons.

A new peer-reviewed study attempts to explain the obstacles and problems that rural students are facing in Wisconsin. The study found that rural and small-town students may actually perform worse than urban students when you control all the other variables:

Rural and small-town schools perform worse than urban schools. When schools are divided by level of urbanicity, rural schools have significantly lower performance on the Forward Exam in both math and reading than urban schools. All school sectors have lower levels of proficiency than suburban schools.

The funding situation is no better in rural areas either. Just like in urban districts, many rural districts are feeling the financial fallout from shrinking enrollment.  Sullivan County Northeast School Corp Superintendent Mark Baker spoke at a rally in Farmersburg, Indiana on Saturday, hoping to shed light on the funding crisis facing his district:

Fifty years ago, in the year 1967, Northeast School Corp. had over 2,300 students in eight school buildings," said Baker. "In 2007, we had approximately 1,400 students. Today, we have 853 students in four buildings…With the loss of students comes the loss of revenue. Each student that moves away or attends a school outside our corporation is a loss of approximately $6,000. In the last eight years, the Northeast School Corp. has lost over $4.1 million in revenue.

Baker went on to talk about how state lawmakers need to look past the issues in inner-city Indianapolis and deal with what is going on in rural areas. The irony is that Indianapolis Public Schools recently decided to close several facilities in an effort to consolidate students and save money, not too unlike what Superintendent Baker just described in his own district.

Although rural and urban education advocates tend to see funding as a zero sum game and view their interests as diametrically opposed, rural and urban school districts are fighting the same battle. The research is clear: Students are making a beeline for affluent suburbs and taking their tax dollars with them, leaving rural and urban districts to cope and adjust with the loss.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

You Can’t Believe Every Horror Story You Hear About Charter Schools

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As a charter school teacher, I often find myself at recruiting events or canvassing for students to attend my school, KIPP INDY. Because of my school’s results, and fairly good reputation, many of the families I talk to are receptive. However, it never fails that I encounter at least one family or community stakeholder that has some crazy story about how my school wronged somebody they know.

In my first year of teaching, I was taken aback by these stories. I was excited to work for my school, but I didn’t want to work for a school guilty of the stories that I heard through word of mouth on the recruiting trail.

I’m in my 7th year of teaching now, all at the same school, I can say unequivocally that you can’t listen to all of these stories.

Having been at my school for so long, I have now experienced the other side of some of these negative narratives making their way around the neighborhood, and they are almost always misleading or blatantly false. And why wouldn’t they be? After-all you wouldn’t necessarily expect a student or their family to be completely honest about why they were held back, suspended, or expelled. They are almost never in agreement with those decisions and aren’t exactly inclined to tell people the whole truth about their shortcomings in the situation.

Most people know there are two sides to every story and that people would obviously be biased towards their side. The issue we face in the education community today is that many of these stories, that should be taken with a grain of salt at a minimum, are believed at face value and amplified by the opponents of charter schools.

Legitimizing the unfounded horror stories of people with a vendetta is dangerous and irresponsible. However, it will more than likely continue so here are a couple of ideas you need to remember when you encounter a negative story about charter schools:

1.       You haven’t heard the school’s side of the argument because laws and privacy rules prevent them from talking.

I often hear people talk about incidents that are discipline decisions that happened at my school around the neighborhood. Having been there for so long, I have inside knowledge on most or all of those stories, but due to privacy rules and FERPA laws, I can neither confirm nor deny any of the allegations. If I could,  I would be doing a lot of denying.

For example, a common narrative about my school is they expel people for no reason. The names attached may change, but the general theme is the same. "X student was expelled for a minor infraction."  Well, I may happen to know for a fact that "X" student was expelled for a pattern of serious infractionsbut I can’t say that because FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, prevents me from sharing that kind of information. That student and his family are bound by no such law and are free to tell whatever story they want unchecked, and they often do.

2.       The community organizations and activists spreading the stories often have an agenda.

Traditional public school advocates often have a laundry list of the stories that disparage school choice. For example, anti-charter school organizations and activists love to relay stories of harsh discipline and inequitable practices to their followers because it supports a negative narrative they are seeking to craft about charters schools. This is despite the fact traditional public schools are no stranger unequitable discipline practices. 

Obviously, it isn’t smart to take the stories of people with an ax-to-grind at face value, especially when you consider the fact that these people and groups are often only using anecdotal evidence because the data doesn’t support their narrative.

This isn’t to say my school or any other charter school is completely absolved from any allegation of wrong doing. There was a time where my school admittedly suspended too many kids. There are some charters that probably do have inequitable discipline policies. My advice is don’t let the negative experiences of one family given to you through a second-hand teller turn you off to a school.   

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Don’t Forget How Important Mothers are in Education

Mothers play a critical role in a child’s education.  This is not to discount the role of fathers, but many households are led by a single parent who is female and if it is a two-parent home, when it comes to school, the mother many times does the heavy lifting.  

 Lisa K. Stockton, mother of Indy/Ed writer Shawnta S. Barnes

Lisa K. Stockton, mother of Indy/Ed writer Shawnta S. Barnes

I was raised in a two-parent home with my two younger sisters.  My dad worked second shift and my mom was a stay at home mom until my youngest sister went off to kindergarten.  She made sure we had our school supplies.  She provided us with a hot breakfast in the morning, in addition to making us a lunch to carry to school.  She volunteered in our classrooms and helped with all room parties.  When we came home from school, she had a routine in place to ensure we completed our homework, had dinner, went to church choir practice once a week, and had a little fun.  She also made sure my dad knew the essentials such as when book fees were due or when to take off work for our programs.  When there was a problem at school, she would pop up quickly to support the teacher or if the teacher was wrong, she would advocate for us.  Without her constant involvement and watchful eye, we could have slipped through the cracks at school. 

 Lisa Stockton with her daughters Shawnta, Alice and Sherry

Lisa Stockton with her daughters Shawnta, Alice and Sherry

What stands out to me the most is not how invested my mom was in her three daughters’ education, but how invested she was in the education of other people’s children.  After my sister went off to kindergarten, my mom decided to work in the daycare industry.  While we were doing homework, she spent hours making learning activities for the children at the daycare.  She would give tips to parents and encourage them when they were having difficulties with their children.  The parents appreciated her.  My sisters and I were always shocked by the elaborate and expensive gifts parents would give my mom at Christmas time.  Our family Christmas tree was decorated with a rotation of pictures of children she cared for and taught along with crafts they made her.

Even when she started working, she continued to be highly involved in our school, not just keeping an eye on my sisters and me, but also keeping an eye on everyone else too.  

Today, she serves children by working in before and after care at different school campuses in Indianapolis.  Even now, when I visit my mom, she is putting together an activity.  She recently told me about a child in the aftercare program who was struggling in class.  She spent part of her Sunday pulling together some resources to help him during the upcoming week.

As an adult, when I run into former classmates or kids I grew up with in my neighborhood, they always ask about my mom.  Of course, they remembered the cupcakes she made, the time she came to the bus stop and let everyone know they needed to get their act together, or when she let them come over for a meal.  Mostly, they remembered how she always was willing to help.  This Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mom and all of the mothers who are not only involved in their children’s education but also look out for and mother other people’s children to ensure they are successful in school.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!  I love you!

 

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Broad Ripple Rockets Forever

   Front row - BR student Chris Bishop, BR alumna and English teacher Nikia Garland, community member Shawnta Barnes, BR student Jashell McClenton, BR student Sterling Smith.  Back Row - community member Kate Shoup, former BR English teacher Herb Budden.

Front row - BR student Chris Bishop, BR alumna and English teacher Nikia Garland, community member Shawnta Barnes, BR student Jashell McClenton, BR student Sterling Smith.  Back Row - community member Kate Shoup, former BR English teacher Herb Budden.

On Thursday, May 10, 2018, from 3-8 p.m. Broad Ripple Magnet High School held its, “We Are the Rockets - The Farewell” open house.  At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Broad Ripple’s doors will close and lights will be turned off one last time.  Nikia Garland, Broad Ripple English teacher and alumna, was the hostess and organizer of the open house.  In addition to Ms. Garland, Broad Ripple magnet professional Martha Riley and science teacher Brashon Porter, along with support from other staff and students, helped make the event a huge success.

The event drew a large crowd of over 2,000 alumni and community members.  Attendees were able to play a Broad Ripple Trivia game, participate in an open gym game with the boys’ varsity basketball team, create a painting of Rippy, the mascot, watch the dance magnet and choir perform, view the walk of fame of notable alumni, watch a documentary about Broad Ripple, purchase a letterman’s jacket, tour the school with a student tour guide, write about memories of their time at Broad Ripple, have a keepsake photo taken, and enjoy a meal from Byrne’s Pizza and The Grub House food trucks.

The best part was alumni reconnecting with classmates and former teachers and discussing fond memories.   Larry McCloud, Garland's beloved principal during her time as a Broad Ripple student, as well as her English teacher, Herb Budden, were in attendance.  While introducing her English teacher to some of her students, Garland stated, “This is the man who taught me how to teach English.” One student then responded, “So you are the reason she is so hard on us!” 

After the event came to a close Garland reflected:  

This event was simply wonderful.  There was alumni from the class of 1950 to the present - all hues, classes, and walks of life came out to say farewell to our beloved school that has been a pillar of educational excellence in our Indianapolis community for 131 years.  We are rockets for life and soar regardless of circumstance and that was proven last night.

Many attendees shared the sentiment they couldn’t believe the school closing was almost here.  If the attendees take Garland’s words to heart, they will know, after the doors close, the legacy of the school will live on in them.