I imagine when I turn on my television later this morning, all the political pundits will be talking about the use of Ted Kennedy and of Michelle Obama's delivery at the Democratic Convention opening last night. Other than that irking mic takeover by the younger Obama daughter I thought Michelle did just fine - as we would expect from any professional communicator who no doubt had been coached and prodded within an inch of her life.
It was during her appearance as guest co-host on The View a few months ago that I first learned that her brother is Craig Robinson, coach of the Oregon State basketball team. Their mother must be proud. As the camera's kept panning to her last night, I couldn't imagine the emotions that must be threatening to overwhelm her as she watched her son and daughter play a role in history. I hope one of those emotions was pride. She deserves to be proud of her accomplishments as an example, mentor and driving force behind her children's success. She and her late husband - who worked even as he battled multiple sclerosis - no doubt made many sacrifices to send two children to Princeton.
Almost a lifetime ago I taught English Language and English Literature at an all-boys high school in Jamaica. I remember being stunned, then puzzled, then angered by the lack of parental involvement and support in the boys' education. Parents who had the means - and some who didn't - provided the latest hot shoe for their sons, but forgot to buy textbooks. PTA meetings were always scant and I didn't have one parent call or come to see me to discuss their child's progress. I would send notes home and never get a response. One student was suspended, served his suspension and returned to school with no appearance from a parent. (Needless to say I continued to have problems with that particular student.) My experiences were similar at my son's school. In a fairly large K-8 school (filled with affluent families and stay-at-home moms), PTA meetings could be held in a small corner of the media center because of the low turnout.
As parents we owe our children the best education we can provide, for as long as we can provide it and for as long as they want it. Our participation and an attitude of expectation is required in providing that quality education. Children should know that their parents and their village expect success from them. Our children's teachers should know it as well. We have to be partners in our children's education, particularly if we live in communities with financially strapped school districts, underperforming schools and burned out teachers. Our children's teachers should know who we are and should be in regular contact to plot our children's success. At home we should be looking over homework - even if we don't understand it - and providing the tools they need to perform at their best.
What are your priorities? A nicer car or tutoring for your child who is weak in math? Vacations or saving for college? Getting your child evaluated when you sense a problem or your desire that he seem normal? Our priorities must be our children to ensure their success.
I muse often about what my boys will be when they grow up. The older of my sons is an incessant talker so my husband and I joke that he most certainly will be a lawyer or politician. My younger son is a bit rebellious. We expect he will start his own band or cure cancer. Whatever we expect, we accept that it is our duty as their parents to give them everything they need to become successful adults. We are committed to sending them to the best schools we can, without regard to racial majority, religious affiliation or budget source. We buy them books, supplement their learning at home and expose them to as many cultural experiences and career possibilities as we can. At the moments when we cringe at the cost of something (like tuition for the school they will attend this fall), we remind ourselves that the better we educate them the nicer our nursing home will be.