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Mama Goes to Mom Congress–An Insider’s Look

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This year I began my education activism in earnest. My tipping point was when my youngest daughter’s school defended their worksheet-based, everyone does the same thing, curriculum. After being rebuffed by the school, I used my blog to express my feelings. And, I’ll tell you – that got their attention, even though that was not my intention, and the attention was not positive. As a result, I felt helpless to make positive change, and I didn’t know what to do differently.

So, it was with enormous anticipation that I attended Parenting Magazine’s second Mom Congress on Education and Learning, representing Colorado. I wondered, about making change in the school system. I wanted to know how do I stand up for my kids? And, is it possible to do it without being labeled a trouble maker? Or “that” mom?

So last week, Mom Congress brought together 51 amazing mom-delegates from all over the country, each passionate about different aspects of education – some bullying, some special education, some better teachers. All of us had stories and experience. Knowing the other delegates inspired me more than I could have imagined.

And then there were the educational leaders and advocates who spoke with us; people like U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Mrs. Q, and the groups, Let’s Move!, Students First, Reach Out and Read, National PTA, National Education Association, National Head Start Association, PBS, Jumpstart, Jamie Oliver, STEM, PBS, RIF, The Gates Foundation, and NBC Learn.

The Highlights

  • Mrs. Q. She literally was the most inspirational mom of us all. As a busy mom and teacher, she couldn’t seem to pack a lunch so she started buying school lunch. Then, she started blogging about her lunch – and took
    photos of each tray of food. What happened was that Mrs. Q. went from being an average, middle-of-the-road mom with no opinion on school lunch to a well-informed, vocal blogger and activist about the poor nutrition and terrible quality of
    school lunches – which for some kids make up a large percentage of their diets. Find out more about Mrs. Q on her blog, Fed Up With Lunch.

  • Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan seems to really “get” it — I thought he’d be a typical suit but what he said did impress me like wanting to fix No Child Left Behind and stop over testing.
  • I’m a big Michelle Rhee fan. Not because she’s perfect
    but I admire her guts to say the hard things, to say the truth that ineffective teachers
    are bad for kids and shouldn’t be teaching. Hearing her talk made me think – and I’m
    still thinking. To her, there’s not point in keeping teachers and trying to
    professionally develop them because kids suffer while the teacher is
    being “developed.” Her speech and the discussion is on my blog, Imagination Soup.

The Lessons

1. We must all be advocates.

2. We can’t do it alone – we need a group of people in order to be heard.

3. We must all be advocates.

4. We must all be advocates.

5. Find your message – what you care about – then gather your chorus of voices.

6. Until the community (that’s you and me) say enough is enough, NOTHING will change. (Isn’t the proof in the pudding?)

 

The Call to Action

I will do ________________________ to change my community / education.

What will you do? What’s your passion?

As for me, I’ll keep doing what I’m already doing – spreading the word by blogging about education and best practices, resources and information. Frankly, if bloggers can change politics, why not education?

I’m also very interested in helping put some new teacher evaluation methods in place. Without good ways of evaluating teachers, schools can’t reward and retain the excellent teachers. Not only that, I REALLY want a better method for evaluating principals. Do you know that teachers and parents don’t get to give input on a principal? Only their district supervisor who pops in to the school occasionally is his or her evaluator. Talk about a worthless evaluation!

Oh, and my biggest change will be to gather other like-minded parents around me and stand with them. One person versus twenty? Twenty will have more power. Five hundred would be even better.

Okay, I could go on but I’d really like to hear from you. What about you? What will you do?

*Find Mom Congress on Facebook.

*Find Imagination Soup on Facebook.

Melissa Taylor writes about education-related topics at her award-winning playful learning blog, Imagination Soup, and for publications such as Scholastic Parent and Child, Babble.com, Colorado Parent Magazine and others. She’s the Book Editor-at-Large for Colorado Parent Magazine, writing their book review blog, Bookmarkable and a former teacher with a M.A. in Education.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 21, 2011

    What a great call-to-action! Honestly, I’ve been overwhelmed by JeffCo’s proposed $40 million in cuts. THAT is something I want to address but it just seems so overwhelming. But every mom knows it starts somewhere!

  • comment avatar Jenny April 21, 2011

    Good for you Melissa! I’m thrilled you had the opportunity to go and really make a difference, not just for your girls, but for everyone. I’m so proud of you! – Jenny

  • comment avatar Jen April 21, 2011

    Fantastic! I’ve always wondered if my perspective on teachers or classroom practices is mine alone. Is it just my kid having the issues or being treated this way or that – so I work with it at home, alone, assuming there isn’t much I can do. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • comment avatar Barb April 21, 2011

    So wonderful Melissa to see you take that experience and turn it into being a voice for change out there. I can’t wait to read more about where this takes you 🙂

  • comment avatar Jacy Montoya Price April 21, 2011

    The Mom Congress sounds amazing! How exciting to be there representing Colorado. As someone who has been personally & professionally involved in advocacy, I *love* the lessons that you brought away from your experience. We all have the capacity to be strong advocates for our children & our communities-and fortunately there are resources like the Mom Congress to develop the tools and confidence needed to take action!

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz April 21, 2011

    Well…I’m going on a field trip today. Does that count? 😉

    I’m so glad you represented our state, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing the Congress through your reports.

  • comment avatar Chris April 21, 2011

    I’ll stand with you, Melissa! Colorado is so lucky to have such a strong, well-informed and passionate advocate like yourself and I hope you never lose your voice. Love following your journey.

  • comment avatar Melissa Taylor April 22, 2011

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! It was a inspiring experience to go to Mom Congres and it solidified my desire to encourage like-minded parents and convince middle-of-the-road parents to be advocates for change.

    Never doubt that your gut instinct is right – and please let me know if I can help you in any way! melissa at imaginationsoup.net

    Keep On Fighting!

    Melissa

  • comment avatar Susan April 22, 2011

    You are an inspiration Melissa! After your experience with making a statement about the education system, I was a little nervous about taking a stand, but then I realized we can’t be bullied by people who don’t want change. We need to stand up for education and our children. The education cuts have been so devastating. We can’t give up on our children.

  • comment avatar Melissa Taylor April 28, 2011

    thanks, Susan. I think we’ve all been nervous because we’re under the false belief that taking a stand = being mean. It’s not. We must educate others that when we disagree, we are not being mean, we are just disagreeing.

    🙂 Fight on, sister!

    Melissa

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