by Paolo Martin
My brother and sister-in-law, Jon and Arlene, have two boys: one nine and the other eleven; the younger with autism, the other on the cusp of adolescence. My best friend, Linda, and her husband, Ken, have two girls, Kaitlyn and Erica. Like my nephews, one is in elementary school, and the other just started middle school. My good friends Kevin and Brian, married for over 20 years, also have two kids: one rambunctious child who's four and the other a two-year-old just learning to proclaim ownership over his things - "That's mine!" Other than the fact that these parents, all of whom I consider "family," have two children who call me "Uncle," what, you say, do they all have in common? Culturally, not much. But as far as the love they have for their kids and communities which help them raise their kids, a lot! Unable to afford reasonable day care, Jon and Arlene drop their kids off every day at my folks' place. There they get an after-school snack, sometimes dinner, a place to play video games, and homework help. Linda and Ken's folks are also happy to be involved in their grandchildren's lives when they need it. Kevin and Brian's kids get support from their friends accompanying the kids to the zoo or occasionally setting up for a grand baptism or a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday party. Yes, their parents are saints. And the community of family and friends that are fortunate enough be a part of their lives aren't bad either.
Like my nieces and nephews, many kids in the U.S. are fortunate enough to have "a village" to help raise them - like in the African proverb. But why does it seem so difficult for teachers who are responsible for 15 to 35 kids to get help from their local communities? It is especially perplexing when one considers that in a work week, kids spend more time interacting with their teachers than they do with their parents. A teacher who has an earnest desire to individualize her classroom and build deep relationships with each one of her students is often frustrated by the lack of time and resources to meet those goals. Kudos to organizations like Lawyers for Literacy who work with kids in schools by volunteering to provide one-on-one tutoring to students. Familiar with the staggering number of kids entering the juvenile justice system, Lawyers for Literacy attempts to lower this number by helping children raise their academic achievement and providing them with positive mentoring. When more people like the volunteers from Lawyers for Literacy get involved in raising the children in their local "village" classrooms, perhaps we'll see increasing numbers of healthy, happy, and educated kids. Won't you join them?
Tags: community involvement, community education, education support, literacy education