The recent ONE by ONE Convention brought together educators, administrators, those in political office, clergy, community activists, parents and students; from elementary education to higher education, coming together in unity and solidarity to celebrate public education and the achievements of educators and administrators in Duval County Public Schools.
The presence of over 500 in attendance showed the diversity of and support for public education in Jacksonville, Florida. Stated from Superintendent Dr. Vitti, "Education is the great equalizer." Having attended as a Delegate and using social media to share the ONE by ONE Convention, for years the energy was strong in establishing the seriousness and significance in the importance to sustain and strengthen public education. This is my 26th year teaching in public education and 11th teaching in higher education, witnessing the thrust to show that educators are important and respected helps in building pride in a career that is sometimes volatile in funding and positive recognition.
The educational process starts from home, if parents do not prepare their children for the rigors of the educational environment, students will be behind before formal education starts. Dr. Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools observation that," teachers are sometimes a scapegoat for student failure - parents have a responsibility to prepare their children for the educational process."
This reinforces that parents are their children's first teachers and they (parents) set the tone for the value of education in their homes and even in their communities. Public education is under attack from those with their own political and in some cases religious ideologies that seek to divide communities and spread a message of separation and division of intellectual abilities. Those that seek to divide and weaken public education are in many ways promoting the "have and have not" mentality instead of an inclusive, holistic and fundamental engagement of improving a system that is not perfect, but has provided a means for children to grow in many cases beyond their parents educational, social and economic levels. Children that have grown and advanced through public education into adulthood have achieved historic levels of advancement in disciplines that children years before could only dream of, the growth of STEAM has long reaching academic influences, with well qualified educators, active and involved administrators and the necessary support personnel from secretaries to custodian's children are rising and excelling through grade levels. The experience of the ONE by ONE Convention shows that the best investment America can make is in public education teachers.
Mayor Alvin Brown, the first African American Mayor in the history of Jacksonville, Florida whose children attend schools in Duval County Public Schools, the Superintendent of DCPS Dr. Vitti whose children also attend public schools shows that no matter the political engagement or attainment of educational status or position, public education provides the necessary foundation for career success and community involvement.
It can be seen in Jacksonville how well we are educating our children in each community, each block and each household. Growing and thriving communities have a value for education, those communities struggling often have struggling schools and struggling families.
The involvement of students from elementary to higher education in decision-making in curriculum and management shows that including students provides them the opportunity to contribute to the learning environment, thus changing from a teacher-centered to a student-centered learning institution that encourages learning outside of the classroom. Students and parents can voice their concerns, share their observations, become involved and celebrate their successes, but must be actively involved. If parents are not involved then they have no say in how the school is managed.
Encouraging future educators like the young men in the "Call Me Mister" program at the Historically Black College and University, Edward Waters College where young African American men are preparing to be the next generation of educators that will work to meet the educational needs of a growing diversity of African American and Hispanic students.
The ONE by ONE Convention was a gathering of celebrations for increased graduation rates of students, the continued integration and implementation of new technologies that manage student data for learning, supporting parents to be advocates for education; even those that have made mistakes in the criminal justice system that have children in DCPS can still check on their children remotely, through telephone conferencing, email or other adaptable technologies to help parents still be parents proudly and with dignity. Sensitive areas of bullying, mental health, the safety of schools and addressing potential violence because of societal challenges are areas of reflection and planning. Northeast Florida struggles with youth mental health as seen in statistics that Northeast Florida out paces the rest of the state in juvenile suicides and attempts.
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund has provided a wealth of information concerning public education and the need for a strong public educational foundation. There are places that need modification, no educational institution no matter what country is perfect, with the continued collaboration of schools with community resources, the cooperation of parents working with teachers and administrators and the listening ears of leadership and legislature to seasoned educators and active parents and guardians, children will be prepared for the diversity of a world that is changing exponentially in many career areas.
From STEM to STEAM to STREAM to CSTEAM, and the areas of higher academia students of Duval County Public Schools are receiving high quality educational opportunities. Preparing students for real world careers that have local, national and global influences. The efforts of ONE by ONE are showing the transformative power of public education.
This blog post was orginally published on www.myquesttoteach.wordpress.com