You've Got Questions? I Have Answers

Education In America

Subscribe to Education In America: eMailAlertsEmail Alerts newslettersWeekly Newsletters
Get Education In America: homepageHomepage mobileMobile rssRSS facebookFacebook twitterTwitter linkedinLinkedIn


Education In America Authors: Darrah Deal, Student Lance, David Miller, David Miller, Chris Pentago

Related Topics: Education 2.0 Journal, Education In America, Education Innovation Journal

Opinion

Viewing Public Schools As Corporations

Look at Public Schools Professionally, Not Emotionally

Dear Dr. Fournier:

This year my child will be entering first grade in a Little Rock Public School. Recently, I had some spare time and dropped in to visit the school. There was a sign at the entrance that stated all parents and visitors were to check in at the front desk.

I stopped at the front desk and asked permission to walk through the school. I was told the principal was in a meeting and she was the only one who could take me on a tour. I explained I only wanted to take a peek at the school facilities and not to go into any classrooms. I was rudely told that this was unheard of and there would be an open house for new parents and students.

I decided to visit two private schools the same day. I was very warmly greeted and immediately given a tour. They told me if I wanted to set an appointment to come back, they would take me into the classes.

Do you have any suggestions for new parents who want to visit a public school?  I dislike scheduled appointments, because I like to see what the school is like every day.

Lisa M.

Little Rock, Ark.

Dear Lisa:

When a child enters any school for the first time, no matter what his or her age or grade, the entire family is introduced to a new culture.

ASSESSMENT

School will be your child's home for at least six, maybe seven, hours a day Lisa. It is understandable you want to feel comfortable with both its educational and social aspects. All parents should desire this.

Unfortunately, culture shock often brings fear and intimidation. We are immediately confronted with new rules and new expectations that are so familiar to teachers and administrators they can't understand our frustration.

These frustrations often blend with a feeling of intimidation and parents back off, many staying away from their children's schools. Teachers and administrators then misinterpreted this distancing as a lack of interest on the parents' part. A gap occurs or is perceived as such, hurting the positive relationship needed between parents and teachers/administrators for a learning partnership that is supportive of the child.

WHAT TO DO

Lisa, I want you to look at the school through different eyes, professional not emotional.  If it's a public school, view it as a corporation in which you have purchased stock (in the form of taxes or tuition).  Your dividend is the education, not just schooling, of your child.  As a parent, you have a seat on the board of directors and with extensive knowledge of the company's goals and operations; you have a voice in its policies.

Perhaps you need to do some research by talking to other directors (parents) and the company's employees (teachers and administrators).

Just as you would make a professional appointment to meet a doctor, lawyer or CEO for the first time, you should also use this formal way of introducing yourself at your child's school. At this professional appointment, however, you should be ready for an open discussion of goals, expectations, established policies and procedures, and other aspects of the school culture. Once knowledgeable, inform the school of your intention to visit without appointment.

However do not jump to hasty conclusions. Be prepared to observe your child's school on numerous occasions and not come to judgments based on one visit. Gather knowledge from a variety of sources, teachers and other parents to complement your own observations.

It is important to attend PTA meetings and to participate in your child's school culture. Having complete knowledge is more than important. It is imperative. This is the only weapon against your own fear and intimidation, and it is the basis for your effective participation in your child's education.

More Stories By Dr. Yvonne Fournier

Dr. Yvonne Fournier is Founder and President of Fournier Learning Strategies. Her column, "Hassle-Free Homework" was published by the Scripps Howard News Service for 20 years. She has been a pharmacist, public health administrator, demographer and entrepreneur. Dr. Fournier, arguably one of the most prolific of educators and child advocates in America today, has followed her own roadmap, calling not just for change or improvement in education but for an entirely new model.

She remains one of the most controversial opponents of the current education system in America.