Written By Guest Blogger: Lakeasha Williams
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.“
What’s your idea of a perfect school? I’m sure if we did a survey we would get responses such as high quality teachers, effective leadership, top test scores, enrichment opportunities for scholars, engaged families etc. All those things are the make up of what makes schools great. But what happens if you inherit a school that doesn’t have those things working collaboratively in the best interest of the children? What happens when in our urban areas we know that statistically we have 60%-75% of our black and brown children not proficient in reading and math? What happens when our schools are funded based on a Jim Crow era strategy of using real estate taxes which inherently means that our schools in marginalized communities will suffer?
What happens… If you’re a social justice leader you seek out ways to engage with families and the community in an attempt to close the ACCESS gap. If we want our children to do well academically then we have to ensure that our children have access to a variety of experiences. I sincerely believe that stronger communities yield stronger families which create stronger schools. Schools are not a separate entity from society but rather a reflection of the priorities of society. The three represent a cord of three strands. We know the powerful significance of a three strand knot. Therefore, how do we replicate that energy for the sake of our children and unify the three: community, family, school?
Let’s start with school. Every school community is different. Therefore, let’s begin with a needs analysis of the school. Oftentimes support is given as a one size fit all model. That’s an ineffective strategy. What does the school community actually need support with using the Framework for Great Schools as a reference tool? When we disaggregate the data it’s not just about test scores. We have to also examine the school’s physical environment, resources, teacher needs, leadership development, and our families as well. For example, based on the varied data sources for Shine Shine 399 I discovered our specific needs. Professional development relevant to the teacher and student needs had to be implemented. The school’s physical environment had to be restructured. Scholars need a child-friendly, clean and safe environment in order to maximize their learning. Our families also required an array of supportive services for themselves. How could I expect them to make education a top priority if they were in need of support? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that our basic needs have to be met first before we can do anything else.
What about our families? Parents are the heartbeat of every school community. They give us their most prized possession: their children. We know that our families love their children. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of life and a family’s socioeconomic status does impact a family’s level of engagement with their child’s school. Therefore, I believe that schools must serve as the conduit of wrap around services to support the overall needs of our families. In the past schools were the hub of every community. I think we should get back to that concept. It is the village approach to raising children. We need to also conduct a needs analysis for our families. What do they need support with specifically? Is it continued education, job opportunities, mental health, parenting etc Once we’re able to determine the level of support afforded to our families then they’ll be in a better position to support their child’s educational achievement. Here at Shine Shine 399 we provide our families with a variety of support. We provide academic and social emotional learning workshops to ensure that they’re able to help their children at home with the strategies that’s implemented at the school. We also provide an array of supportive services to assist our families with their current life situations. These partnerships are what makes schools even stronger.
You may be wondering how is a school able to accomplish all of these things? No man is an island. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” Helen Keller. That’s the power of community. A community leader is one who is able to utilize the resources within the community to positively impact the school community. After analyzing the school and family data the school leadership team is responsible for forming community alliances to meet the needs of the school community. It is also the collective responsibility of every entity within a school’s radius to develop a give back package to support the success of the school. This is once again the village concept. We’re each responsible for the success of our children. Shine Shine 399 has been able to form many different partnerships with organizations so that we could meet the diverse needs of our school community. As a result, our school continues to demonstrate progress as measured by the Framework for Great Schools model.
There’s power in partnerships. Educating children in the 21st century requires that we extend beyond the walls of the school and we go above and beyond to provide a holistic approach to supporting our children and families. This is what makes schools great.
Lakeasha Williams is an accomplished educator, Amazon’s best selling author, and real estate investor. She continues to dismantle status quo to improve the quality of life for everyone in our community. Check out her website to learn more about her at http://www.brickhouseunlimited.com