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Let me begin with a full disclosure: I am a CPS teacher. I'm also the parent of a CPS elementary student, and when my toddler is old enough, she'll likely attend a CPS preschool, too. I don't just work in public education - I believe in it, and my views about public education are shaped by the two hats I wear as a CPS teacher and a CPS parent.
That said, I have had my "Maybe I should pull my kid out of public school and put him in private school" moments. I've even had my "Maybe we should just move to the suburbs" (and then I remember - and am grateful for - the fact that my job requires me to live in the city).
When I'm hit with those periodic bouts of school-related worry and stress, I put on both my "mom hat" and my "teacher hat" and I'm reminded about what really makes a school work for its students: parent involvement.
I teach in what many would consider a pretty rough city high school. My second year on the job, there was a shooting right outside my classroom window. And yet we have students who are awarded Bill Gate's Millennium scholarships, students who complete service learning projects in Africa, and students who leave our school and serve our country. I've been in a CPS classroom as a teacher for the past five years and I've seen students both wildly succeed and wildly fail. What sets these two apart? The parent involvement factor.
Your kid will succeed, no matter which school he attends, through the teamwork of caring teachers and parents. Teachers chose the profession because they love learning - they want nothing more than to see your kids to succeed. Help them out: Extend learning at home on subjects studied at school, do what you can to cultivate a love of reading, help foster your child's friendships and when you can, volunteer in your child's classroom. Study after study shows that parent involvement is the key to educational success. It's simple: when kids see that their parents, their community and their teachers care about their education, they start to care about it, too.
That's as true for my students as it is for my son.
Once upon a time, I, too, fell victim to the school application stress-a-thon. I felt that my kid just had to get into the math and science magnet school that he now attends. Not only was it a block away from our home, but he's a hands-on guy, and science and math interest him. Plus, it was lovely, with a pretty garden.
As it turns out, he did get in. When the letter came, I let out a huge sigh of relief, thinking we could just float on air and enjoy the elementary school experience.
Wrong. The letter is just the beginning.
So no matter where your kid winds up, rest assured that, with your love and support - he or she will find a way towards success.
Finally, Bravo! Brava! for sticking in the city, for sticking with public education, for investing in your neighborhood and your school. By working together, by getting involved, we can make a difference for our kids and everyone's kids.