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What's Working in Illinois - Parents and Schools Working Together


Many things come to mind when I think about education in Illinois.  In a time of educational turmoil, we must look for the positive and remember that there are teachers and parents working hard to educate children.

In the school my children attend, money does not flow freely, but parents work hard every day to ensure the school is a place of pride.  For example, through the year last year, many parents gave their time to give our school a much needed facelift.  With school board approval, they painted and put up fresh artwork in the school halls.  They have also embarked in creative fundraising by doing walk-a-thons and silent auctions.  If it weren’t for the parents, the school would not be the nurturing place that it is today.

I am constantly amazed at the strides that schools are making in the technology field.  In the school where I work, students in the 7th grade are using netbooks to take their education even further.  Not only is it giving them a solid background in education, but helping them to use skills to promote technology literacy.  They research, turn in electronic projects, and even take tests tailored by the teacher, all on their netbooks.

Another important program that was recently put into place in our area was the group H.E.R.E.  It stands for Help, Encouragement, Resources, and Education.  A group of students, teachers, and community members banded together to design a program to counter-act the stigma that accompanies mental illness.   They have held “Stomp the Stigma” events in an effort to promote the seriousness of mental illness as well as resources for those who feel they may be experiencing depression or other mental health issues.

Even with all of the good we see around our state, there is still much work to be done.  If I could give one important piece of advice to parents across the United States, I would say, “Support your schools!”  Go to the school administration and ask them how you can help.  Don’t just support the school, but the teachers as well.  Let them know you are a partner and problem solver in your child’s education.  If the teacher advises ways to help enhance what is being taught in the classroom, help your child utilize those resources.  Just like the discord that comes when a child works one parent against another, that same discord is evident, and just as detrimental, when the school and parents are at odds.  Supporting your school and teachers sends the message to your child that education is a vital part of their lifestyle.

Last, but in no way least, I ask you to do anything you can to make your school a safe zone for children.  Help by making resources available to your school for anti-bullying programs.  Share and promote programs that teach respect and positive mental health.  Go to local counseling centers and find out what kinds of programs they would recommend for schools.  If children do not feel safe due to the actions of another child, they can no longer be effective learners. 

Prevention is only the first step in the safe schools journey.  We must address the bully and the parents of the bully as well.  This second component seems to be missing more often than not.  We are doing a disservice to that child and his/her future as well if we only hand out a punishment and don’t assist in mastering socially acceptable behavior.  Let your schools and law makers know it is imperative to have tough bullying legislation and do whatever you can to provide support to make those laws become a reality. 

One thing I have learned is that nothing in education happens quickly.  However, we all must do our part and be persistent in our push to demand better for our children.  How will you be the catalyst for positive change in your community?

Education is something dear to Illinois delegate Kimberly Kuhlman, the 2011 Mom Congress delegate from Illinois. She is a mother and an educator with endorsements in reading, language arts, and middle school.  After being home for nine and half years with her children, she currently works as a teaching assistant seeking a language arts position.  Kim maintains a blog to help parents and children affected by bullying.