Parent Involvement

Here's What Happens When Oakland Parents See What's Possible

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit schools with local Oakland parents. We went to Milpitas. Milpitas isn’t too far away from Oakland geographically but some of the schools we saw felt like a different world for some of our parents. In a previous article, I wrote about those differences in the schools. In this article, I want to write about the difference I saw emerge in the parents. Parents come in all shapes, sizes and knowledge. They are just different. There are parents who know how to navigate the system and others who are stepping into a world entirely different than what they are used to. However, the one commonality is that everyone wants the best for their children. What I witnessed from these parents was powerful. See, these folks knew they wanted more for their children but for many of them, they didn’t know what more looked like. Did more mean smaller class sizes? Did more mean more parent participation in the school? Did it mean having a resource center on campus? What I learned was, when you have the feeling that things should be better but haven’t seen it in action yet, it can make you feel inadequate as an advocate. It’ll force you to throw a ton of spaghetti at the wall and pray something sticks in the form of higher achievement for your child. So when I saw these parents actually see things that worked, it led to a switch going off in their minds right in front of me. When one parent walked into a class of 30+ first graders and watched them move from station to station in harmony and be fully engaged in class it was something special to that parent. I watched one of the quietest parents on the trip transform and begin to ask, “How do I get that for my child?” The ask quickly evolves from a question to a demand, “My child deserves this! What changes do we need to make? What can I do?” That parent has transformed from somebody on a trip to a trailblazer and leader for her school community. It is a parent like this who will demand a new level of quality. They will demand accountability. This is the parent who will not only be involved but will get other parents out. This is the parent who will sing the gospel for what is possible for our children. All because you made a trip to Milpitas. In the coming weeks, all throughout January and February, parents and community members will be able to see and experience schools that are serving our black, brown and poor kids well. They are doing things differently.  
An earlier version of this post appeared on One Oakland United. Photo courtesy of Charles Cole, III.
Charles Cole III
Charles Cole III is an educator and media producer focused on the advancement of all youth of color, but more specifically Black males. The passion comes from his own experiences growing up without proper support. His life’s goal is to better the communities he grew up in through his work. He has served as a social worker, a director for Teach For America, the vice chair of the ...

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