Some of you know that I chair the School Advisory Council for my boys’ school.
Three years ago, a teacher stopped me in the school yard and asked me to come to a meeting. She explained that they only get 2 or 3 parents showing up at each meeting and she has seen me active in the schoolyard and community. Maybe I could help. I ended up running the damn thing. Because nobody else would.
I hate committees and have nowhere near enough time to do a proper job of things, but my Mom taught me to always provide help for those who ask.
Our local school is older than Canada itself, but primarily serves children new to this nation. There are fewer than 400 students and they speak 78 different languages. The vast majority are people of colour. This school represents the best parts of what it means to be Canadian in the 21st century, where our rich history and exciting future need not look the same.
The school serves an diverse and dichotomous community. In addition to the multitude of ethnicities, there is a large economic divide with most students coming from a cluster of apartment buildings that serve as a ghetto of transitional housing for newcomers to Canada. A mere block away, however, are established homes with massive trees and half-acre lots. All right on the subway line. The school is too poor to get along without help and too rich to qualify for it. But that isn’t even my problem.
We have had to reduce the frequency of our big class trip to Ottawa because we can only afford to do it every two years. I know that, come April, I will face the one meeting that will be packed with parents. Parents who will complain that they can’t afford to send their kids and demanding funding. I’ll want to RageScream “Where were you when I tried to raise money for YOU? What the fuck was so important that YOU couldn’t get off your ass when I asked you to?” But I won’t.
The problem I have is that parents simply refuse to engage. We have a true community school that is occupied from 6:30am through to 10:00pm, but I’ll be damned if any parents choose to get involved or give back. Every year, we get one or two parents who come to one meeting, remark at the lack of participation and make suggestions as to how we can improve things.
Thing is, none of those suggestions ever work.
We were asked to build a blog site so that parents can keep up with what is going on. The old school website was years out of date. Since I have some experience (besides, who the hell else was going to do it?) I did it. We wrote up a single page flyer and sent it home with the December newsletter.
How many hits has that site received in the month since?
0. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a one.
Not even one person could be bothered to even look at it.
Each year I write grant applications and get money to build parent involvement, to bring them into the school. So far, I’ve gotten every thing I have asked for, all to no avail. We actually had to return money last year because, after total success with the kids, the parental portion of our anti-bullying program (featuring the local professional football team) drew a total of five (5! Count ’em! 5.) parents.
This year, I was approved for a grant to create a lending library for parents, presumably to be stocked with resources that would be useful to them (as well as some decent fiction, to be stocked from my own shelves with the help of kind literary friends who have contributed!) and in their native languages. The money should come in next week, but I find my motivational tank stuck firmly on empty.
So here I am in the New Year, thinking with dread and disgust about building a library so we can share wonderful, beautiful words. This is not how things are supposed to be.