It’s kind of a gloomy time in Oregon right now. The weather is cold, rainy, and windy. Families are facing economic hardships while social services continue to be reduced. The racial achievement gap is a daunting and complicated problem. Schools are asked to achieve more with fewer resources. Hiring freezes are happening in state and local agencies.
We, as educators, social workers, and others who work on behalf of children and families, are very good at pointing out the problems. This isn’t surprising, as it is often our job to do this – to advocate, so that those in power are encouraged to make better decisions for our community. As programs and services are cut, and then cut again, and our jobs are on the line (or altogether eliminated), it’s hard to feel optimistic.
If you read this blog, you probably consider yourself a leader in education. By opting to participate, even on the level of blog-reading, you are committing to educate yourself on issues in education, and make our community a better place for kids. Blogs are a great way for folks to discuss issues and share stories, but what happens after that? What can we actually do?
One of the most important qualities in a leader is a genuine belief in a vision, and having hope that they can make the world a better place. Effective leaders also empower others to come along to make the vision happen. Good leadership means surrounding yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. We need to work together across sectors to make lasting changes in our community to impact education in a positive way.
Change work is difficult and messy. The problems facing our community are extremely complex. The racial achievement gap isn’t just about individual schools and testing. It’s a reflection of decades of oppression in our country, historical trauma, rapidly changing local demographics, and unequal economic systems. Schools aren’t cutting programs because they want to, but when faced with fragmented revenue sources, competing unfunded federal mandates, decades of inconsistent educational policy, and the economic fallout of a national recession, they are forced to make difficult decisions.
We need to be hopeful and strong right now, and use our voices, positions, and power to make the greatest impact for children, youth, and families. We can be a part of a movement of leaders, in the both the education and business worlds, seeking to eliminate disparities. Our community can be a major force for justice-oriented educational reform, and help create a world where children, youth, and families are respected and cared for.
I am hopeful that this vision is possible in our world in my lifetime, and I am excited to see where we go next.