changing the world one dad at a time

Rise Up for Teachers & Education in Post-Obama America

Like many Americans who were disappointed with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, we’ve spent the past few months trying to figure out how best to respond.

One thing we knew early on and with the full conviction of our progressive hearts: We would not contribute to the normalization of an administration built on a foundation of xenophobia, bigotry, racism, misogyny, the proliferation of ignorance and the glorification of deceit.

We also would not quietly acquiesce to what even the Oxford Dictionary officially sanctioned as a “post-truth” world. No. We reject that.

Facts matter. The truth is worth seeking.

Yet, protest with a keyboard and no corresponding action is nothing more than digital hot air – but hot air applied with resolve and intelligence can make a cause soar. We can tweet and post on Facebook all day, every day – and we will.

It remains to be seen how effective social media activism can be in an era punctuated daily by the demented 140-character rants of the Twitter Troll in Chief.

Even as we shout our truth from the digital mountaintop, we need to do something to help the most vulnerable among us in post-Obama America. The thing is, there always seems to be so much that needs to be done, so many people who are afraid of what the future might bring.

Why do we need to do something? Because the luxury to sit back and watch life unfold has long since been swept away.

We’re parents. We want a better world for our kids. But this world suddenly has shifted, and the future we thought to meet with such optimism and grace now seems opaque, shrouded by the twin cataracts of ignorance and hate.

Even as we muddle through and our optimism wobbles, we must meet the uncertain future with grace.

How, then, can we use our collective voice to enhance and expand the Dads 4 Change mission to “encourage empathy and action with strength and grace, to be the change, and to walk the path toward what we will become”?

Education is our path to salvation. This is the fight we choose.

It starts now.

The Extra Yard

On Saturday, Jan. 7, Dads 4 Change will attend the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit at the Tampa Convention Center. The event celebrates educators and is affiliated with the College Football Playoff, which holds its championship game in Tampa between Clemson and Alabama on Monday.

As part of the invitation, we were asked to nominate six local teachers to come and see what it’s all about. The stage presentation features accomplished educators and advocates who will be there to honor, celebrate and empower teachers. It promises to uplift and inspire, something we all could use right now.

Our six invited teachers, and every one of the hundreds of others who will attend the Summit, are about to embark on one of the most unsettling eras in the history of American public education.

We want to help them.

As parents, we are dedicated to participating in the education of our children, and we encourage every parent to get involved as much as possible at home and in the classroom. Studies have shown that parental engagement contributes to better grades, better knowledge retention and a higher high school completion rate.

Even after eight years of relatively healthy advancement during the Obama Administration, teachers remain under-appreciated in this country. There is still so much work to be done to strengthen our public education system, and that work could be even more daunting with Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education – billionaire school-choice and voucher champion Betsy DeVos – running things in Washington.

What can we do? How can we, as parents, help our kids’ teachers do their jobs?

We must make it a priority. What’s more important than preparing our kids for their future?

That means we must commit two precious commodities to the fight: time and money.

Action Items

On average, teachers lay out $500 of their own money for school supplies each year. Here’s one big action item that can go a long way toward making a teacher’s life just a little easier: Ask him or her at the beginning of the school year what sort of supplies they need, then go out and buy them a month’s worth – or as much as you can comfortably afford.

A gift card to Target or Wal-Mart helps, too, and gives the teacher the flexibility to purchase needed supplies on the fly.

Sometimes, a teacher’s vision for education excellence reaches far beyond the school district’s budget. A super-creative project or field trip might cost more than the school is willing or able to pay.

That’s where Donors Choose can help. This philanthropic website, founded in 2000 by a New York history teacher, allows teachers to ask for donations to make specific projects happen.

The best part of Donors Choose is that it is searchable by topic, school and teacher. You will almost certainly find a teacher near you who can benefit from your generosity, and most projects require a relatively modest amount of money.

Nearly 2.5 million people have donated a total of more than $500 million to fund education projects through Donors Choose.

You also can pay the small fee to join your school’s PTA or PTO, and while you’re at it, volunteer to lead a committee or hold an office.

Which brings us to the other commodity, the most precious of all: time. Here are just a few ways you can contribute your time to help teachers know they aren’t in this alone:

  • Offer to read to your kid’s class.
  • Volunteer to chaperon a field trip.
  • Regularly communicate via phone (texts), email or notes with your kid’s teachers.
  • Double-check your kid’s homework.
  • Show up for special school events, like award ceremonies, athletic competitions and recitals.
  • Work on behalf of political candidates who support teachers’ rights and expanded education budgets.
  • Pay attention to school board agendas and know the names of school board members.
  • Keep an eye on developments in Washington under the new Secretary of Education, who has shown little, if any, sympathetic inclination toward public schools.

Dedicating ourselves to education in the coming years doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that the new federal regime threatens to derail the promise of a better future in so many other undesirable ways. We will always support people and organizations that celebrate our shared humanity and operate on the basis of compassion, kindness and empathy.

We believe now, though, that it’s incumbent on every parent to shoulder his or her share of the educational lift. We ask that you reject the concept of “post-truth,” that you embrace the importance of learning, that you do all you can to shift our world back off this perilous course.

Let’s teach our kids to think, to recognize facts as facts, to reconcile rigid science with the fleeting passion of human nature. If we teach them to think, really think, they’ll know how to distinguish right from wrong – and we have faith that they’ll choose the better path.


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