What can you change?

If not now, whenI have worked in large urban public schools for over 15 years and my kids have gone through public elementary, middle, and high schools in suburbs. I have two front-row seats to witness How Schools Really Work: Extreme Edition.

If a school is running “properly,” consistent funding relies on state and federal grants. Students in these well-funded schools often suffer from over-testing. On the other extreme, if the school is underfunded and dysfunctional, the kids just don’t get an education.

I’m left with this question:

If education is supposed to be a public good, how are we doing it so badly?

In everything that I do as a parent, positive psychologist in private practice, school psychologist, writer, designer, and entrepreneur, I wholeheartedly agree with my dear friend Nate Turner’s argument that we all need to be advocates for all children. Advocacy for some people will lead them to donate to the annual Labor Day telethon. Others may volunteer their time as a Big Brother/Big Sister. I can’t help but look at the larger picture.

There are so many ways that our society is anti-child. We have failed to achieve a student-centered education. Families suffer from economic policies that place kids at risk and can pull parents away during kids’ formative years. We also fail to train or support their parents. Why are we so shortsighted?

Joke: Remember to be kind to your kids because, when they grow up, they’re the ones who will have the power to put you in the home.

Biologically, raising our kids to be better parents can ensure that our genetic lines will go further. There are lots of reasons to do a better job of taking care of our investment in our future leaders (our kids). Since our average lifespan is getting longer and longer, we are going to have a front row seat to watch what happens when we are no longer running the show. Personally, I would choose to watch a better world unfold.

When I look at the bigger picture, our home life and the education industry are the two systems that hold the greatest leverage to prepare our kids to lead in the future. The question is, “where do I start?” Creating change in the world of parenting or schools is a daunting task.

Joke: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.

I begin my advocacy for kids with a huge amount of empathy for the challenges that parents and educators face. These are the two most important people in a child’s life and they are usually trying to do their best. At the same time, both teachers and parents suffer under extreme pressure and unnecessary stress. In everything I do, I try to infuse some humanity, positivity, and levity in the lives of parents and educators. I seek to show them the power that they have to change these systems that can help kids.

On the other hand, I don’t like wasting my time. I have no interest in spending my energy creating a raindrop of difference for an ocean of a problem. Making an impact on parenting or education brings you face-to-face with a self-sustaining system. Knowing how systems work, I seek a leverage point that I can use to multiply my efforts like:

  • help someone solve a problem in their life
  • give a child hope
  • infuse laughter into a family’s culture
  • give a parent or a teacher a break

I made a list of some of my efforts so far. I am publishing these initiatives because I want to join forces with like-minded, dedicated, agents of change. If that describes you, pick one of my initiatives and run with it. Reach out to me, add your input to a Google doc, or just comment on this post. If you are (or are about to start) making your own ruckus, I would love to help you out in any way that I can. Contact me here.

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