On Saturday my school community gathered in a nearby church to honor the memory of one of our most amazing co-workers. For years she was our parent-liaison, and I cannot begin to put into words all of the wonderful things she did for our community. She bridged the gap between parents and teachers- taking the time to teach us about one another, help us as teachers to understand where the parents of our students are coming from, and helping the parents of our students understand how American school systems work.
She made it possible for us to teach- through her we could understand how to approach parents, they understood us, and we were able to reach the children. She knew what was happening in our families' lives, she kept us updated on their ups and downs, helped our families find housing when they lost their own, helped them set up schedules for their children's bedtime routines, helped them find English classes, parenting classes, and helped them navigate life in America.
One of my favorite memories of her was listening to her tell parents of 5th grade students how to protect their children from gangs. "Start kissing them on the lips every night!" she declared, laughing in light hearted way only she could do when discussing such a weighty subject. "That way you will smell alcohol on their breath, and they will know you love them, all in one."
I can't begin to write about everything she meant for our community, what an amazing person she was. I can't begin to capture her in words, so I am not going to try.
At her memorial service I found myself thinking- she is the answer to education. It is people like her- not policies, not tests, assessments, accountability, scores published in the paper, debates over curriculum- it is people like her that will save our children, no matter what else is falling down around us. Her dedication to our children did not depend on our SOL scores, whether or not we made AYP, whether or not we were using best practices (obviously we were, but this is not the point). She was there for us, and for our children. She dedicated herself to them, making their lives easier so they could learn to read, write, and prepare to be good citizens. No policy could dictate how she interacted with our families, no politician needed to pass a law to put her in place.
It is people like her, with her love, dedication, and commitment to our children that teach each child to read. We need more of her, whether as parent liaisons, as teachers, as administrators, counselors, or volunteers. Everyone else, all the other noises about what is going on in the field, will mean nothing if we don't have people like this.