Sometimes, parents can be compartmentalized.
Recently, my second-grader brought home a drawing he had made of our family. In the picture, he was building with Legos, his brother was playing baseball, and Dad was working on the computer. And Mom? I was standing over the stove making dinner.
Now, I’m glad my kids like my cooking, but the feminist inside me protested, “I’m so much more than that!” Fortunately I remembered that he was only seven, after all, and that it’s probably quite acceptable for a young child to think of his mother primarily as a food source when still so dependent.
But the incident made me realize how parents are sometimes viewed by those who know us only through our children. And that lens can be quite limiting. When I visit my children’s school, for example, I want to be taken seriously by teachers and administrators. I want to be seen, not just as “mom” (as important as that role is), but as a stakeholder in my children’s education and a critical member of the school community.
Parents can do more than make copies in the office, accompany classes on field trips, and sponsor PTA bake sales. That’s not to say these tasks aren’t valuable to the school and its students, only that we can be so much more! Parents are vested individuals with talents and a unique perspective. We can tutor students, speak to classes, and advise on technology. We can reach out to other parents and be their voice. We can also help make decisions that impact our kids and our community!
All of which is why my involvement with the Parent Ambassador team in Cleveland Heights-University Heights is so refreshing. This team – whose meetings I facilitate with my colleague – is an amazing group of individuals. Moreover, the district knows it and is utilizing them!
Now in its third year, the Parent Ambassador team includes representatives from all district elementary and middle schools. It includes parents who are relatively new to the district, as well as members who are alumni of CH-UH themselves. Many ambassadors hold jobs outside of their parental responsibilities, while others are full-time caretakers. Regardless, each is a valued member of the team and each is dedicated to serving as a resource, not just for the district, but also for other parents.
District administrators have met with the ambassadors to share information and gather feedback. The parents, in turn, share their perspective – and that of their fellow parents – on decisions and policies with the district. It is a mutually respectful relationship that benefits all stakeholders of the CH-UH community.
These parents cannot be compartmentalized. They cannot be defined with terms such as “helicopter parent” or “Room Mom”. They are more than the tree from which their child fell. They are vibrant members of the school, and they have gifts to offer.