Today marks two years to the day my take-no-prisoners mother, “The Lion” of my family, closed her eyes and passed into eternity.
So, as I ponder The Lion’s legacy in the community in which we lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ernestine Clarinda Black Robinson, if living, would have a great deal to say about a public school I visited two weeks ago in Waterloo.
The Lion was a keen observer regarding complex socio-economic issues, and her focus was primarily on the public education system. The Lion realized as a maid the only viable upward mobility platform for her family was the New York City Public School system. One has only to look at my family professional history, which proves The Lion was right in her assessment for her children’s educational development.
Which brings me to my assessment of the public school I visited three times in one week.
I am not going to name the school because the administrators, teachers and support staff are doing their dead-level best to make a positive difference in the lives of the children. It is clear they are in it to win it on behalf of each child. It is my honor to tell the entire school staff: Outstanding job, well done.
The Lion would often say, “John, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” She was not negatively reflecting upon the human spirit to rise above a dysfunctional family environment and circumstances to achieve in life. What she meant was those children will have a harder uphill educational development process if their parents are not invested in their educational development.
It was clear there was a lack of parental investment in what I deem to be their most valued asset — their children. Obviously not all parents, but more than enough to be troubling.
Although poverty is real, this social condition must not be looked upon as a state of mind that is embedded in any human DNA. The good news is a child can overcome this existence by effectively utilizing this nation’s common denominator, which is our public education system.
What I observed in my short time at the school was clearly a lack of parental investment, such as children arriving to school at 10:15 a.m.; children wearing dirty clothes; children not in the school uniform; little to no communication with parents.
Please know I cannot provide a rational reason for the parent-teacher organization meetings at this school to have on average two to three parents who attend.
My consternation regarding the operation of this school is the lack of parental investment. While speaking with a teacher concerning a little boy’s behavior in her classroom, her comment was profound and thought-provoking. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “this process must be a team effort.”
John Berry, Ph.D., is executive director of Tri-County Child & Family Development Council.