Be warned: this is my soapbox. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I am heartily sick of the “Temple ISD needs better communication.” “Temple ISD needs to do more to get the word out about their successes.” For the record, I was Communication Director for almost six years. The two that have followed me can probably tell many of the same stories; even in their short tenures. They are ONE person. They can (and DO) work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; forsaking time with family and friends, their health, enough rest, their own personal opinion and much of their privacy to get out the “good word.” They take hundreds of pictures, post hundreds of Facebook posts and tweets, maintain a website, send school messenger messages, hustle to get articles above the fold in the newspaper and on, and on, and on, and on. The cycle of work NEVER ENDS. And still, people complain. I have more than a dozen awards that prove Temple ISD is doing Communication RIGHT.
The ONLY way the “perception” about Temple ISD will EVER change is when parents and staff in the district who are part of the success (even the baby steps) stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” When parents, students and staff say, “I don’t know what Temple ISD you’re talking about – that’s not what I live and see every. single. day. At the end of the day, people who like to bash Temple are bashing 8500 CHILDREN. That is my daughter. 1300 employees working every single day for children. That is my husband and I’m SICK of it.
Temple ISD is an EXCELLENT school district. Is it perfect? Is anything? You show me a perfect school district and I’ll show you a perfect church. It doesn’t exist. Yes, there are all the problems of public education; balancing the needs of so many children with radically different instructional, emotional and physical needs, but there are also miracles (big and small) happening in every classroom – in every hallway – in every school in the district. Yes, there are stellar teachers and there are those who need to find something else to do. (but can’t that be said for ANY business – anywhere?) But the very things that make Temple a challenging place to live, teach and learn are the very things that prepare children for what is OUT THERE. People who look different. Who talk differently. Who worship nothing. Or something else entirely.
I’m not on the payroll anymore and I never will be again. Those doors have closed and I’m ok with that. Yes, I miss the people. Yes, I miss the stories. But it is becoming abundantly clear that I can be more effective as a mom, wife and citizen, than I EVER was as spokesperson.
My mother taught hundreds of students that communication is the responsibility of the sender. I took that to heart. When I couldn’t break through the web of lies, ghosts of a past that may or may not have ever existed (aka. “The Good old days of Temple”), a time of upheaval that seemed to be never-ending, an uncertain, but optimistic, future, and the inevitable mistakes of living, breathing humans; I would change tactics. Adding more and more and more to my plate as I tried and tried to figure out the magic formula for making a difference in what seemed to be an insurmountable task.
Look, I obviously don’t know all the answers. What I do know is that there are an awful lot of people, working really hard to make a difference in the lives of children and it breaks my heart to hear that the only message that gets through is the ugly. The hard. The sad. What if we only told the stories about when our children failed? When our spouse made us angry? No stories of forgiveness. No stories of redemption. No second-chances. Just condemnation. It poisons the very air we breathe when we focus only on the bad. We must find the good stories and TELL THEM. SHOUT THEM. Never stop letting people know that, yes, I disagree with the way this is done or the way that conflict turned out, but MY GOD, she’s making straight A’s in Math and, when I take the time to do something nice for these people who are with my headstrong, uber-bright Alpha-child for 8 hours a day – along with hundreds of other children, all of the frustration from that parent-teacher conference disappears and we are reminded that we are on the same side!
So here is my story for the day:
Last night, Munchkin (now in 5th grade) was finishing up homework. One of her assignments was to write a list of historic events and she was frustrated because “social studies is just not her thing” and she didn’t really know what to do. (in the words of one of my co-workers at the office: this was a sprinkle on top of an 8-layer cake) After digging with lots of questions, I finally get that they are going to write a short story around a historic event and this is, evidently, ground-work for that story.
Then, she shows me the warm-up they did earlier in the day (I’m guessing as an intro to this assignment). “If you could go back to any point in history and talk to any historic character, who would it be…” She chose Rosa Parks (I was impressed, by the way). Well, this centered the discussion around the Civil Rights Movement. LIGHTBULB! So, we start looking up civil rights milestones and she finds a great timeline. She’s only 11 and hasn’t had that much exposure to this particular topic. Some of it is, frankly, pretty grisly, so I stay with her to talk through it. This leads to a really cool discussion about Brown v. Board of Education. What could have been a facebook rant about the lack of information she brought home in order to correctly do this assignment, or the same “kids have too much homework” rant that’s been played out hundreds of times, I had an opportunity to take a few minutes to sit at the table with her, looking up stuff on her iPad and talk to her about another time in the history of our country. At one point, she asked me, “How do you know all this stuff?” And I told her, “because I had good teachers who made me do stuff like this all the time.” Betcha Mr. Hall didn’t really plan for that in his lesson plan for the day. Good job, Mr. Hall. Good job.