Children need learning cultures at home

Parent Summit seeks answers to educational dysfunction

Dr. Shakeer Abdullah
Dr. Shakeer Abdullah

As well as promoting academic excellence, parents should be educators of their children rather than solely depending on public education in this regard. This was the overall theme of the January 30 Minnesota Parent Summit at the Capri Theatre.

Nearly 70 persons attended the half-day event, stated Mark Robinson, one of the organizers. “We wanted this to be an open forum and an open space and be a part of a beginning dialogue” on advancing educational equity and excellence, he pointed out.

Keynote speakers were Sharaud Moore, a Long Beach, California teacher and one of the original Freedom Writers made famous by the movie of the same name; and University of Minnesota Assistant Vice President for Equity and Diversity Dr. Shakeer Abdullah. Both stressed the importance of parental involvement in their children’s education.

“Parenting is a lifetime commitment. Parents are the first line of defense,” said Moore. He briefly talked about his “four B’s” — be present in the schools, be active in school events, be assertive in your children’s educational needs, and be your children’s cheerleader.

“I am just a teacher,” continued Moore, who has taught in the Long Beach, California school system for 15 years. He said the current educational system is “preparing your kids for failure.”

It’s important that parents reinforce what is being taught in school, and [they] sometimes need to go beyond that, said Abdullah. “We have to help our children understand what things mean as best we can,” he pointed out, adding that his parents, in addition to stressing the importance of education, established “a reading culture” at home. He is one of 20 siblings.

“Your children should see you reading,” said Abdullah. He offered “five keys” — encourage curiosity, expose kids to the world, be honest with your kids, understand that teachers are human, and understand that cultural education starts at home.

Teachers “all have this kind of knowledge, but nobody knows our children better than we do,” Abdullah pointed out. “We are experts on our sons and daughters.”

Both Abdullah and Moore talked to the MSR after their scheduled remarks. The U of M assistant vice president said he wanted to avoid speaking on systems and would rather give the audience a few things that they could easily take away.

Moore said he is aware of the problems in Minneapolis schools with educating Black children and the district’s current superintendent search. “I want them to understand that though you may be helpless in this situation, you should not be hopeless,” he noted.

“You have to constantly be [up in] arms for your children. Don’t look for support from somebody who’s not here or somebody you are in a fight with. Own the responsibility of educating your child. Love the opportunity of educating your child. Teach your children to love education because that’s the only way they can be successful.”

“I work in the same district that my daughter goes to, and she goes to one of the most affluent schools in the district,” admitted Moore. “I tell [her teachers] that I need constant contact with them — give me a call, email me, text me — it’s not hard. I teach my parents how to communicate effectively, and I do a lot of intercessions for them.”

Former Minneapolis Public Schools principal Robin Francis moderated two parent panels at the event. She asked why students of color, and particularly Black students, are not faring well in public schools.

“I think the Minneapolis Public Schools needs to do better,” said parent Rashia Jackson.

“I don’t know what the true answer is, but I know what’s [happening] now is not working,” added another parent, Sharon Smith Jones.

Francis then asked if the schools have high academic expectations of our children. Parent Valerie Pruitt responded, “We want our kids to be successful, but it loses its luster as they get older.”

Robinson said afterwards that the event’s goal is to avoid finger-pointing, but rather to take “an internal look, [have] an authentic, honest dialogue about what our aspirations are, our inspirations are, our triumphs are, and what our challenges are.”

“These dialogues need to be more commonplace,” said Moore. “We need to get more advocates into the school systems so that parents can have a liaison they can go to that has a genuine interest in the kids.”


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