I have worked in many different school systems and philosophies which have all varied according to setting, culture, curriculum and teaching methods within a very flawed education system that has long been overdue for a restructuring.
Schools of today seem to know very little about each individual child and their specific needs. Seldom do we see teachers connecting to children on a deep personal and individual level, so how is it that teachers think they know more about the child than their parents?
I have struggled with unethical codes of conduct prominent in educational settings and preschools for more than a decade. These practices do not satisfy the needs of the 21st century child, often leaving children vulnerable and feeling rejected from the class and school environment.
In 2009 after I called it quits at a school I had helped to develop, I was ready to say goodbye to my teaching career for good when a new vision was born. This vision led me to form an educational nonprofit and community center out of a small space located in an under-developed commercial building that had been vacant for more than five years. By 2010 we opened the doors to the public but once again I was faced with a new dilemma, as the local neighborhood children lacked supervision and the needed resources that would help them construct their free time in productive ways. Instead they engaged in aggressive behaviors such as vandalism and graffiti.
In an effort to do good for my community and it's most vulnerable voices, I gave of my time, energy and services freely. Many people were surprised at my effortless dedication to these kids and they questioned the effectiveness of my strategy, in providing free education to these children. During this time I contacted many local schools in the area asking for their support in collaboration projects and partnership strategies that would help strengthen the community. I received no support or indication that my ideas held any value or were if any interest to them.
For more than eight months my small team of volunteers and I engaged the community and under-served neighborhood of children. Without any help from the Novato community, we cleaned up the neighborhood and put a stop to the reoccurring graffiti and acts of vandalism that had been affecting my business. I wrote the chief of police, asking for an hour of his time to discuss my concerns and needs as a new business leader. He too declined to meet with me to discuss positive strategies and collaborative ideas that would actually contribute to safer communities.
In an attempt to restore and preserve Marin County’s watershed system and the creek near our business, we engaged the community by initiating the first Giving Garden Project. This project transformed the neglected dumpster lot into a bio-diversified haven of plants, herbs and vegetables for the community’s children and their families. The project took on a life of it’s own, touching the hearts of many children in the area who lacked such opportunities.
Schools and city elected officers need to support and enrich the “spaces” among their community, as well as the neglected neighborhoods in-between schools. Schools and city districts must work proactively to cultivate and support the continuous growth and development of new leaders at all levels. Without the support of city officials and districts, many visionary leaders with new ideas will feel undervalued and discouraged. Many young entrepreneurs such as myself lack funding and the needed resources to start and sustain a new business.
If we continue to neglect the good services and new ideas that contribute to the well-being of our environment and communities, we are contributing to the continued downfall of our social structures. Implementing new policies and progressive business practices that support the optimum growth and healthy development in all children, should be the priority in all cities across the globe. What we do unto the tree affects our roots, and what we do to the leaves affects the tree. The closer the grain, the stronger the wood. The closer the family, the stronger the bond. Strong families make-up a strong community. Without these strong connections that start from the root, the tree will not withstand the forces of nature.
A strong community requires that we care for one another as we care for the tree, roots and leaves. When we care for the children in our community, we are caring for the whole community, but above all, we enrich and secure the survival of the next seven generations. When we look the other way and assume it’s not our problem or responsibility, the problem will gradually resurface, affecting the whole of creation and the tree of life sustaining us all.