By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association
“If you build it, he will come,” whispered a mysterious voice in one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.” By the end of the movie, a corn field in the middle of Iowa was transformed into a magical baseball diamond, where a father and son were reunited, and their relationship was mended through a game of catch.
I have no plans to build a baseball field anywhere in Northwest Ohio. However I, along with fellow education advocates in the area, did construct something last week that was like our field of dreams. We set up a screening of the documentary “Rise Above the Mark,” set in Indiana, which chronicles the problems we’re dealing with in public education; over-testing, underfunding and unaccountable charter schools.
We created handouts, telling people how they could get involved. We promoted the event through social media and by working with other local organizations. We set up a panel consisting of two locally elected school board members and an education expert.
We built it, and they came.
They, parents, teachers and community members, came despite frigid temperatures. They came from Toledo, and Sylvania and at least five other school districts in Northwest Ohio. Close to 100 people came to engage in an evening focused on public education.
The audience of close to 100 saw a powerful movie. Some of my friends cried, watching a teacher explain that she’s retiring because the joy of teaching is gone, then later, seeing a father choke up as he tells how important his son’s principal was in his child’s growth.
It was clear, by the attendees’ reactions following the hour-long film, that the documentary struck a chord with them.
Audience members posed questions about how to deal with over-testing, explaining that they didn’t want their kids subjected to hours and hours of PARCC-based questions, wondering if opting their children out of the tests was the best option. Teachers added testimonials to confirm the stories shared in the film. People left agitated, wanting to write to their state elected officials, wanting to know what they could do to help the cause and stand up for public education.
There is no definitive answer. There is no quick fix. However, there is hope, because people from different political backgrounds and different ties to public education came together last week; all of them realizing the importance of a strong public education system. School board members, one Democrat, one Republican, sat next to each other, conveying the same sentiments about the issues facing our schools; both supporting the efforts of educators.
From the success of last week’s event, I know that we must keep building “it;” programs, where all supporters of public education can get together and learn about the issues facing our schools. We must build people’s understanding about the harmful effects of testing by telling stories about children who cry during tests, or about our own children, who can’t sleep the night before a PARRC test, worrying what a sub-par score will mean for themselves and their teachers. We must build an engaged audience within our communities, talking in person or using social media.
If we build all these things, people will come, and they will stand with us, in support of public education.
Our miracle won’t be ghosts emerging from rows of corn. It will be quality public schools for all Ohio’s children.