Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Serving Children Well?

What does it mean to serve children well?

In your work as parent, educator, politician, community leader, business person, and neighbor, what do you do each day to serve children well? How can you strengthen your commitment and care for children: the foundation and future of our country?

Serving children well calls forth the best of us.  When we ignore the needs of children, we weaken our communities and hinder happiness--happiness for children and happiness for all who surround those children.

So what is it that children need, and how can we serve them well. I offer the following suggestions.
  • Children need loving, safe and nurturing homes.  Loving, safe and nurturing homes are places where family members have the time and basic needs to care for children well.  These are homes that are warm, mostly predictable, happy places where children have the time and place to play, ask questions, eat nutritious meals, read and be read to, learn about life and rest peacefully each night.  
  • Children need safe, welcoming, engaging learning experiences. Whether home schooled, public schooled or privately schooled, students' learning communities should first leave them with a sense that they matter, and that they belong.  Next schools should be places of inspiration and growth where students learn about who they are and what they're curious about. Also learning communities should be places where students learn the essential skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking so that they can grow to be engaged, active citizens in their own communities and families. 
  • Children need those in the larger community to care. They need those who are wealthy to use their wealth, in part, to build and preserve parks, bike paths, pools, playgrounds, libraries, schools, museums, theaters and other places of knowledge, culture, health and exploration to engage the community in positive, forward endeavor and growth.  Beautiful natural and human-made places inspire.
  • Children deserve respect, and in every endeavor individuals should question their efforts and investment with the "eyes of children."  For example, the many who spend their time profiting and supporting gun laws that put dangerous guns into the hands of ordinary citizens, should think, "Are my efforts in this debate serving children well?"  Similarly those that profit from unhealthy foods, environmentally dangerous products and processes, and life-draining publications and events should reconsider the ways they use their talents, money, voice and time with the lens of what's best for families and children.  For many, profit trumps quality and care, and that is a problem for our children.
Are we serving children well in our country?  How can we better use our collective and individual resources of time, energy, voice and dollars to build a country that truly respects and cares for children?  Personally, I will be looking at the way I perform my craft and the choices I make each day so that my work as an educator and parent as well as my advocacy for optimal schools continues to grow in the direction of student-centered care and work.  I will also make my judgements with respect to dollars spent and voting with the question, "Is this a company or individual who makes choices that support children."

Children call us to be our best selves. As parents, educators, neighbors and leaders, we can all probably point to efforts and moments where we are challenged in this regard. Yet we know that when we respond to children with kindness, care and commitment we will not only serve children well, but we will serve ourselves and our communities well too. That's a commitment worth the time, dollars and focus.

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