By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers)
Our successes as a city are always greater when more of us are fully engaged. Whether planning how our city squares and neighborhoods will look for the next 20 years, battling childhood obesity, or any other number of goals that we set for ourselves, we get our best results when the community gets involved. This goes for education, too.
Any teacher will tell you that the best education is not passive learning by rote or simple note-taking—although memorization and paying attention are important tools—but active, engaging learning. When kids can ask questions, experiment with lab kits and fully explore the topic before them, it’s easier to learn and retain. Being active and engaging in education doesn’t apply to just students, though. It goes for parents too. And as we’ve learned, when it comes to reaching the high goals and standards we set for ourselves: It takes a ‘Ville.
We’re investing in active, engaging education. This year’s school budget is an almost 7 percent increase over last year’s, providing more students than ever before with opportunities to have hands-on experiences with cutting-edge science and technology, to take music classes and participate in intramural sports. Our investment emphasizes Somerville’s commitment to educating the whole child, engaging the community in a students’ education and ensuring that every student is exposed to the same rich curriculum.
As part of that, we’re investing in getting parents and families involved with our schools. Somerville Public Schools partner with the Somerville Recreation Department to offer before- and after-school opportunities for students and outreach coordinators who meet with at-risk students and families, drawing students into recreation programs and providing mentorship. Collaborative outreach and programs with the Somerville Public Library ensure students have the opportunity to use resources, participate in targeted Library activities, and take advantage of additional support during non-school hours.
But we cannot do it alone. This is a two-way street, and creating the vibrant and intensive education we all want for our kids requires the same kind of broad-based civic engagement and partnership that we strive for in every area of Somerville life.
My wife and I know the challenge that parents face. As the parents of four young boys, we have the opportunity and fully embrace the challenge of staying involved in their education. But it’s not always easy. You have a job that requires your attention that keeps a roof over your head and food on your kids’ plates. There’s every time your cell phone vibrates, each time a chime tells you have email, all the things that demand our attention. And after a long day at work, sometimes it’s the understandable desire to simply do nothing and relax for 15 minutes.
So it’s not always easy, but we want to make it easy for every parent and guardian to stay involved in their children’s education. We invite you into our schools. Whether a classroom helper, a mentor, an after-school tutor, an event organizer, or any one of the many ways you can volunteer, I guarantee you it’s the best investment you can make. Research is clear that when parents become involved with their kids’ education, those kids earn higher grades and test scores. They’re more likely to enroll in more advanced classes and push themselves academically, going on to graduate and postsecondary education. They have better attendance, social skills and behavior.
All those benefits aside, the greatest benefit is being a part of your kids’ lives. When we’re wrapped up in all the things that can pull our attention away from our families, being involved in our kids’ education—which is really our kids’ full-time job—only brings families closer together. And not only will your children benefit, but you will too. You’ll gain a better understanding of your children’s day-to-day life, be able to communicate with them better, and sometimes the couple of hours you spend each week volunteering in the classroom or simply helping your children with their homework can even provide you with a respite from your own daily grind.
If you haven’t volunteered before, there are tons of options—just ask your child’s teacher or principal where they could use help. You might also have to try on a couple of opportunities before you find the right fit. Don’t be discouraged if you volunteer for a specific role in your children’s school and find it’s not right for you. There’s a place and a space for everyone in the Somerville Public Schools, both students and parents and guardians alike.
Education needs to be the bedrock of our community, because every aspect of Somerville, from our local economy to our crime rate, is born out of how highly we value education. We show how much we value education with our investments in our students’ education, ensuring every child gets a robust and well-rounded learning experience that nurtures the whole child, equipping them with the tools to compete in a 21st century global economy. We know that our students’ parents and guardians value education too, and we invite all of you to help lay the foundation of your children’s future and our entire city’s future. Because as we’ve learned time and time again, it takes a ‘Ville.