My Children Are Not “Failing,” And Neither Are Their Teachers

I am Oudomsack Panchit, a parent of three children, 15, 13, and 7 years old. All of my children attend or have attended a school that was labeled as “failing.”

It’s a terrible label, because what I see when I’m at Oak Hill Elementary School are dedicated teachers trying to help disadvantaged students learn. I don’t think we’re “failing.” I think we’re doing the best we can with the little we’ve got.

Oak Hill, located in High Point, North Carolina has faced its fair share of challenges. The economic downturn hit us hard with the budget cuts and we are a very diverse community.  But with some federal grant money, community partners and a plan to transform the school, students are achieving at a higher levels, teachers are working more closely together and more parents are showing up to help.

The problem was never a teacher who didn’t care or students who didn’t want to learn. The problem is the poverty in the community. Maybe our children don’t perform as well on standardized tests as students in wealthier districts, but that because our students don’t always have a full stomach, the glasses they need to see, or private tutors to help them when they are struggling.

So it hurts to hear your child’s school has been labeled as “failing” when you know by most measures, it’s not.

But to change that perception, we – parents, families, educators, and administrators – work together. We are all partners with the same goal: helping our students succeed.

The staff at Oak Hill is reaching out to families in new ways, like hosting a Festival of Cultures, Parents Focus Group, All Pro Dad, Imoms, Families Literacy Night, and Canvas In the Neighborhood. We also provide an after school club program for our students. This is to engages us, parents, as active partners with the school.  Together we’re helping our children as well as helping our community grow.

There’s a lot of chatter out there about the upcoming movie “Won’t Back Down.” In the movie, the parent of a student at a “failing” school partners with a teacher to gain control and transform the school, a story based on the Hollywood depiction of parent trigger laws.

What’s funny is that you shouldn’t need a parent trigger law to transform a school.  Reform doesn’t need to involve drawn out battles at school board meetings and capital buildings. All you need for true education reform is collaboration amongst everyone who has a stake in the community a school serves.

I don’t see apathetic teachers at my child’s school. I see professionals and experts who will stay after school for as long as it takes to help their student’s succeed. I don’t have issues with my child’s teachers ignoring me. That’s because we all see the need to be partners rather than adversaries.

Because of that, Oak Hill students’ test scores have risen significantly.

Sure, it takes work and time to develop trust between schools and families, and maybe we’re just lucky to have a great group of adults at Oak Hill and outstanding community support. But there are many schools out there with a similar story.

When will a movie come out highlighting to positive affects public schools have on students?

 

Comments (11)

  1. Thank you so much for this post. Your story is not unusual. You’re right–there are great teachers and great families out there, working under some very difficult circumstances on behalf of the children they love. Unfortunately, those teachers, families, and kids are often labeled “failures” for no other reason than the circumstances they find themselves in. Hats off to you, your fellow parents, teachers and students for the great work you are doing!

  2. Thank you for writing this article!!

  3. Thank you for speaking the truth!
    I hope more parents, teachers and schools will start to speak up and show everyone that the TV news media is spreading hype they hear from politicians and business people who think they know about education and don’t.

  4. This proves the system is not broken. Media and politicians have too many convinced we are behind…behind other countries where tests determine your path from high school on. We have a history of innovation. Trying to make math and science strong points for every student is like trying to make every child an Olympic athlete. We cannot destroy the spirit and individual interests because some sudden emphasis on test scores deceives us into thinking every child has problems in school and all schools are failing.

  5. Bless you, sir.
    We do the real work of educating and caring for real children, together with parents like you. You are a “gentle warrior” for your daughter and all her school mates. You show your caring for all kids with your actions. what a wonderful role model

  6. Great article! I think you should write/produce that movie you were talking about!

  7. Let’s use the internet to spread the Good news about education! It won’t cost us money and those of us who know need to get out and sing our praises for Public Education. Everything you said is so true!
    I raised four children under difficult economic conditions as a single mom after their father was killed. They all graduated from public high school and college. Talented teachers, concerned administrators and supportive parents contributed to their success.

  8. Let’s use the internet to spread the Good news about education! It won’t cost us money and those of us who know need to get out and sing our praises for Public Education. Everything you said is so true!
    I raised four children under difficult economic conditions as a single mom after their father was killed. They all graduated from public high school and college. Talented teachers, concerned administrators and supportive parents contributed to their success.

  9. It feels good to know there are parents who are willing to speak the truth. Thank you Mr. Panchit!

  10. Aloha from Kaua’i Oudomsack! I read your article in NEA Today. Kudos and blessings for the great positive article. I am an artist who taught in Ground Zero, inner city Detroit, Michigan for 20 years. My wife is the teacher who actually lived in the ‘hood and taught many high profile students who became leaders in their community. One, Maria Costa, was on Dangerous Minds, the TV series!
    If you are from the U.S. or love sports, Jalen Rose can say I am ESPN’s sportscaster of the year, and I became a philanthropist who builds schools, all in Spanish because my wife taught him and a cast of other cool students back in 1991. She had Rashida Tlaib, America’s first Muslim American state representative! But little Suzy Marie Magdalene was worried about the escalating violence, and told me there was a nice place in the Pacific where my arthritis would feel better. So we moved to Kaua’i where she now teaches 4th grade. Last year, her student, Sophia, won the Doodle for Google, art contest for Hawaii! She almost won a $30,000 scholarship, but at least she accomplished one of her dreams. She won a trip to NYC to see the Statue of Liberty! I am working on your suggestion. I am working through years of my wife’s complements on FB because all her students still thank her. One is visiting on our anniversary, George Green, manager of Black Violin. I will keep working on a screen play. Keep the faith dear brother, my friend, Sixto Rodriguez, finally got his due. His story won an Oscar. Detroiters, we have our stories. Stay positive. That was the secret for having success in Detroit. They did make a movie about another student from her school that graduated before we taught in Southwest Detroit, Dr. Ben Carson, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. Aloha and thanks for the positive article. I live with a master teacher who once earned 72K in Detroit, but survive on 45 K in Hawaii, feeling much safer:)

  11. Aloha from Kaua’i Mr.Panchit, I am writing you from my wife’s kindergarten classroom during vacation so she can organize her room for the new year. I am now writing some stories of all the years I have had to observe her in action. I used to teach at Wilson Middle School on Lane and Central in southwest Detroit. It is the heart of gangland, so I never got a chance to see her in action. I substitute teach in Kaua’i now, so it leaves me time to observe her nurturing young kindergarten minds. 100 percent of her students want to become teachers, so a new generation has started. I am researching how to put these authentic and very positive stories on e books. Your article is also what many teachers need to hear. It certainly inspired me to begin documenting the life of an inner city master teacher who is now teaching some energetic young Kaua’ians. Best wishes on your part of the world and may your children make you as proud as mine have made me. Have a wonderful new 2014. Aloha brother!

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