The recently released movie Waiting for Superman has generated lots of attention from both proponents and opponents of public education. I hope it will help us focus our efforts—not on assigning blame—but on building an education system where every young person has access to a high quality educational experiences which help each student reach his/her potential. After all, isn’t that the aim of the movie’s producers?
No, we cannot wait for Superman, as Geoffrey Canada’s mother tells him in the movie, because Superman doesn’t exist. Who does exist, and who needs to exist for every child, is a super-hero who will always be there to remove barriers, open doors, and provide the support and encouragement every growing and developing young person needs. First and foremost, that superhero is a child’s parent or parents, the person(s) who bears the primary responsibility for the well being of a child.
But what we sometimes forget is that even the fictional Superman had to learn how to use his super powers over time. Just because he was more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, and could leap tall buildings in a single bound, Superman had to figure out how to harness his tremendous abilities in ways that allowed him to do good for those in distress. Only then was he able to stand proudly for truth, justice, and the American Way!
I believe that the greatest majority of parents WANT to be good parents and do the best possible jobs helping their children achieve success. Unfortunately, some parents have not learned how to use their powers to help their children; many of them aren’t even aware they have powers because nobody ever helped them discover them. They don’t realize they can be advocates; that they and their children have choices; that there are ways through barriers to their student’s success.
As an orphan from the planet Krypton, Superman had to figure it out on his own but there is no reason that struggling parents should have to go without assistance. We youth service provider have to become parent supporters as well as youth supporters. We are in a great position to help parents discover and harness their unknown powers to help their children achieve academic and life success. Building their confidence as parents, showing them how to speak out effectively, and informing them of options are all concrete ways we can help them to discover the power that they have. When a parent is empowered to become an advocate for their own child’s educational needs, a child has a super-hero in his/her corner who is always going to be there. They won’t have to wait any longer.