Monday, March 16, 2009

Time Bank, PTA, Family Leadership & Me. Part 1

The hook: Journalist Juan Pablo Tapia's twitter post: Time Bank in Chile begins:

“When we received the letter with the sample copy of the textbook Society for Fifth Grade from Santillana and we saw that in our hands was the proof that the Time Bank project for Chile had a future which we couldn't yet measure, we were truly moved as a team." (my translation)

This wonderful announcement reminded me of some experiences and connections that relate to my education advocacy and the dilemmas I face in building partnerships to further the action.

Keeping the faith & the focus I've been an activist in education for over 40 years. I didn’t start out as that: I was a naïve, peppy high school English teacher who was amazed at the acceptance and wonderful connections I was making with students and families. Isolated and socially disconnected in college and previously even more alone in high school, I was basking in the Del Rio, Texas San Felipe community. Over my first four years as a public school teacher & faithful evening Catholic Church bible teacher I began to experience the inequities of schools for poor children and the intransigence of the church in addressing social needs. I acted on my righteous indignation but I was mostly angry at how blind and naive I had been.

Along the education activist way, I’ve met and connected with many social events and projects that merit support and whose fundamental principles I value. I’ve had to learn, the hard way, that keeping a clear direction and focus is very important: many a good group/organization has lost its way through dispersal (being all things to all people). In my 33+ years with IDRA I’ve learned tough lessons about advocacy & staying on track. Our founder, Dr. Jose Cardenas, regularly guided us with some pithy lessons i.e., Never Promote a Promoter. Part of our history has been as much the fending off projects that would distract us from the public school advocacy at our core as reaching out and collaborating with efforts which have something in common. I'm regularly reminded by my boss, IDRA President & CEO Dr. Maria Robledo Montecel, about straying from our path to other clearly virtuous but different directions. Our yellow brick road goes directly to the excellent neighborhood public schools that work for all children.

Possible Partners
I’m going to highlight (in two posts) two examples of worthy movements that might eventually be a partnership for the specific goals of IDRA: Time Bank and PTA.

Time Bank In the spirit of learning about & giving assistance to a possible partner I connected with Edgar Cahn and a movement then titled Time Dollar Time Bank . Edgar is a brilliant man with a marvelous, intelligent and courageous history in social justice efforts, from founding such programs as federally funded Legal Aid, to helping students in Washington D.C. become legal advocates and mediators. I met him several years ago through a mutual friend who was helping Time Dollar firm up a national training program, now wisely renamed Time Bank. I offered my pro-bono services with the reciprocity expectation to apply the concept to parent leadership in education. I invited them to come to Texas and facilitated some planning and also invited selected key Time Bank trainers to participate in the WOW Workshop on Workshops bilingual training of trainers that I developed and provide to emerging parent leaders and school family liaisons. Eventually Edgar invited me to the annual Time Bank conference in Canada. I really appreciate the gift and the honor from a sister non-profit group with budget challenges, but was not able to move any single local project in the direction of directly championing and nurturing parent leadership in education: two good ideas whose real partnership time has not yet come.
As befits any valuable effort, Time Bank proponents spent most of their communication time with me attempting to
1) Convince me in the power & efficacy of their project (unnecessary because I quickly saw the depth & breadth of a movement that validated the rich resources present within the most economically disadvantaged of communities and also set up a practical means of organizing, documenting and managing the reciprocity of services).

Time Banks Weave Community One Hour at a Time -- For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to pend on having someone do something for you. It's that simple. Yet it also has profound effects. Time Banks change neighborhoods and whole communities. Time Banking is a social change movement in 22 countries and six continents

2) Recruit me to their effort. That would happen just after Edgar Cahn was convinced to move to San Antonio, join IDRA’s education advocacy effort, and lead our effort to create a public will to support equitable, excellent and fully funded public education. :)~ I’m focused on, committed to and live for creating schools that work for all children. My and my organization’s coattails are no longer than those of any other effort with focus, integrity and elegance of action. Many, many important, necessary and laudable efforts exist to meet the many critical social needs of our society. Effective movements make choices: we make transparent, tactical and strategic connections, but only where the VENN diagrams of our goals, objectives and activities overlap. None of us have survived and had critical impact by taking on other’s broader or distant goals.

My hope/expectation was to pilot a Time Bank project within an existing community organization with Parent Leadership in Education as it’s strongest if not singular direction. My dream has yet to materialize. Sad fact: I would be hard pressed to find in any TB literature specific mention of, or support for IDRA and our work: why would they even think of giving reciprocal ink -- even for this free plug in my blog!

I will persist in support of parent leadership in education because they are the inherently prime defenders of their children’s education --directly supporting excellent neighborhood public schools. I will support the organizations and the tools that will promote & maintain Parent Leadership in Education.

Bottom line for Time Bank and IDRA: We are neither mutually overdrawn nor bankrupt but friends with balanced accounts, investing -- at a distance.

Next Blog: PTA & Time Bank connection for Parent Leadership? Maybe

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