As community connector, a big part of my job is to connect with all of you - to sit down with you and to learn about your MPS stories. I’m also deeply engaged in the work of trying to understand how we can grow the Minneapolis Schools Voices community and actually, authentically engage the MSV community in this co-created reporting project that we’re all part of.
I want to provide some framing. First of all, I want to say, I deeply believe in public schools and I want to see MPS succeed in building and offering academically rigorous, equitable, community-driven schools and classrooms. As I am a journalist, you may be surprised to hear that, but I think it is important to be open with all of you - it is a lot easier for me to earn your trust if you know where I am coming from.
Second of all, I am a community-trained journalist, a trained community organizer, and a college professor. I have a PhD in Sustainability Education and I’m working on a second graduate degree, right now, focused on resilient community-building. It is needless to say, but I spend each day, and every day, thinking about how we build equitable and sustainable systems and ecosystems. And because I’m a teacher, I often think about that within the scope of a classroom setting.
So, as I have gotten settled into this job, I have often thought of myself as a student and all of you as the teachers. As community connector my job is to learn from all of you and to synthesize that information to share back out.
In the last three weeks I have sat down with nine parents for tea, and one parent for breakfast. Several of the parents spoke English fluently or as a first language, two of the parents spoke Somali as a first language, and one of the parents spoke Spanish primarily.
We’re going to share some of the feedback and lessons learned from these meetings, but please know that methodologically, these perceptions are just mine and what I am learning might change as I take in more information from all of you. For now, however, here’s what I am hearing so far.
- People define what they want out of MPS differently, and they’re using different words to often describe the same things. Some parents (primarily white parents) are calling what they want “equity,” and other parents (primarily POC) are calling it academic rigor. From conversations, it seems to me that what folks are all saying is they want an MPS that meets the needs of the entire MPS community and that pushing for and expecting academic rigor is in fact part of how we’re unofficially defining equity as a community.
- People don’t want to be talked down to by MPS or anyone else. But they also want MPS to speak with them directly and accessibly. There was a consistent concern that MPS seems to be speaking over people’s heads and they want to see MPS adopt a more community-friendly vernacular.
- Storytelling is key. So much of the “news” being spread about MPS happens through community storytelling, literally spread by people talking to people at coffee shops, over their fences, at local community centers. That’s nearly, in my opinion, an impenetrable space to enter, unless you have deep, deep community ties and even then every community does storytelling in their own ways. But folks always wanted us to know that so much of their MPS conversations happens amongst parent peers in their day-to-day life. That’s important for all of us to understand, in my mind.
Moving forward, you can expect one of these community connector updates once or twice a month. There is so much to learn and so much to share, and I am hoping this information helps us understand MPS better, the conversations we’re all having and hearing about MPS, and the work that needs to be done moving forward.
And, just a reminder, I am always available to meet with folks for a meal or non-alcoholic beverage (*on me*). If you want to get together, reach out to my email - email@example.com - and we’ll get something on the books.