First and foremost, I’m a working mother of two young children. This role looms large in shaping my current perspective on education. It is interwoven with my experience growing up in low-income circumstances—as a little black girl in a small Midwestern town whose trajectory was changed via entry to a gifted program in third grade.
Heather Harding with her family. Photo by Satsun Photography.
My six-year-old son has been attending charter schools in Washington D.C. since he was two years old. I want several things in a school for him: quality instruction, a balanced and enriched curriculum, racially and socioeconomically diverse classmates, and safety. I want much the same for my three-year-old daughter, who will join her brother at school in the fall, but I have to admit that I worry a little bit more about my son given his “dreaded” status as a black boy in the US education system.
My children are solidly middle class. So they are being raised in significantly different circumstances than I was. They have both parents at home, a stable home life, and plenty of collateral trappings. I go to work most days and try to do what I can to end educational inequity. I have a fancy title. I’m not satisfied yet with the impact that I’ve made on this very big problem. I’m glad to be working on this instead of taking the original course I had planned when I read about Wendy Kopp in Newsweek 22 years ago.
My posts are likely to tackle issues in education that reflect my life experiences. I want to talk a lot about how our society has seemingly abandoned the goal of school integration, and why I won’t allow my children to attend a racially segregated school even if it’s strong academically. I also want to explore parenting in general and the opportunities it offers in accelerating the educational outcomes of children. Given my role as senior vice president of community partnerships at Teach For America, I’m likely to dive into complicated issues of education reforms and the perspectives of community-based organizations and just folk who are on the receiving end of poor educational options. Finally, as a TFA alum, I’ll want to comment on our organization’s culture and community as it continues to grow in the service of our collective mission to expand educational opportunity.
But mostly, I’m just Alan and Mari’s mom, and I know they can’t wait until we fix this problem; they have to go to school now. Knowing this helps me feel the urgency of our work.