September 24, 2018
Written by Malayia Roper, community school coordinator at Browning Elementary School
September 24-28 is Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week! Learn more about the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and check back here all week to learn more about the exciting projects going on at Milwaukee’s Community Schools.
Today, I give our communities and our schools permission to dismantle the barriers. To make it a point to approach, honor, and feel it all. Feel the highs, the lows, the newness, and even the areas of discomfort. To respect our school environments, to trust the process, yet still be bold enough to be transformative in our ideas. To identify community issues in a way that is relevant to all cultures that are represented. To challenge the system. To be intentional. To be willing. To be present.
Each day is a new day in the fight against educational inequities. We must keep our boots to the ground and our hearts connected to the purpose as purpose triggers passion and passion ignites power in the schools and communities we work with. We must keep that power blazing as this fight is not easy. We’re faced with resistance and even complacency; however, that power precedes any pain or setbacks that may come our way. No, the fight is not easy, but by keeping that passion, we can keep pushing, keep uplifting, and keep carrying on.
As anchors in the work, we must keep focused. We must keep walking. We have to keep going. We have to understand that this mission, this assignment is bigger than what’s easy or what’s safe or what’s comfortable. We have to be willing to stand in the gap and do things differently to understand our students, our families, and our communities. We must operate past our fancy checklists and outside of our comfortable board rooms in order to step out of ‘compliance’ into a radicalness that creates space for everyone to feel free enough to join the movement.
Here at Browning School, we’re into our third year of being a Community School. We’re still in the beginning phases of transitioning away from telling people ‘what’ to think into a new mindset that encourages people to tell us ‘why’ we should care. For many years, Browning was labeled a “last resort elementary school” or “a failing school,” Everyone had these perceptions of the school that overwhelmed and sometimes outshined the truth behind the Browning way. So, when a group of teachers began listening to the students’ opinions for the school, Browning organized a ‘Hygiene Closet,’ designed to meet the needs of the students and families we engage with. This closet is managed by our school’s social worker and provides students and families with a fun shopping experience. There was a great need to provide our community with high quality hygiene products that were readily available. And though the project is still in its early launch, it is one way Browning is no longer ‘telling’ and is taking the time to lean in, to listen, and to understand.
Browning is such a special place. No, it’s not exempt from challenges; however, there is so much love, excitement, and commitment to the work and the families we engage with. As a Community School , we’ve launched neighborhood events, developed parent groups, leveraged new and existing resources, and invited partners such as UWM Community Nursing Center, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, Safe & Sound, Westlawn Resident Council, and Housing Authority City of Milwaukee (HACM) to the table. We’ve crafted the makings of a united school narrative that has helped us to rethink the ‘why’ in order to be more intentional with ‘what’ we do. We’ve given ourselves permission to embrace our school’s culture, to trust the process, to trust the setbacks, and to feel it all. We know the fight is not easy; however, the movement is worth it. Here at Browning, we’re dismantling our barriers, we’re adjusting our plans, and we’re showing up each day united as one band, one voice, one sound.
I charge everyone -- every Community School, every voice -- to fight. Fight with passion, purpose, and a power so strong that it encourages even the naysayers to take a listen. Every day, we are faced with challenges at the local and even national level that try to silence us simply because we’re headed in a new direction. However, with each new ‘why’ and each new story, we will rise. Those in disbelief may try to end our fight, but we will rise. Those too afraid to speak up may try to discourage us, but we will rise. We’re like seeds and though they may try to bury us, we will rise. We will rise.
Cheers to Community Schools. Cheers to Community School Coordinators. We rock!