Letter from Teacher Marty (September 2017)

Dear MPS Families,

We did it!  We got school up and running.  I don’t know why after all these years it still comes as a surprise when everything comes together in time, but it does.  There are so many details that need to be addressed, tasks big and small completed and organizational objectives met.  Not only are the tasks many the cast of characters addressing the list is pretty impressive too.  Both returning and new parents have pitched in to get us up and running.   Here are some examples of a few folks who went above and beyond this summer to help us get to the first day of school.

Kate and Ryan Garrison!  Many thanks to Natalie’s (4’s class) parents who searched for, found and installed a new kitchen faucet.  Did you know our former faucet had some broken parts that resulted in us not having any cold water in the kitchen last year?  It would get a little dicey doing clean up in the sink in the afternoons – took teflon hands that is for sure.  A new faucet doesn’t seem like a big deal but it turned out that the list of needed specifications made it difficult to find.  And installation was anything but easy.  If you have an older house with some cobbled together, less than standard elements you get the picture.  I think they had to pull the kitchen cabinet out in order to get that fancy new faucet installed.  Every time I use that faucet I will think of you Kate and Ryan!  

Laura Radosta!  If you don’t know yet, Laura is our Diversity and Equity Board member.  She organizes the Anti-Bias Class, writes articles for the newsletter and assists me with anti-bias curriculum elements for the classroom.  I asked Laura to take a look at our library of children’s books this summer and use the funds we allocate in the budget to upgrade our collection with an eye towards our anti-bias goals.  In particular I was looking for some new titles to help us learn about refugees and muslim community members.  Laura, being the overachiever that she is launched herself into the task with her whole heart.  She spent the summer taking the entire library home and reviewing each book and evaluating its value against a list of standards and criteria for anti-bias/diversity and equity.  As you know books become dated.  Language, ideas and illustrations convey so much in both intended and unintended ways.  Keep in mind our school is in it’s 69th year.  We had some pretty dated books hanging around.  Laura weeded out the questionable, brought them to me to discuss and then went shopping to upgrade our collection.  And as if that wasn’t enough, she created a new database to manage our full library.  This is not only going to make it easier for me to find the books I am looking for, but it will make the Librarian parent job easier in the future as well.  Thank you Laura.  You are my hero.

Jenn Baldwin and Kate Garrison!  I know we are still using Yahoo Groups as a communication tool at the moment – and I know lots of people dislike Yahoo immensely.  We have been dancing around switching it up and finding a replacement for some time.  Getting it done always requires having the right people on board at the right time and we hit the jackpot.  Jenn (mom to Ione, 4’s class) is our membership assistant this year – the person who handles all of your registration paperwork and your immunization records. She is also a former president of our board of directors and she took on the task of moving this ‘breaking up with yahoo for good’ project on.  Then Kate stepped in and took our Web Services parent job.  It is a match made in heaven from my perspective as the two of them have kept it moving.  Jenn, keeping it in front of us and Kate bringing her knowledge, curiosity, and fearless persistence to bear on answering the questions that have stumped us in the past.  As such, we are in the process of moving to a google suite that will have both groups and ability to manage information and files.  It is still in the set up process and will need some beta testing but stay tuned.  The “Dream of the 90’s” may or may not still be alive in Portland (Portlandia reference, lol!), but the dream of a better, more user friendly, less problematic information management and communication system for MPS is right there on the horizon.  

Beyond the big tasks, we have three new Class Representatives who have been getting you organized for the start of school and getting the parent teaching schedule fully staffed.  (Breanne DeLong – 3’s class; Hilary Himan – 4’s class; and Jill Muhm – Pre-k class).  Two of these folks, Breanne and Jill, are also brand new to the school!  Thank you all for your advance work to help make these first days work smoothly.

Ray Phillips, (dad to Lincoln and Graham, 3’s class) is a brand new parent to MPS and has taken on the Asst. Treasurer role.  He will be making our deposits and tracking all of your payments and balances during the school year.  Thanks Ray!  We appreciate the knowledge you bring into this job and your enthusiasm and infusion of new ideas.

Dustin and Georgina Harell (parents to Alexander and Sebastian, 4’s class) are our groundskeepers this year.  They are the folks who worked with me to organize and pull off the fall work party.  Thank you for your efforts and the full family commitment and support.  We pretty much accomplished everything on my list and then some.

Alison Burton. Alison is our Jobs Coordinator and over the summer she spent hours sorting through the volunteer forms you submitted with your applications trying to match folks with all the jobs that need doing at the school.  It is a bit of a puzzle but once again, you got it done.  Thanks Alison!

Lindsay Morich!  Our Membership Director is the person who responds to all inquiries from folks interested in our school.  This was the parent job that just kept giving this last year with a steady stream of inquiries well into the summer with our last addition to the roster happening pretty much one week before school started.  And then on September 1st (that was Friday by the way), we opened the waitlist for the next school year.  Thank you Lindsay for answering all those phone calls and emails and being such a wonderful ambassador for Multnomah Playschool.

There are others who have been hard at it as well and we will be making sure to call you out as well for your efforts.  It is easy to see the big stuff on the surface but it is so important to me that we all recognize that our little school is the sum total of the quiet efforts of so many people.  I see you and I appreciate all that you do.  You can join me by submitting a special “thank you” at any time to our newsletter editor, Kim Rivers, for inclusion in our next edition of MPS News.

Things to Think About

A couple of you asked me why I ask for the preferred gender pronouns for your children on the Family Background Survey.  The most direct answer is that I do not want to make assumptions.  But the deeper answer is that this is part of my ever evolving work within our anti-bias curriculum and an area of learning and growth for me as a teacher.  By putting it out there in a direct manner I am inviting you to join me in this work.

The process of ‘becoming’ and defining our identity is long and complicated.  It begins at birth and accelerates as our consciousness broadens and develops and continues throughout our life really.  Some of our identities are chosen and some are the gifts of birth.  For example, I was born white. I was born able bodied.  I was born into a lower working class family.  I chose to get married and to have a child so wife and mother are chosen parts of my identity.  I chose to become a social worker and a teacher so, chosen identity.

The thing with gender identity is that assumptions most of us made about it being self evident based on the genitals present at birth are not always accurate.  It will not be evident until a child is older.  And while it may be a somewhat rare event for a child to present as gender non conforming, what I do know is that the impact of having adults in your world question and invalidate your expressed identity has huge implications for future mental health.  One of my passions is to create space in this world for children to take the journey of personal discovery and know that they are loved and valued at each step.  And in creating that space for individual children, I am committed to help all the children I work with to join me in understanding, recognizing, supporting and celebrating the identities of their peers.

You cannot choose your child’s identity for them.  But you can love them and help them feel safe.  And you can help them accept and honor others as whole too.  And as your kids grow they are going to meet lots of people who have different expressions and identities based on gender.  If you visit a local high school you will see that the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ is much more common than you might realize.  

So, I ask rather than assume.  I honor the choices as they are expressed to me.  I try to reflect possibilities in the language that I use.  I change pronouns in books to a more gender neutral position.  I try to NOT be an influencer of identity but a person who is there to support individuals who are learning about themselves and searching for safety in their expression of identity.  And I invite you to take the challenge and join me in this work.  It’s not always easy and it can be confusing but by being open, asking questions, studying, listening to people’s stories with an open heart and mind, and being willing to try to reflect that learning in our own language and behaviors we are making the world a safer and more loving place for everyone.  And that my friends, is what it is all about!

Things to Look for This Month

Stay tuned and watch your emails.  I will be able to give you some dates within the next few days for our pumpkin patch field trip and our first field days of the year.  In the classroom, we will continue to settle into our routines and learn more and more about each other and what ‘school’ means!  Be sure to ask questions as they come up and to let me know if there is anything that I can do to help you, your children and your families feel more welcome and connected to our school community.  I am so glad we are taking this journey together this year.  It is going to be epic!

With lots of love and hope for some cooler days in our near future,

Teacher Marty