WaTasha Barnes Griffin’s story as told to Caroline Siler
I am a mom who supports education, and I am a mom who supports teachers. I realized after I became a parent that it takes more than just the teachers for your child’s education; it also takes me being actively engaged. I have not been professionally trained or educated in teaching, but I teach every single day.
I teach and give life skills to women and kids who have experienced crisis. My career in social services has enhanced my ability to help struggling parents and children. My profession has also given me a heart for teachers and the work that they do. I understand that teachers not only are teaching math, science, etc, but are also dealing with kids who are battling homelessness, neglect, and abuse. Teaching is a tough job, one must be widely skilled. Educators are not only tasked with instructional time, but they are parents, and counselors, and doctors, and parents!
Muncie is my hometown. I grew up in the Muncie Community school system and that same system is where my children are being educated. Sutton, Northside, and now Longfellow, are where my children have been raised. I have colleagues and friends ask why we choose to leave our kids in the district. Why would we take them out? Sure, I could move my kids to a “another district,” but they wouldn’t be getting the same culture and learning experience that I find they get at their public school.
My husband Shoka and I are very active parents, we serve on elementary and middle school PTO’s, I serve with PL221, we serve concessions, monitor lunches, help coaches, and we assist our teachers and principals with anything else that they ask of us. We often support SOS (Support Our Students). This group high fives kids as they come into the school, we tell them to have a good day, and offer words of encouragement. It is just another way of letting each and every child know that we care about our schools, our kids, and our administrators. We want them all to succeed and thrive. We make sure that we are visible and spend quality time with our school families.
I consider myself to be a connector. I’m the person in the middle bringing students and teachers together. I try to get other parents involved in the school and sort of rally around teachers so they feel supported, and appreciated. Lately, we have heard a great deal of negativity. Our kids hear and feel it all. It simply should not be. I have declared myself a cheerleader of sorts. I want to see both student and school moral boosted way up.
I think as a parent it is my responsibility to be engaged in my children’s education, especially with what the school district, state, country, etc. expect from teachers these days. I know they have limits in supplies and their time. I often get a group of parents together to round up dry erase markers or whatever other supplies they may need at that time. I know that teachers are struggling because of salaries and benefits. Yet, they give out of their own pockets to meet the needs of students. It’s a struggle for many and, since I have the time and the means, I try to help out as much as I can. These teachers have my kid for seven hours a day, they spend more time with my child than I do during the school year, so for me I have to be involved and engaged. I understand that not every parent has the time, but I want my kids to know and even other kids to know that I care about them and their education.
I know that my children’s school is an extension of our family. Our teachers help shape our communities. Our children are our community. From one parent to another, let us rally around them in support!
WaTasha Barnes Griffin is the Executive Director of the YWCA of Muncie. She serves her community in a variety of ways- but always with passion and compassion. She is the wife of Elder Shoka J. Griffin and the mother to Shoka II and Sa’Niya.
Caroline Siler is a volunteer coordinator with The Facing Project. She recently received her BA in creative writing from Ball State.
This story originally appeared in Facing Teaching, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.