Back to School Season
My mother is a retired elementary school music teacher. Although I never had the pleasure of attending school at the same place she worked, I can say that growing up, my world revolved around school--both mine, and hers. I observed first hand the number of hours she stayed late, setting up her classroom, cleaning recorders, ensuring she had equipment, instruments and chairs “just right.” Every Sunday night at home was lesson planning for the week. She would lock herself in our back room, computer and lesson book side by side. Sunday was “Pizza Night” for decades.
Some of the schools where she taught had very involved parents, who were able to easily provide class parties and supplies and teacher support. Those parents could--and often did--provide a little extra to make up for the few children who could not pay at all. They were generous with purchasing an extra uniform shirt, or dropping an extra few dollars in with their own child’s portion. These schools had strong PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and SAC (School Advisory Council) organizations. Fundraising was exciting, and community wide, for playgrounds, school nurse positions, and technology.
And there were some schools where my mother taught that did not have a strong, involved parent base. These were parents who did not speak English well, who worked late-night shifts, who struggled to survive. They loved their children; and they could not volunteer, nor could they contribute financially. I know that my mother sacrificed not only her time, but also resources for “other people’s” kids. Field trip money, chorus party money, uniforms, pencils, notebooks, recorders--these were all things that most of the children could not afford. She redesigned her lessons to use less supplies, but she still needed some supplies. She sewed her own puppets and built a puppet stage out of PVC pipes. She provided snacks for her after school students, on her own dime. She found field trips that were within walking distance of the school. She paid for copies at a local office supply store when her school could not afford to do so.
My mother’s generosity for those children was on a teacher’s salary, and that has always inspired me. She did this because instilling love and self-expression through music, dance, and puppetry was her vocation. She knew she could make a difference in countless children’s lives. In fact, by the time of her retirement, she had taught thousands of children. Every time we went to the grocery store or a restaurant, she recognized many of the staff by name and could recount what they were like as children. Her love was a God-given gift that infused her school community with encouragement, hope, and harmony.
That’s why our church’s mission to support Harbor City Elementary School is so important to me. This is a Title I school, where 73% of the children come from families with low incomes. We have church members who serve on the combined PTO/SAC committee, who provide monthly decorations and treats for the teachers, and who volunteer in the classrooms with the students. As a church body, we provide back-to-school supplies for every student. At registration, the children get a school supply list, and a $35 gift card from Suntree United Methodist Church so that they can get exactly what they need. This alleviates so much stress and pressure on the students, on the parents, and on the teachers. And this gift card instills dignity in these families.
We are providing this community with a tangible expression of God’s love for each of them. This is not just a gift card for school supplies; this is an affirmation of the work God is doing--both through the Church and straight to the hearts of the neighboring community.
If you would like to become involved with Harbor City Elementary School this year, you can give financially by selecting “Harbor City Elementary” on the giving memo line, and you can also volunteer your time, baking skills, or other talents. Please contact Staci Plonsky for more information.