Live, Love, Learn, Lead – Live to love, Love to learn,
Learn to lead, Lead others.
One hopes that as a teacher educator, those with whom you teach, mentor and otherwise spend considerable time either in the college classroom or in schools through graduate assistant programs, many of them re-connect years later. They look you up on Linked-In, or through Facebook or other social media and let you know how they are doing and how much you meant to them. I’ve been fortunate to have that happen a number of times. What is more wondrous, however, is when they re-connect and you learn so much more about them than you ever knew.
What you learn doesn’t contribute to your pride, rather, you are changed and humbled by their personhood and now understand more why they gave so much to you in those earlier mentor years.
Judy was one of my graduate students in an urban public-school system funded grant to increase academic engagement and parental participation and decrease in-school suspensions and pink-slips for poor behavior in a K-6 school. I created a diverse group of graduate students completing their degrees in elementary and special education, human services/organizational behavior and doctoral student in clinical psychology. Judy was my human services graduate student who led the group in activities to increase parental participation. Working with parents in a school building whose principal wasn’t that open or communicative with the 90% African American parents was difficult at best, with trust issues warranted by too many years of being ignored. I was always proud of Judy and how she led this project. Frankly, I was awed when over 250 parents, grandparents and students came to a free movie night at the school – the first ever, where every child had a 50-cent soda and 50-cent bag of chips. It was so special to be a part of that time.
I never knew though how or why Judy had this desire to help parents succeed. She connected with me through Linked-In this past month and I interviewed her about her life.
Below is just a snippet of what she does available from her website:
Judy formed Families Overcoming Conflict under Stress (Philly Family FOCUS)to address the needs of communication and behavior modification for families. Its mission is to promote strong healthy families by empowering parents throughfamily activities, resources, workshops and networking opportunities. The organization was developed from the encounters Judy experienced during her daughter’s teenage years. Through growing pains, adolescent deviant behaviors and sometimes life threatening situations, Judy and her daughter overcame those conflicts. Her daughter graduated from high school and has since earned a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a Paralegal Certification.
Her daily motto is: Live, Love, Learn, Lead – Live to love, Love to Learn, Learn to Lead, Lead others.
Judy shared a bit of her life story. Her mother had three daughters from two fathers, one Caucasian with African American heritage and the second father an African American with Native American heritage. Her mother was left to raise the daughters by herself, and raise them she did. Judy recalls they were living in poverty, however her mother took every advantage of free city events, museums, activities in order to expose her children to a world larger than the community they lived in.
Family time was sacred, Judy and her sisters came to know her extended family members from her mother and both fathers. This exposure to different generations, different backgrounds and experiences opened eyes and ears to a much richer source of knowledge and know-how. The church in the community was a bell weather for gatherings and spiritual growth.
While family members were diverse in so many ways, her mother would always find a way to be inclusive rather than being divisive.
It was when Judy had her son when her daughter was 12 that she found out just how difficult being a mother really was. For a time through almost to the end of high school, there didn’t appear to be a day that her daughter didn’t give her grief from negative school behaviors, truancy, and even life-threatening situations. She knew, however, just as her mother demonstrated years earlier, that she needed to stay engaged and connected to her daughter, no matter what. She heard the words of the counselor and took them to heart – “If I wanted my daughter’s behavior to change, I needed to change”. So change she did, and so did her daughter. She got through by journaling her feelings and fears, and praying to God.
Judy’s Family focus began as a series of workshops for parents struggling with their sons and daughters. She had speakers from many organizations give free seminars on parenting, life skills and a host of other topics that were important to parents. Her home-spun organization is beginning to transition to a non-profit where she will be able to devote full time to helping parents acquire her mother’s wisdom.. there is another way.
There is a poem with the same name by Pat Schneider, truly capturing her mother’s spirt that Judy is clearly “Paying It Forward”.
There is Another Way
There is another way to enter an apple:
a worm’s way.
The small, round door
closes behind her. The world
and all its necessities
ripen around her like a room.
In the sweet marrow of a bone,
the maggot does not remember
of the mother, the green
shine of her body, nor even
the last breath of the dying deer.
I, too, have forgotten
how I came here, breathing
this sweet wind, drinking rain,
encased by the limits
of what I can imagine
and by a husk of stars
May each of you carry forward Judy and her mother’s spirit of “There is Another Way!”