Like mine, Monise’s platform is in part, a product of her passion for motherhood. I have the pleasure of being a part of Monise’s army in support of her Charter School project, and I am honored to feature her here, because her work benefits us all as not just as parents, bust as members of a society whose survival and ability to thrive depends upon the education of ALL children.
Name: Monise Seward
Mama-gig: I have 3 children: Avery, 15; Amaya, 8; and Autumn, 6. We also have a 4 year-old Lab/German Shepherd. Basically, I have four kids!
What is your platform as a mother/educator?
I believe that every child, regardless of zip code or family make-up, has the right to quality education. It is important that our kids discover their talents and realize their fullest potential, and in order for those things to happen, we need to demand that our kids are safe in school, and that our kids are not labeled or tracked because cultural differences or norms are viewed as inferior. We need to champion this cause for all kids, not just our own. That is the only way public education will serve its intended purpose.
How do you manage to simultaneously juggle your work/platform and parenting?
My life as a single mom appears to be a three ring circus. In my parenting role, I ensure that my kids’ needs are met first because if I worry too much about them, I cannot fully concentrate on anything else. My kids are fortunate in that their mother is a former educator and I know the intricacies of the public education system. I am blessed in that all of my kids are healthy and reached all the developmental milestones at the appropriate time so we do not have any ‘academic’ concerns; however, I do try to focus on developing healthy sibling relationships, manners, responsibility, and getting along with others. As far as keeping the household running, every member of our household has responsibilities. I do not stress about my home being ‘Martha Stewart-esque; let’s face it, when you have young, active children, keeping a spotless home is a full-time job. I would much rather spend my time doing something productive! Since I am embracing an entrepreneurial spirit, I do not have a paying full-time job, but when I did work outside the home, I still managed to balance everything. Saying that time-management and prioritizing tasks were my two best allies would be an understatement. In order to make it all happen, you must take control and stick to some sort of schedule.
Do you feel ever feel that you are sacrificing time with your children for your career/platform?
When I was teaching and coaching full-time, I was consciously aware of the fact that I ‘gave’ more to my M-F ‘kids’ than my biological kids. I always arrived early and stayed late. I even volunteered to coach volleyball one year. Call me crazy, but I saw a need and wanted to fill it. I do feel a little guilty about trying to meet the needs of students when it interferes with family time, but I am a realist. I make it my business to get to know my students, their stories, and their families. Sometimes, I may be the only adult a child trusts. Other times s/he may just be looking for affirmation, guidance, or even a compliment. By no means am I implying that my students were neglected, but in the real world, parental obligations sometimes supersede attending Parent-Teacher conferences, concerts, and athletic events. A lot of my students were raised by single parents, so I was able to relate to mom having other obligations. Although some teachers complained about not being paid enough to take on additional responsibilities, I could not ignore the needs of my students.
As an educator, what are your three “Top Tips” for how we can be involved parents AND committed career persons?
1. Educate yourselves – Learn as much as you can about the school, district, curriculum, assessments, etc. The amount of information available on the Internet is amazing. You can pretty much Google anything or anyone and find more than enough to give you a good foundation. If you have unanswered questions, approach the teachers. Trust me when I say they want parents to interact with them! It is usually easier to reach them through email. It may take a few days for a response, as many teachers are swamped with paperwork and meetings. However, I do encourage you to follow-up regularly.
2. Pay attention to your child(ren) – Parents would be amazed at what they can learn by observing their kids for a few minutes. I have three kids who all enjoy music, but they each have different learning styles and strengths. It is important to know this because very few children have the opportunity to learn according to their individual style in a traditional classroom. When you understand how your child learns, you will understand the “Very talkative” or “Does not seem to pay attention” class notes. These are not behavioral issues; the kids are screaming at the adults ‘You are not reaching/engaging me!’ For more information on the different learning styles, Google: Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and then watch your kids. You will be surprised!
3. Stay involved – We were all excited about the possibility of electing our country’s first Black President. People voted en masse. The experts underestimated the power of our faith and desire for change. Can you imagine how we could change public education if we put half of that energy into electing school board members and holding them accountable? If we do not like how the schools are being run, we need to organize and make our collective voices heard.
The Execumama credo is to define, design, and live your fullest version of woman; how do you strive to do that in your everyday life?
I spent two years researching and developing a Visual & Performing Arts charter school for my community. Those years consisted of 12-16 (non-paid) workdays, in front of the computer, making calls, writing, editing, attending conferences, etc. For two years, that was all I knew. When you dedicate that kind of time to a “cause”, it becomes part of your identity. When I accepted the possibility that the school as I envisioned it may never open, I felt as though I lost a part of myself. I had no idea that moment was the beginning of the journey to define who Monise really was and what purpose(s) I serve here on Earth. I will admit, it was a bitter pill to swallow. No one had ever dreamt that a black woman could generate that level of interest, among mostly black parents, for a school dedicated to the arts. That experience was the best lesson on both learning from and redefining failure. Accepting “No” or “failing” have never been options for me, so the vision for the school is still there. I realized that I needed to find another way to convey that black parents do care about Education and we value the Arts.
Every day I strive to fine-tune the definition and design of my life. By keeping my “eyes on the prize”, I am confident that I will ultimately live my fullest version of the woman!