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My Story: Why I Developed the Parent Pulse Check

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If you just watched Episode 1 of The Parent Pulse Check (, you might be wondering who created it and why. So I'm dedicating this blog post to telling my story.

First of all, I'm not a perfect parent. No one is. I had my son at age 17, while I was still in high school. I know what it means when they say it takes a village to raise a child. I couldn't have done it without the help and advice of my parents, close friends, and family members there to give me support (and a few extra dollars) along the way.

With a lot of hard work and prayer, I finished high school on time and got my bachelor's degree at Boston University. From there I landed in Hollywood, as a struggling screenwriter. When my writing career couldn't pay the bills, I decided to give teaching a try. I loved it, and have never looked back.

I started my teaching career in Compton, California just when N.W.A. was hitting the airwaves, and I taught in the classroom for 11 years - first in Cally and then in my hometown Boston. My teaching career spanned 1st and 2nd grade, then 4th and 5th grade, and I ended with 8th grade. In 11 years I taught elementary school, and middle school social studies, English and drama.

Even though I eventually left the classroom, I couldn't leave our kids. And never will. I've run nonprofit organizations working with middle and high school students for the past 20 years, first with Boston Learning Center and now with BUILD, which is a youth entrepreneurship program. I still live in the same neighborhood of Roxbury, Massachusetts where I was born and raised, and I see our kids and their families in my neighborhood at the supermarket and in church.

I spent this past year working with an amazing team of educators, parents, teachers, school administrators and community activists to write a new Policy for Eliminating Opportunity and Achievement Gaps in the Boston Public Schools. It became a labor of love for me. Actually it became an obsession. Opportunity and achievement gaps have plagued urban school systems for generations. As co-chair for the Task Force, I felt determined to help crack the code for helping students of color, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families to excel at the highest levels. The Policy we wrote calls attention to the need for more training in culturally and linguistically sustaining and affirming practices, greater accountability at all levels from the district to the classroom, and an increased focus on social emotional learning and restorative justice as opposed to punitive school suspensions. Moreover, the policy also calls for students and parents to play an active role in shaping their educational destiny.

I've always admired the strength and grit of our parents who make incredible sacrifices for their children. At the same time, I've watched countless parents - who all want the very best for their child - really drop the ball when it comes to education and school.

No one wants to accuse someone of "bad parenting." But even good parents are guilty of bad parenting sometimes. If it takes a village to raise a child, then WE ARE THE VILLAGE. And when family, friends, neighbors, and teachers stand and watch in silence, who suffers in the end? Children do. Enough. I'm not trying to tell parents how to raise their child, but as an educator who's been in the trenches for almost 30 years, I feel a responsibility to show parents how to raise a child for school success. When it comes to parenting, there is a bar. It's time to raise the bar even higher.

If the Parent Pulse Check video makes you angry, great. Talk about it. Shout about it. I welcome the dialogue. Government and school districts can't shape parent behavior. That's the job of the community - the village. And the more we start to shine a light on good parenting versus bad parenting, the more people will be able to "check themselves" when it comes to raising their kids to thrive in school. The Parent Pulse Check is intended to be a wake-up call. Let's raise the bar together!

Learning expands great souls. ~ Namibian proverb

Shine on,

Ayele Shakur