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CNN Editor's note: Helen Gym is a Philadelphia public school parent and writer and founder of Parents United for Public Education, which seeks classroom-centered investments in education budgets. She is a board member of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, where she contributes online commentary. She helped found the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philadelphia Chinatown and was named the Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year for 2007 for education activism.
Here's what I can tell you about my daughter's education.
I can tell you the name of the history teacher who inspired her this year, the book that she loved and couldn't stop talking about and the topic of the reflective essay she labored to write and rewrite.
I can tell you which teachers gave homework assignments that made some of our family evenings perfectly miserable and the community service projects that had our whole family out cleaning the streets or readying a garden.
I can tell you what it felt like when the principal of a school shrugged her shoulders after I complained my daughter had been pushed down the stairs (we left that school) and what it felt like when the new principal stood outside greeting children by name as they entered every morning.
I can tell you that my mother cried when my youngest daughter's school choir sang "Arirang," a traditional Korean song, and that I loved every squeak and clank of the school orchestra.
I can tell you all of these things because as a parent, the true meaning of a quality school lies in a strong child- and family-centered educational mission that recognizes education as a "process of living" and school life as "real and vital" to our children and families, as American philosopher John Dewey wrote more than half a century ago.