November 17, 2016
Today personified all the reasons I love my job. I spent an entire class period listening to the 8th-grade leadership class present their ideas for their final service project. May I pause and ask you to reflect on the pronoun that I used. Their. Their ideas. They prepared and presented to me ideas that will allow our students to serve our community, young and old. The ideas ranged from providing food for shelters, reading books to sick patients at Children’s Hospital, composting to become a more sustainable school, and providing help to homeless families in Douglas County. They researched. They prepared. They called businesses. They emailed organizations. They. Did. It. All.
On a daily basis, I watch students help each other, pick up the halls, and take accountability for their choices. They are learning. Sure, they make inappropriate comments or bad decisions. Most of the time, their curiosity consumes them and things go amiss. Sometimes, their day rivals Alexander’s in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The why behind their choices on those days need grace and understanding. Accountability, absolutely. But grace and understanding, too.
When I first accepted the job as principal, my mentor asked me to identify my three non-negotiables. After I identified them for her, she instructed me to put them into a single mission statement. Six weeks later and hours of reflection, I wrote the following mission statement: Given that middle school students are in the most challenging time in their lives, I will demonstrate compassion and grace through my actions in order to capture every teachable moment possible. I will do this so that later in life when they reflect on their middle school years, they will know that even when they broke a sink faucet, vandalized bathrooms, stole cookies from the cafeteria, allowed that profanity to slip out or “fairied” locks on lockers they were loved through it all.
There are days that I want to laugh out loud at some of their choices. Sometimes I wait hours to talk to students just so I can maintain my composure. Their choices remind me of the time I climbed out of a moving car on a mountain highway. Literally. But in my defense, my coach did tell me to do it. I just missed the part when he said, “When I pull over…” Details. Details. But I think as I reflect that that is my point. Sometimes their brain is too full for the details. They miss the key directions. You know the ones. The ones that usually lead to safety. The ones that were given because, like a soothsayer in a Shakespearean classic, you could anticipate the result should they fail to comply. I can assure you of one thing. You’re doing a fantastic job! I know this because I spend my day with the most amazing middle schoolers on the planet. Yours!
Honored to Serve You All,
Food For Thought: The Hardest Part Teachers are human. They make mistakes. But they never intentionally set out to make those mistakes. This article provides amazing insight into the true heart of a teacher.
Good Reads: Yardsticks by Chip Wood. Ever wonder why middle school hallways lack a certain serenity? Ever had your young teen say, “I just wanted to see what would happen.”? This book explores the developmental progression of our youth. It will offer enlightenment and, my hope is, encouragement.