Tag Archives: parents

"I hope it stays…"

I can’t imagine a parent or an educator who didn’t think of the families in Newtown, Connecticut at some point this holiday season. For me, those times came both at school and at home; in both cases, amidst real disbelief, came near equal awe from some of the good that has come forth. Then this morning, I was reading a post on Ed Week where teacher Connie Sullivan talked about the special place Sandy Hook Elementary was long before the events of December 14th. She concluded her thoughts speaking to the people that have stepped up to help the community move forward, saying, “We obviously live in a state, we live in a country, that wants to help…If this is what comes out of this, I hope it stays.”

What do I hope stays?? My mind first goes to student arrival on Monday, December 17th. Having been scheduled to be at a conference, I simply decided my school was where I needed to be that morning. The night prior, I sent my families a letter via e-mail, as I thought it important that they hear from me before they sent their children to us that Monday morning. Likewise, rather than my normal spot in the foyer where I could greet both bussed students and those transported by parents, I headed outdoors to the parent drop-off line where I could greet and reassure our moms and dads. That was among the most emotional, memorable experiences I’ve encountered as a school administrator. Our kindergarten children, most of them unaware of the tragedy that had taken place, came bounding in to school as if it were any other day. My staff put their own worries, fears, and sadness aside in preparation for the day ahead, starting with those morning duties. The most vivid images before me, however, were of parents walking their children to the front door or letting them out in the car line. In really its most simple form, that love from parents to children was never so evident. Rather than the normal rush and routine, I saw many extra hugs and longer-than-normal looks as students headed into school. There really wasn’t any need for those parents to say what they were thinking and what their own worries might be. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, were the expressions of appreciation from our school families that came both in writing and in spoken words; for the acknowledgement of the tremendous responsibility we feel for their children’s future and present; for the loyalty and conviction spoken by some when doubters questioned our district or public schools in general; and for the patience with one another as we revisit and adjust procedures.

I’m not saying the terrible images of what happened in Newtown have left my memory as a principal or a parent, nor that I haven’t looked at my own kids, my school kids, and my staff in a different light. I’m not saying I can even begin to understand how those parents, educators, first responders, and community members move forward. I do hope, however, that open expression of love from parents to kids stays. I hope patience with one another stays. I hope the understanding that my staff and I place student safety in the highest regard and protect these children as our own stays. I hope as school leaders, we continue to check in on and support one another in this challenging work. I hope consideration for what is best for children continues to take priority over adult convenience. I hope we remember that as parents and schools, we are on the same team and can accomplish so much more when we work together.

What do you hope stays? How can we multiply the good in the teachers and the students lost and honor them through gains in our own school communities?

Critical memories: Shaping our practice

This morning I read a blog post by Principal Jimmy Casas. In this post, Jimmy talks about a home visit on which he accompanied his principal earlier in his career and how that’s played out in his current role and philosophy of serving students. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter; his commitment to his school community and the education community is evident.

Reading about his experience took me back to a time earlier in my career that shaped my current practice and, really, shaped how I viewed others from that very moment. I was a 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher. In my fourth year of teaching, there was a point mid-fall that one particular student was exhibiting some attention-seeking behavior; at that time, it seemed immature and as his teacher I found it frustrating. I decided it was time to call mom during my prep and ‘tell’ her what I was seeing in the classroom so we could correct his behavior. Fortunately, I paused after telling Mom I had some concerns about behavior. She asked if anyone had shared what was happening at home. No one had, which is a different, disappointing post altogether, so I asked her to share. My student had 4-year-old twin brothers, and Mom shared that one of them was stricken with a cancer that he was not likely to overcome. I vividly remember leaning on the doorway of my classroom on the telephone, appalled that I had jumped to this conclusion that a student was choosing to misbehave when his family was essentially in crisis. Sadly, he did lose his brother in the months that followed.

I was also pregnant with my first child that year, and my team teacher and our classes threw a baby shower for me. My student, G, remembered a yellow flower container that had fallen from my desk and broken months prior. As a gift at the shower, he gave me a yellow candle holder and candle hoping to replace what I had lost. I’ve kept that the past 11 years as a reminder of what he lost and the challenges that are part of our students’ daily lives; I’ve kept it as a reminder that we MUST take time to learn our students’ stories and consider how we can support them rather than punitively punish or prematurely judge. I’ve kept it as a visual cue to keep me from making that mistake again for I still need that reminder from time to time.

Jimmy shared his home visit; I’ve shared my story about G. What moments significantly shaped how you view students, families and your role as an educator?