Lately, I have been struggling through a bit of a sophomore slump — if you will. I am over half-way through my second year as a junior high school principal, and I must admit that, at times, Ifind the experience overwhelming. I have struggled with time management, difficult decisions, district meetings, a new teacher evaluation process, delegation,
personnel issues, and a plethora of red tape. As a school leader, I have felt FAR from perfect. These struggles have forced a great deal of self-reflection related to what I can do to improve as an educator, and a leader, in order to help our school meet the diverse needs of our students. This year, I seem to have more questions than answers.
However, even when school has been a struggle — when things have been a bit discouraging — a search for celebrations always seems to land on the actions of our students. Our mantra at Willis is “Empower. Achieve. Lead.” and while we are still working to find an appropriate balance that addresses each aspect of this mission, it is uplifting to see our students begin to recognize their ability to be difference makers. This is evident when:
- A student presents his digital science fair project, to an online audience of teachers and administrators, during a recent virtual conference.
- Two students nominate a teacher for recognition by a local radio station, and realize that not only have they been heard, but that the teacher has received an award.
- Students raise enough money to purchase over 160 turkeys for a holiday family assistance day and then organize, and run, a craft table for children whose parents are waiting in line.
- Our annual showcase event is largely run, and presented, by students who are thrilled to share their experiences with our local community.
- In a single day, our school of approximately 850 students, raises over $900 for the family of a former student who was killed in a tragic car accident.
- A packed gym of students, in unison, chants “Jackie! Jackie! Jackie!” in response to a young leukemia survivor’s thank-you for stockings our school filled for local children’s hospitals.
serves a significant number of students facing extreme challenges at home. Many, even at the age of 13 and 14 years old, have already succumbed to the notion that they are powerless to initiate change. They have not experienced success in so long that they have come to accept failure as fate. When I see, and experience, these acts of difference making by our students, I can not help but marvel at the learning experiences derived from truly empowering students — allowing them to recognize their potential to work as agents of change. Whether it is a community service activity, acts of kindness, or interacting with authentic audiences, perhaps these experiences will serve as a spark that carries over into other aspects of their education, and life beyond school.
Cross posted at Molehills out of Mountains