The other day I was presenting to a small group of teachers and assistant principals on the many hats school leaders wear.
As I was closing, I asked them to look at me. Everyone fixed his or her eyes on my own, and suddenly I was overwhelmed.
I wanted to tell them how much our schools need their leadership…how much our students need men and women who are passionate, caring, determined, courageous, and committed…how we can’t do this without them.
But all I could get out was, “We need you.” And then I was too choked up to continue.
Thankfully, I was in a room with my friends Dr. Vickie Williams, the Executive Director of our state principal association and Rob Miller, an assistant superintendent and author of the blog, A View from the Edge.
They spoke up while I was regaining my composure. Vickie explained how these difficult times for public education in our state remind us how desperately we need to stay committed to the mission of helping students. Rob explained that leadership requires not only wisdom but also compassion and heart.
Finally, I was able to follow-up with some comments about the power each of us possesses to make a difference in students’ lives. Afterwards, I thought about that moment, and how surprised I was by my own emotional response. Why was I so overwhelmed?
I talk about school leadership everyday. I live it, breathe it, and know its ups and downs. But when I was staring into the faces of men and women who serve on the front-lines of schools everyday, I couldn’t help but think about the impact they have on students and the influence we’re losing if they don’t serve.
Yesterday I had lunch with some administrator friends from a neighboring district. At their schools, every first and second year teacher has been told their contracts won’t be renewed for next school year.
In Oklahoma City this week, 29 assistant principals have been told their positions are being eliminated. Schools across the state have been reducing their school calendars to 4-day weeks or closing schools early to cut costs.
The past few months have reminded me that when states struggle to adequately fund public education, we lose great educators, and students are the ones who ultimately suffer most.
But even as teachers, administrators, and school staff are scrambling to reconfigure schools and manage budget shortfalls, our students are still showing up everyday. And they’ll be back when school opens again after summer break.
And as tough as the road may be ahead, they still need us.
This week, Rob Miller, made a fantastic post that beautifully captures the essence of why students need us. While walking through one of the schools in his district, Rob saw a boy who had “that look”, the expression so many have when they feel dejected or hopeless. Rob stopped to inquire and encourage. And it made a difference.
He then reflected about the challenges young people face with with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, and he concluded:
“So, when people say our primary job in schools is to increase student achievement, I respectfully disagree. The act of creating learners only occurs in an atmosphere of respect, trust, compassion, and love. Thus, our biggest job is to keep kids safe, while instilling in them a profound belief that we genuinely care about who they are and what they dream to be.”
Educators, we still need you.
If you’re one who chose this profession and now you’re facing cuts, please don’t give up hope. You will land on your feet again. And remember the need for good educators will never go away.
If you’re a school leader facing your own dilemmas or managing worst case scenarios, hold onto courage and know better seasons will come again.
Today in every one of our schools, students still need to see smiling faces greeting them. They still need to know that we believe in them. They still need the instruction, encouragement, and engagement that make for great schools.
They still need you.
There’s a beautiful scene in a philosophical read by C.S. Lewis called The Great Divorce, where the narrator is taken into the afterlife. While there, he encounters singing and dancing spirits, young men and women, who are celebrating in honor of one lady.
The narrator is mesmerized by her presence and clothing and by the radiance of her face. He turns to his guide, and they have the following conversation:
“Is it?…is it?” I whispered to my guide.
“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”
“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”…
“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”
“They are her sons and daughters.”
“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”
“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”
“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”
“No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more.”
Who was Sarah Smith? People like Sarah Smith from Golders Green are those who transform others by their selfless and generous giving to others. They may be relatively unnoticed in this life, but they deserve so much more recognition.
For those who face the stark realities of feeling overlooked, unnoticed, or unseen by the world-at-large, remember to the young people you love and care for, you are angelic.
Don’t give up faith. You’re still needed!
Now It’s Your Turn
Maybe you know someone who needs a good reminder that their work matters. Give them some kudos today!