This is the twelfth time that I have taken pen to paper with you to blog about my school improvement work. I have to admit, I have felt tired, these past few weeks on the road. I have been in four different time zones, missing my family and friends, visited many schools and honestly, the work is not easy. Knowing that I have a responsibility to the schools and districts that hire me, to have an impact, when I am on site, even if it is just for a day, weighs heavy on me. But, this week, I had a great reminder of why I do the work. From both students and from educators. Let me start with the students…
Rebecca Scofield, was a beautiful teenager from home, who at the young age of 18, died this week. You may know her as Becca, who in December 2016, inspired people all over the world to be kind to one another. She used her illness and time left on earth to inspire people all over the world with her campaign- #BeccaToldMeTo. Stories grew as the campaign unfolded of people sending Becca messages from as far away as Japan and Spain; how they used Becca as inspiration to do something kind for someone else. Random acts of kindness everywhere and fourteen months later she is still inspiring us to be more kind. Her journey is well documented in Canada and you can see more of her story at http://www.cbc.ca. Just type in her name and many stories and videos should be there for you to read.
In the days following the Florida high school shooting, a silver lining appeared. Despite their sadness and grief, many of the school’s students are courageously speaking out about changes that are needed. They are not leaving it to chance that adults will figure this out; they are taking it on. I love how articulate, mature and respectful that they have been. Instead of just showing their anger, they are channeling their energy to make a difference and positively influence. They are young adults trying to impact adult decisions.
Rebecca and the Florida students have energized me. They remind me about so many of the students, in all of the schools that I work in there are amazing young adults who care about others. You know, students are the first to tell you that they get a bad rap by adults everywhere. They don’t always believe that we, the adults believe in them. As I wrote about before, at Willie’s school, there was a huge disconnect between what the teachers saw in the students and what the students wanted them to see. In my world of school improvement, we have to believe in the students or the work just doesn’t get done. How are we going to meet the needs of students-student by student/skill by skill, which is the work of school improvement, if we do not believe that they can do the work? How do we, perhaps, hold up the mirror and say that it is the adults that have to change, not necessarily the students?
This past week, I worked at Northside High School in Lafayette, Louisiana. I love working in this school for three reasons. The students are polite, respectful and have big personalities. I have fun conversations with them during every visit. They love to talk and introduce themselves (now, I do know that this might be a strategy to avoid going to class on time but it is still fun!). The students would be quick to tell you that Northside is seen as a “difficult” school in Lafayette and they don’t like the perception that others have of the school. The first place that the positive perception and intention has to be set is within the four walls of the school. I know that some of the teachers find it difficult to work in this school and I also know that this isn’t any different from other schools where the challenge of improving student achievement is being addressed.
The second reason that I love this school is that the teachers and school leaders are working collaboratively to create change. They know that they are not there yet but most are willing to put their heads together to work with their students. They are focusing more and more on what students can and cannot do and they are taking steps to change what they do, as adults. They are holding up the mirror often and accepting that the students will only change when the adults change what they do with instruction in their classrooms. This week, we spent a great deal of time looking at evidence of where students are right now on their learning journey and carefully considering what the adults need to do next to support student learning.
And lastly, I love being at Northside and get energized when I am there because of Mrs. Julia Williams, the principal. She understands what she has to do and is tirelessly working to lead the changes. I know that she is frustrated some days that it is such a slow process but she is working on the right work. It is a pleasure to watch and listen to how she has conversations with students and adults and how she celebrates their successes. No matter what the situation or challenge, she approaches it with a smile and with an attitude of positive intent. People first is how she works. The students and staff are lucky to have her and I am so blessed to be able to work with her at this school. And, it doesn’t take much to make her day… a parent this week told her that they notice what she is doing and appreciate her. She was so happy to get that feedback. As teachers and principals know, they don’t always hear from parents who are happy so it really helps when they do!
So, feeling energized is a good way to end the week. Thanks for reading and I look forward to being with you again next Saturday when we will head back to Jan’s school for an update on her work!