People… this work is all about the people I meet. I just can’t say enough about the school leaders, teachers and other road warriors that I have been blessed to meet and work with for the past six years. You have all “read” me say (over and over again) that school improvement is hard work. It takes a willingness to dig in, see the messy truths and want to fix them. Oh, and it takes so much heart and soul. You know you are doing the work when you are exhausted at the end of the day but so energized the next morning to go back in and get things done! And, what is all of this heart and soul about… the students of course. Just making a difference… one student at a time… when all kids means ALL kids.
This summer, I have been following a story that evolved in one of my favorite schools to visit, Fox Elementary in Columbus, Georgia. While the kiddos were off for their summer break, some very special adults, with a whole lot of heart and soul have been busy painting up a storm in the school. Now, I am not talking about a little touch up paint in the classrooms or halls, but murals all over the place… including the bathrooms. You have to read and hear this story… https://www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/education/article215853760.html#storylink=cpy. It will warm your heart. Here is a bit of it…
Principal Yvette Scarborough, several teachers and many community volunteers led by SPARK ART’s Rachael “Smiley” White have spent hours getting ready for this first week of school. As we educators all know and appreciate, volunteers, like Ms. White, truly impact the lives of our students. “We don’t get to choose where we are in life, but you can be something, you can become something, no matter where you are,” White said. We know the old saying, “it takes a community to raise a child” and this is alive and well in Columbus with Ms. White and the others who generously donated hours to paint this summer.
As the students returned to school these past few days, they were greeted by Principal Scarborough and her amazing staff AND lots and lots of cool pictures and inspiring, fun messages that have been added to walls, bathroom stalls and doors. (Who could not be inspired to work hard to improve a school when you see a face like this little guy’s? He is so glad to be back and wearing Scarborough’s favorite t-shirt!!)
When I first met Dr. Scarborough three years ago, she knew she had her work cut out for her as the new principal at Fox Elementary. Besides wanting to ensure that student learning improved, she recognized the need for a cultural shift that included a focus on relationships. With dedicated time and lots of hard work, this developed into authentically creating a school that was known for its kindness, both inside and outside the walls of the building. I have watched Dr. Scarborough’s professional growth as a principal and her willingness to accept coaching has inspired me to stay on the road and continue this work. We have had lots of difficult but “fun” discussions about the work needed at the school (she has accepted my challenge of making the school more fun these past few years and I love her for it!). As she said in a recent interview, “Our theme this year is, ‘We don’t lose; we win or we learn. I don’t want the students to be defined by their neighborhood or their circumstances. They need to know that they are loved. Sometimes this is the only place they may feel it. We know things at school can be hard. Learning isn’t always the easiest thing to do. So you may feel like, ‘Ugh, this is not what I want.’ But you know what? I can make something enjoyable out of it. It’s a life lesson if we don’t let the daily grind pull us down.”
If you were to visit the school today, some of the additions you would see include, “throw kindness around like confetti”, “you are capable of amazing things”, “be the reason someone smiles today”, “your mistakes define you”, “let your light shine”, “bloom where you are planted and it’s cool to be kind”. The hallways are themed and you just have to feel energized and happy being in the school. We all know what happens when we enjoy what we do… we want to do more of it so why wouldn’t we want learning and school to be fun?
I know that at Fox, the hard work that has gone in to creating the atmosphere is just the first step to a life time of learning for the students. Dr. Scarborough understands the delicate balance of having a vision for a school built on relationships and smiles that’s foundation is developed from a belief of shared responsibility for each student’s learning. I can’t wait to be back there with her later in August. As one of her walls says, “bloom where you are planted”. That sure sums up the Scarborough/Fox connection!!
So, until next Saturday, “let your light shine”. That is what life and learning is all about. Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.