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Thursday, December 8, 2011

I now work for a nice man.

I witnessed something extraordinary at my school yesterday. I witnessed something I’d never seen before in any school in which I’d worked-- and I‘ve worked in four schools. It was so extraordinary that I just stopped and watched. I marveled.  

My assistant principal--a man I like very much--had chosen to “hang out” in CSI, our indoor suspension, with kids.

 As I entered CSI looking for a student, I saw my assistant principal. He was standing in front of a group of boys--boys I knew well from all of their disciplinary actions--and had them “in the palm of his hand.”  

I‘m almost embarrassed to tell you that as I write, tears are welding up. Isn’t that silly? Doesn’t that just feel too ridiculous for words? I mean, the guy works there for goodness sakes! He’s one of my school’s leaders! He’s supposed to positively influence kids!  

But most school leaders just do not. Most often school leaders reside in their offices, not school hallways, classrooms and cafeterias. They just don’t go where kids actually are. They know kids from computer screens. They analyze children’s test scores. They aggregate (I‘m so pleased to use that word even though I don‘t know what it means) data. 

 They remain invisible to the children who most need them. 

I work hard at bullying prevention. I enter classrooms routinely. This is how I begin: I introduce myself, “Hi. I’m Ms. Werner” I say. Then I ask children to tell me their names. I go around the room smiling at kids, making eye contact and occasionally shaking hands. 

 I then surprise them. I ask them each others’ names.  “John”, I’ll say. “It’s John, right?” I will query. “John, please tell me her name…” as I cross to the other side of the room and point to a student. John may not know her name. John may now have been in this room with these other students for more that three months….and there is a good chance John will not know her name. 

There’s also a good chance that John and many other students will not know the names of administrators. “How many of you know who Mr. Jones is?” You’d think that Mr. Jones’ name would be on all lips. He’s the principal. But sadly no. Mr. Jones is holed up in conferences and meetings.
Mr. Jones, God bless him, is “under the G-U-N”. Mr. Jones has NOT MET A-Y-P! 

Honestly, I do not know exactly what A-Y-P is. I just know that the children A-Y-P data represent are sitting their B-U-TT-S’s in C-S-I waiting for, crying out for, desperate for H-E-L-P. 

My amazing assistant principal gave them a taste of H-E-L-P. They lapped it up like hound dogs’ lust for water after a fox hunt.  

I live near a prison. I drive by it almost everyday. I occasionally see male prisoners out on a courtyard. This courtyard is surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire. 

 I see the sunlight engulfing these men as they mill about; as they socialize. They must be grateful, I think, to have a brief moment of God’s great outdoor gift.
Do they close their eyes? Do they breathe deeply? Does the same air I breathe; the same air that fills my lungs and fills theirs, take them to a place of inner freedom? Just for a second? 

 Do they open their eyes and sigh as they contemplate another 30 years in this hellish place? 

Over the entrance door of the prison its name is prominent: CORRECTIONS. Correcting the behavior of these men will probably never happen,  Their potential was lost well before they entered that place of penance. 

 They were probably lost before they were the age of the students sitting their behinds in our middle school equivalent of “Corrections/Prison”--CSI. Let’s stop pretending that we're correcting anything.

 So to see my assistant principal deciding to talk--simply talk respectfully--with troubled boys honestly astounded me. 

 I’ve seen teachers blast children with sneering superiority. I’ve seen teachers interrupt kids trying to get their side of the story out. I’ve seen them laugh derisively. Roll their eyes. Heave sighs—heavy indeed—as children attempt to defend their defenseless behavior. 

Teachers stomp into our offices with boys and girls sullenly following. Teachers are exasperated and just plain worn out with the daily flood of “attitude” entering their classrooms. I get it. I understand. I know. 

 Yeah, I know. What can you do?  

Yeah, I know. They’re “headed in the wrong direction.” But they do not know there is a right direction for them. It doesn’t exist on their compasses. 

Yeah, I know.  

I know that if we do not at least create a place of respect and true discipline at a school, that these kids—who do not have any of that good stuff at home—do not stand a chance.  

So I return to my assistant principal. I return to the laughter of a group of fatherless boys as they participated in a lively discussion about—are you ready?—squirrels!  

I return to my own gift of swinging CSI’s door open and hearing that laughter. I return to the gift of getting to participate in that sweet moment.

I love working for him.


Have an amazing week "out there!"Wink

5:13 pm est          Comments

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