Within weeks of my first year of teaching I was confronted with a room full of 6th graders on September 11, 2001. For the first time, I realized that I had the awesome responsibility of keeping children safe in the face of tragedy. On that day, with only a few weeks of teaching under my belt, I looked at the faces of children who were looking at me for answers, for comfort and for guidance when things felt scary and out of control.
On Monday, that feeling came back but this time it hit even closer to home as my staff and I worked with our local police and fire departments to run through active shooter scenarios. The thought of a shooter entering our school and putting our children in danger is terrifying. We don’t want to think that this could happen. It’s easy to live in denial, thinking that nothing bad could ever happen in our safe hometown. But, as the police officers reminded us today, it is possible for an active shooter to end up in one of our schools. And, because our bodies won’t go where our minds haven’t gone, we must think about this as a possibility. We must think about what we would do if we were confronted with an active shooter in our building.
The most unbelievable part of the training was hearing these words from police and firefighters,
“You are the first responders.”
When these words were uttered there was a collective sigh in the room, chills ran up my spine, everyone sat up a little straighter, listened a little more closely, tuned in just a little more.
Have you ever thought that; teachers, custodians, secretaries, cafeteria staff and teacher’s assistants are first responders?
First responders take out the bad guy.
First responders make quick decisions that save lives.
We are first responders.
Those words are still sinking in for me. They are on repeat in my mind.
Teachers are first responders…
Every parent, every grandparent, everyone who loves and cares for a child that walks through the doors of our school needs to know that this week every adult realized that our jobs just got even more important than they were before. Please take comfort in knowing that no one, not even for a second, entertained the idea of “every man for himself”. Not a single person was thinking about himself or herself, instead our conversations centered around how we would save children and how we would take down a shooter.
We didn’t learn this in college. There isn’t a place on the teacher evaluation rubric for this. We won’t be able to include what we learned today in any sort of lesson plan.
We’re all in.
I pray that we will never have to, but if need be, we accept the responsibility of being those first responders.
We will do everything in our power to keep your children safe.
Staff here is the link to the September 25th staff update.
“My favorite thing about school is going outside, free choice and making things!”
These are the words I heard as I closed the door of my four year old daughter’s bedroom. I could hear the pure joy in her voice as she uttered these words, however as these words sunk in to my mind, I was surprised when I was overcome with a feeling sadness.
Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m thrilled that my girls are loving preschool so much, but Bella’s words made me wonder what her school years beyond preschool would bring. Will she have teachers who value going outside, free choice and making things? Or, will she be a victim of the status quo, the pressure of standardized assessments or an industrial age mindset of learning?
I ran downstairs and wrote down her words so I wouldn’t forget them. As I wrote the words, I began to reflect on my own teaching, my own school and the state of education. Then I started to think about life. I pondered my favorite things to do as an adult? I love to go running…OUTSIDE, I love when I have FREE CHOICE to be in charge of my own learning (that’s why I love twitter so much) and I also love creating and trying new things-you know, that “MAKING something out of nothing feeling”.
What if school was designed around these three simple things…outside, free choice and making things? Imagine if we structured schools in which there was purposeful outside time, free choice (not a free for all) and where we trusted kids to make things. What if teachers really were facilitators of passions? What would our children be able to accomplish? What questions would they answer?
I think we continue to inch closer to this vision of education but why haven’t we completely taken the leap? We need to continue to follow the lead of educators who are not afraid to try something new and believe in kids.
This October, Hilliard City Schools, in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art, will host its first Cardboard Challenge as part of the World Wide Day of Play. This challenge, inspired by the story of Caine’s Arcade will bring children and families together to create whatever they can imagine from cardboard and tape. What a great way to spark creativity! What a great way to find out where our imaginations can take us.
After we experience this event, my challenge will be to determine how we as educators can bring this kind of learning to our classrooms more often, to create opportunities for purposeful play and creativity. Bella’s words will keep me focused, “My favorite thing about school is outside, free choice and making things.”
I think she speaks for us all.
Here is your staff update for September 18, 2015.
What makes us elite? That’s the question of the school year.
We’ve examined what it means to be elite and what makes us elite. What we know for sure is that we’re in a constant state of growth in education. We will never be perfect and we will never reach the end of this journey.
We’ve determined that what makes us elite is the constant pursuit of excellence. We know that just when we think we’ve “arrived,” that it’s time to grow some more. So, we’re doing just that-examining what we do well and then striving for more; reflecting on what we know isn’t going well and striving to grow, change, learn and become better.
We’ve always been a close staff but this year we strive to get closer. We strive to work with teachers outside of our grade level teams and to build even better relationships. Thursday, on picture day of all days, we even took time to compete in our first “Culture Challenge”.
Why did you all make the effort to compete? Because, you believe in the importance of relationships.
You are on a pursuit of excellence.
I believe that the honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations we’ve had when taking a close look at ourselves as educators is the best part of the pursuit. This year, this staff has stood up and owned. I asked you to be comfortable enough with one another to call each other out when we go below the line. You’ve had the courage to say, “We can get better at…” And, we are!
Remember, there is no finish line.
We’re on a journey.
Stay the course.
Push one another.
This week our bus drivers came in and got their pictures taken for the yearbook. Have you learned their names? Have you made a real connection with them? Have you thanked them for what they do? It’s amazing how much our bus drivers care about our students. Build that relationship!
Next week we will continue to focus on relationships. We have agreed that we will all work to learn the names of every student in the building.
1. If you don’t know a student’s name ask!
2. If you do, be sure to greet him/her by name.
4. Make a personal connection.
5. Stand up and own it-let’s hold each other accountable for this!
I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.
Here is the link to the staff update for September 11.
Kevin Carroll's words play over and over in my head every day. "If you think this is a casual thing, maybe you should find some other work." Every action and interaction that we have makes an impact. Our moments with our students are so important.
When we think about school, most of us think about a class of 20-25 (well...alright...27-30) students with a teacher. But, on Monday, I was reminded of how many other important people there are at school who impact kids every day.
I was walking towards the office when Anna radioed and said that Missy from bus 87 wanted to see me. I may have sighed and stomped my foot a little, automatically assuming the worst. I was sure that someone had done something on the bus that was going to require some consequences. In fact, when Missy saw me, the first thing she said was "This isn't for something bad!" I noticed, however, that her eyes were filled with tears so I invited her into my office to talk. She told me that she was moving to North Carolina within the next few weeks. That's when she burst into tears. She grabbed a tissue and said, "I've been wanting to tell you this for a while, but now that I'm moving I decided to come in and do it...bus drivers are never in the yearbook. I want to be in the yearbook. I love my kids. I've driven this route for 8 years and I've known some of these kids since they were babies. I want them to remember me and I want to remember them..."
I sat, staring at her in stunned, embarrassed silence. My head was swirling with thoughts, "How did I not realize that bus drivers weren't in the yearbook? How could I leave them out? They are so important! Missy doesn't think that I value her or the other bus drivers. This has to change!" After I pulled myself together I began rambling on about how terrible I felt and how much Missy and all of the drivers are appreciated. I told Missy that she would absolutely be in the yearbook and that all of the other drivers would be invited to come in to have their picture taken, too. Missy and I sat and chatted about her impending move and how nice the weather would be in North Carolina, all the while I could feel her sadness as she couldn't begin to think about how painful it would be to leave the children that she loved so much and drove to and from school each day for 8 years. "If you think this is a casual thing, maybe you should find some other work." This isn't a casual thing for Missy, I knew that for sure during our conversation.
As a parent and an educator, I want to remind all of us to appreciate the "unsung heroes," the bus drivers, custodians, school nurses, cafeteria workers, aides, secretaries, therapists, latchkey staff, psychologists and everyone else who impacts children's lives at school each and every day. Take a moment to think about all that goes into making a school day a successful one for a child. There are so many people who play such important roles in the education of our children.
As we work as a staff to define what it means to be ELITE, I ask you to reflect on your relationships.
Do you know our bus drivers' names?
Have you engaged them in conversations, even for a second or two?
Have you let them know that they're appreciated?
Our bus drivers are the first adults besides moms and dads that many of our children come in contact with each day. Our bus drivers help our students start and end their school days. Moms and dads trust our bus drivers to transport their most precious possessions to and from school every day. THIS is not a casual thing.
It's been a great week. Let's continue to get better each day.
Click here to view the September 4th staff update.