I am in a new role this year, one that means I am removed from classroom teaching. It’s been an adjustment, but one that is going fairly smoothly. That said, any time I have a chance to be in a school, I get excited and can barely contain myself. Even if it means I’m giving a short presentation to teachers about how they can use their new laptops in their classrooms.
As I’m also new to my school division, some of the building leaders have given me short little tours the first times I’ve been in their schools. The first building I was in was a K-8 building that was a modified open-classroom building. Most rooms didn’t have doors, and many walls were “missing” as well. The result was a really powerful experience as I would walk by “classrooms” and hear bits and pieces of the learning going on around me.
When I walked by one of the grade 5/6 areas, I saw the students all looking at their teacher, and I heard him say two words: “Bleeding Scream.”
I had to stop the person giving the tour, to make sure I heard that correctly. Sure enough, I did not miss those words. He was about to read a chapter of Wonder. For those who know the book, that is the chapter. The chapter when Jack Will says those words.
I didn’t want to distract the students from that moment, so I continued on.
But those kids stuck with me. I’ve never read the book with that age level before. How did they react? What did they think? Were they surprised? Did any of them feel sick to their stomachs, as I did when I first read that scene?
Fortunately, the answer was but an email away.
I asked the teacher those very questions. His response was better than I had hoped. Sure, he let me know their thoughts. But he also invited me to come talk with them myself.
So yesterday, I had the opportunity to put on my teacher hat and read a section of Wonder to a group of students who were so invested in every word, I could have read with them for hours.
Some incredible things happened as a result of that experience:
- I was able to connect with my teacher self a little more deeply, feeding that fire.
- The classroom teacher got to a) have a well-deserved break and b) see his work validated by a colleague.
- The students got to see that this practice — reading a book and talking about it — is not something limited to them and their teacher. It’s something adults do because it’s a good practice.
As administrators, sometimes we can lose sight of the impact our actions can have. We get caught up in what we see as important, forgetting that the most important thing is the students in our care. Though they might not be directly in our care most of the time, they are still the only thing that matters in this profession.
The look on their faces, seeing someone from the division office (perhaps capitalized Division Office in their minds) step in and do what their teacher does with them every day, was one of wonderful realization. This isn’t just their teacher doing something good. This is something of value beyond their learning space. This is something that matters. They are someone who matters.
Some will say the time spent with these students could have been better spent. I suppose I could have worked some more on the database of instructional videos I’m creating. I could have met with my team members on a project we are working on. I could have done some more professional reading.
But that stuff will happen. That’s a required part of my job. What’s important are the things that aren’t required. For 30 minutes at the end of the work week, I chose to be with students and bring some validation to a teacher and his practice.
I can’t think of a better use of my time.
I don’t want to sit here and put a false air of importance on myself. But it is important that those of us on the administration side of things realize the “official” nature of our presence, whether we want it or not. How are we using it to validate and appreciate those around us? Worse yet, how are we using it to invalidate or depreciate those around us?
Let’s use the little bit of power we have for good, as often as possible. Because those students? The looks on their faces? I’ll never forget it.
Of course, doing a one-time visit is nice. But it is that much better when we can repeat these things. When we can really show the students how important they are. The students recognized that. They asked me to come back as I was leaving. And sure, that felt nice. As much as I validate their work, those words of theirs validated mine.
But to come back. To show them that yes, they are important. Yes, they matter. That is key. They are worth my time, no matter how busy I may be.