I smiled to myself because of similar June experiences in three other districts. There I was in a high school library breathing in stagnant air that only an educator or former prisoner-of-war could comprehend. District office representation, principals, and administrative interns were gathered for the end-or-the-year Principal Academy, as no fewer than seven fans buzzed to draw in fresh air through open doors. Over 70 of us, seated around circular tables, basked in the knowledge that the school-year was coming to a close, as only state reports, final evaluations, and administrative check-outs remained. Informal conversation topics included how few open positions remained in each building and upcoming vacation destinations. The smiles came easy as we broke
bread tortillas with one another and enjoyed
the coma inducing “lightness” of catered Mexican food.
The line-item agendas on each table included time to address the “big rocks” (initiatives) for the coming year, professional learning structures for administrators, and a plan to address House Bill 1240. We were ready to begin as Principal Kim stood to introduce a young lady in attendance. What happen next would trump any professional learning that would take place over the next three hours.
The former student from Principal Kim’s elementary school took the microphone and sang beautifully. Her emotion, the power of her voice, and the words of the song touched our hearts and brought tears to the eyes of many. After finishing, the student looked at the ground and stated, “I’m a very shy person, but I know that Ms. Kim loves me. She pushes me...she believes in me, and now I believe in myself.” She then went on to share her dreams and the goals for her future and thanked "Ms. Kim" for her love and support.
The moment reminded me that, while we can’t choose which small act or moment may alter the life of a student, we can be cognizant of our words and actions. I believe the words of that statement and know that the best way to interact with students is to follow the counsel of Lakeside High School football coach, Frank Hall, who stated the following:
“Every kid is someone’s pride and joy, or wants to be someone’s pride and joy, and it’s my responsibility to be that someone for him. I keep thinking, How would I want my kid to be treated?—and then I treat ‘em that way.”
Coach Hall's words affirm those of John C. Maxwell, who professed, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
That self-proclaimed "timid" student in a sweltering high school library reaffirmed to me that personal connections are paramount in all that we do. We can agonize over test scores, senate bills, and instruction; however, positive relationships are the catalyst for improvement. Every day we make a difference, as our interactions with students can be positive and lasting, indifferent and forgettable, or negative and damaging. Every day we can be somebody's somebody.