Sometimes I envy the educators I interact with on Twitter and Facebook, at the conferences I occasionally attend, within the meetings I find myself, and inside the walls of my own building. I think I’m a fairly accomplished professional in my own right, having coached young athletes, struggled through some years of teaching in the intermediate classroom, led an elementary school as a principal as we moved into Core Knowledge, and presently continuing to learn as an assistant principal at an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program World School. I’ve been at this around 20 years, and yet, there are times I feel like I’m still missing something.
I want to write or engage in a conversation about things like (insert educational jargon here), but it seems like I can’t quite pull it off. While I understand it all just fine, and I can pass in all the circles, for the most part my mind wanders elsewhere. I don’t consider myself to be some highly intellectual thinker, or some different mind that just can’t fit into the mold. No, I’m not that unique or interesting. Rather, I think – I’ve always thought – I’m one of those kids.
Growing up as a middle class, Christian, heterosexual white boy in the Midwest, I’ve always had it pretty good … well, really good. With two loving parents who kept me on the compassionate side of life, I still did my best to wreck things. Without getting into all the gory details, I presented myself as a decent student and athlete, while on the inside I had a streak that led me on a destructive path far too many times. Despite my efforts otherwise, I was guided on a more constructive path. Two educators made the difference for me: One was a teacher, one was a custodian, and both were coaches. The difference they made in my life wasn’t because of (insert educational jargon here), but because they cared about me as a person. Nothing more, nothing less.
Recently, two educators I’ve never personally met, but respect very much, encouraged some thinking on what good schools and educational leaders do. I wanted to write some posts, or at least comment, with my thoughts. As I wrestled with what to say, ultimately this post is what I came up with. In my typical form and fashion, my response doesn’t fit the mold, it talks around it instead of at it, and it creates more questions than solutions. Again, it’s not because I have some intriguing depth about me; rather, it’s just because it’s how I roll.
The path we take in life is never straight and flat, clean and crisp. When navigating our journey, the help we get is because of the connections we make with others. Pardon my harshness, but the rest of the educational jargon we waste our time with is, for the most part, just a bunch of (insert inappropriate word or words here). It’s about relationships. It’s about loving one another. It’s about caring enough to be mindless about strategy and mindful about what matters more … most … only. It’s what made a difference for me, and I know I’m not alone. The fact of the matter is, we all work with one of those kids. The truth is, we’re all one of those kids.
It will serve us – and, more importantly, others – well if we remember this as we go about our business. Those are my thoughts on the matter, anyway.
For what it’s worth.