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Posted by on in General



My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, was a pudgy little lady with hair cropped close to her head. She looks mean in the yellowed class picture near the front of my school days’ scrapbook. But I can’t recall a single angry word ever spoken.

I do remember that Mrs. Thompson was allergic to chalk. And I remember her compensating for this disability with charts. Math charts, writing charts, spelling charts, reading charts...every wall was plastered. We judged the day simply on the number of charts we had to conquer.

Something in my mastery of the charted standards must have caught Mrs. Thompson’s attention. One day during math, as the rest of the class copied and solved the math problems from the latest chart, she came to my desk with a reprieve. She told me that she was impressed with my writing and that I was going to be allowed to write stories instead. She led me down the hall to Miss Manning’s room (where I had lived my first-grade days) and asked if I could borrow the story starter box, a collection of pictures to inspire creative writers.

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Posted by on in General


There were six kids absent from my class and about that many absent in each of my fellow teachers' classes as well. Celeste looked up from her bell work as I was entering the attendance into the computer. "Why are so many kids gone today?" she inquired.

"Oh...is it that God thing?" blurted out Miguel.

I asked, "You mean "Good Friday" - right, Miguel?"

"Yeah," he replied. "Yeah... Um, what is Good Friday?"

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Posted by on in General


The measure of a school's worth is directly associated with the quantity and quality of the connections between the adults and the children who share the building on a daily basis. Students are more likely to flourish as learners when they know they are appreciated, supported, and loved by the teachers and other staff members they encounter on campus.

It is our job to provide that type of structure for the kids in our classrooms. But we also share the immense responsibility of being there for ALL of the school's children. The adage, "it takes a village," is indeed true as the success of students will exponentially increase with each added strand of support woven into their emotional web.

Sometimes all it takes is a quick acknowledgement on the sidewalk - a "hello," a "have a good day," even an "are you okay?" Such a connection might be the only adult interaction in a child's day. Every moment counts! Talk to your kids in line for lunch, on the playground, on the sidewalk as they leave for home at the end of the day...

As a principal, I noticed one day a student and a teacher walking toward each other on the sidewalk. The teacher said nothing at all. Later that day, I made sure that the staff understood that the expectation was for staff members to make the first move in greeting ALL children - whether they knew them or not. Most kids have yet to fully master that social skill. Some may even keep on walking without responding to your greeting. But at least they know that someone noticed them. Such a small show of interest could greatly redirect the trajectory of that child's emotional well-being for the day - and perhaps for the year.

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Posted by on in General


My first administrative job was as assistant principal at Garden Lakes School for the 2000-2001 school year. During that year, I had the great opportunity to work with a most influential man thirty years my senior...the head custodian, Pilo Berrelez.

As I was lifting and carrying all the new textbooks in early August, Pilo offered his assistance. No thanks, I said, protectively wishing to keep this old man from back strain or more serious injury. Little did I know, that two weeks later, I would be at home recuperating from a hernia, and he would be finishing my book deliveries.


Pilo was the epitome of customer service. If I, even in passing, mentioned a task I was thinking of attempting, he would surprise me by completing the work himself before I would return to my office.

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Picnic basket 01

Ian was still working on his state reading assessment as lunch time approached. His classmates had finished and surprisingly remained quiet as he worked. During that time, this little boy, who has all the signs of ADHD – but no diagnosis, and no medication – twisted around in his seat, bopped to an imaginary beat, tapped his pencil and averaged the completion of approximately one question every twenty minutes. The patience of his peers far surpassed my own.

The rule for testing day is that any student not finished at lunch time must bring his food back to the testing location, eat, and then continue the ordeal. I allowed Ian to go ahead of the group to grab his food. The rest of the kids and I followed behind to the cafeteria.

I heated up my daily rice with almonds and wasabi peas and walked back to class with the boy who was already eating part of his salad with his fingers. We sat on the floor of the room – picnic style – and took a break from testing.

I had first met Ian when he was a second grader and I was his assistant principal. The cafeteria was in use that day for the display of science fair projects. So lunch was served at the picnic tables outside.

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