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Thank You and Goodbye...

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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Last Thursday was the end of a mini-era. It was my last day as principal of Brookfield Elementary School, a K-8 out of district placement for students with behavioral and emotional difficulties. In 8 years as an educator, I have worked in 4 different schools. Each departure from a school has been difficult emotionally for their own reasons, but this last day was much different.

As I reflect on the goodbyes that I shared with our ESY students and my staff, I think of the familial atmosphere and culture that we created. We often discuss how our staff is a family, but it goes beyond the relationships that we have created with each other. We extend this mindset and relationship to our students  and our students extend it to each other.

In our world, we, both staff and students, are a part of everything that happens in the lives of each other. We celebrate the successes, we support during the struggles, and we inspire and learn through the failures. For some of our students, our school family is the closest thing to family that they have in their worlds. The relationships that we build and keep up are important for academic and therapeutic purposes, but are also essential for their surviving and thriving.

In a small school, everyone works so closely with each other. Everyone knows what everyone is experiencing and going through, both inside and outside of school. Our students are more than our students, they are our children. Our colleagues are more than peers, they are our brothers and sisters. We all love, support, and cherish each other in ways that I have never seen in a school. We are the epitome of what a family is and what every school should strive to achieve.

When I said goodbye to my second family, there was no possible way that I could say everything that I was thinking and feeling. After processing and reflecting more, I am ready.

To my students...Please know that you have changed me in ways that you will never fully understand. I have worked so closely with all of you and have watched you grow so much over the last two years. You are the reason I woke up every morning at 4AM with a smile on my face, ready to get to school.

You have taught me what absolute, unconditional love is between an educator and students. Some days, you may scream, curse, and hit me, but I always know that we can work through it. No matter how mad I may have made you, you always found it in your heart to forgive me.

Some of you come from extremely difficult backgrounds. I have no idea how you handle everything that is constantly thrown at you. Maybe it is because you do not know any different and this is how it has always been for you. Maybe it is because you are a fighter who refuses to give up. Living your lives requires grit and determination. You have shown me what that means on a level that I never knew and will never forget.

I am privileged to share in your moments of extreme difficulty and in your moments of joy and happiness. You trusted me and allowed me into your lives. With some of your backgrounds, I understand how difficult this is and am honored that you allowed me to see the real you.

I am humbled and privileged to work with each of you. I recognize that the connections we made only happened because you saw something in me and believed that I was worthy to be a part of your lives. I am a better person because of the experiences that we have shared. I can only hope that one day, you may feel the same.

To my staff...I remember the first time I addressed everyone during my first year. I remember looking at all of you and telling you that you are the experts about all things in our school. I let you know that I would be leaning on you heavily for your support and that I would need your help more than you needed mine. I wasn't lying was I?!

I needed support and help, but what I received and learned was greater than that. From the beginning, all of you accepted me into your family and provided me with support, advice, experience, and most importantly, love. You told me what I was doing wrong (which was a lot in the beginning!) and you were open to my suggestions. There may have been disagreements and awkward conversations, but they were always based in love.

As a teacher of 6 years, I thought I knew what bringing love into the classroom and school was all about. After 2 years with you, I realize that I had no clue how powerful love really is. In our environment, you are hit, kicked, punched, bit, cursed, and who knows what else. No matter what happens, you always respond in the same way, with love.

It takes a truly special person to work in this kind of environment. It takes a special kind of person to almost lose a finger in a door and only miss one day of school. It takes a special kind of person to receive the brunt of a child's anger and explosion and still be waiting to give that person a hug when they eventually reset. It takes a special kind of person to run to a potentially hostile situation to help your family members instead of running away. It takes a special person to stay calm, supportive, and loving when everything else around you is blowing up. You are all some of the most special and amazing educators that I have ever worked with.

You are underpaid, under-appreciated, overworked, and stretched too thin, but that does not stop you from always bringing your best to school. We always say that no two days are the same in our school, but your attitudes towards our children are always the same. Somehow, you manage everything that goes on in life outside of school and still find ways to bring compassion, energy, and love into the building.

To my students and staff...I promise you that I will never forget any of you. I will never forget the experiences that we have shared and the memories that we have made. I will hold these two years close to my heart.

I am a better person than I was before I met all of you. I have learned the power of true, unconditional love and what happens when we offer this to each other. I have seen so much growth in every person in our school. The culture and environment that exists is beautiful. You have seen the way that love can transform people and I hope you continue to use that power for the rest of your lives.

As we go our separate ways, it will not always be easy to stay connected. We will no longer get to talk about how our weekends were, about how our families are doing, about how we are making out, or any of the other awesome conversations we would have daily. We have shared things with each other that we have not shared with anyone else and we will forever be connected. Things will change, for all of us. One thing that will NEVER change is the love that we have for each other.

Thank you and goodbye...

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This sums up my BFE family perfectly! Thank you for always supporting me and each other!

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Born and raised in Cumberland County, New Jersey, Sean not only has remained, but has continued to grow with his community. He now resides in the same county with his wife and their two young sons. Sean currently serves as an administrator at Camden’s Promise Charter School, where he focuses on the professional development of teachers and building various social-emotional skills with students. Graduating from Rutgers University with an undergraduate degree in Communication as well as a graduate degree from the University of Scranton in Educational Administration helped open the doors to what has now become nearly a decade long career in education.


 


 


 


As a result of connecting with people everyday of all ages, ethnicities, cultures and beliefs, Sean has learned how to listen and meet the individualized needs of different groups of people. In order to help organize parents and educators to come together in academic spaces, it has required him to search for innovative, functional, and inclusive ways to solve problems.


 


 


 


Despite Sean's childhood aspirations of one day becoming an attorney, he has since become an unwavering advocate for positive youth development and education. Growing up, Sean experienced difficulty financially and emotionally in an unstable household while also battling a sometimes crippling learning disability (ADHD). School became both a place of refuge and a source of trouble for Sean. If not for certain teachers and school faculty encouraging him as a young person, he would not have pursued higher education and would not have been able to impact countless students the way he does today.


 


 


 


Throughout his career as an educator in New Jersey, Sean has based every decision solely on what is best for youth and their futures. He has worked to create new, effective programs as well as supports for students and parents addressing social issues. Sean has demonstrated his student-first approach by never being afraid to privately and publicly question decisions that impact teachers, students, and the educational process. As a result, he has been able to create strong, lasting relationships across our state with the students, families, and communities that he has served.


 


 


 


As a leader in education, Sean has rooted his success in incorporating three major values that he applies to every facet of his life: honesty, integrity, and transparency. All great leaders exhibit honesty regardless of how difficult a situation may be. In these times, we need someone who will honor the trust of their constituents, despite possible backlash. Sean has displayed his commitment to integrity by maintaining a strong moral basis in all decisions, never being swayed by personal gain, and combating corruption wherever it exists. Transparency is also something that is not frequently witnessed in politics. Without it, it is easy for elected officials to lose touch with the people they serve. Having worked in education, Sean understands the power of collective responsibility while encouraging collaboration and the inclusion of diverse opinions to impact change. His unique background matched with his life experiences have allowed him to truly understand the struggles and needs of so many American people.


 


 


 


As the next United States Congressman from the state of New Jersey, Sean promises to apply the most effective policies to positively influence the collective growth of all New Jerseyans and Americans. He intends to only put the best interests of his constituents, state, and country first, regardless of how unpopular that may make him within the political machine. This is how we give politics, power, and our country back to the people. This is how we place our future first.

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Guest Tuesday, 22 August 2017