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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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Sean is currently an 8th grade science teacher and science department head at Camden Promise Middle School, which is a part of the Camden Charter School Network. The goal of the network is to give all children in Camden an equal opportunity to achieve their greatest potential, to raise awareness through educational policy, to expand resources, to build leadership, and support program capacity for the city of Camden. Prior to this, Sean spent 2 years serving as the principal of a private, out-of-district school for students with behavioral and emotional issues. Sean began his educational career by teaching middle school science for 6 years throughout New Jersey (in Hoboken, Camden, and Millville). 


Sean completed his undergraduate work at Rutgers University, where he majored in Communication, with a minor focus in Organizational Leadership. He attended graduate school at the University of Scranton, where he earned his MS in Educational Administration. 


In addition to being an educator, Sean has received a patent for a student-centered teacher feedback system. This approach takes the focus solely off of student output and examines student input. The process allows students to provide instant feedback on any one of several key aspects of a lesson. He is currently developing a plan to get this system in the hands of students as soon as possible. If you would like to collaborate with him on this, please reach out! 


When he is not focused on his professional endeavors, Sean loves to spend time with his wife, their two sons, and their two dogs. He enjoys running, mountain biking, training for and running Spartan Races, riding his motorcycle, and doing whatever he can to stay active and involved.

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Guest Friday, 02 December 2016