It is such a pleasure to work with schools at the beginning of the year. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hopefully push thinking on what is possible for the upcoming school year, while appreciating the hard work of educators, and hopefully inspiring them through some humor and fun. For my presentations and my life, I try to live by these words from the late Jim Valvano:
So as you enter the school year (or are in the middle of it depending on where you teach in the world), here are a few reminders for the school year.
- For some students, school is their happy place, and they missed their happy place. In the past few years, I have met students from all over the world, and they have inspired from me with stories of perseverance and thriving through tremendous adversity. Honestly, adversity that I do not think I could have dealt with as a child.
On the first day of school, many teachers, myself included, would focus on the “rules” of the classroom. Later in my career, I focused more on relationship building and creating a joyous but challenging environment in the first week more than I did on “rules.” This continued throughout the year. This doesn’t mean “school” should always be “fun,” but it is way easier to struggle in an environment that you enjoy being a part of, then one you hate coming to every single day.
For some students, school is the best place they are in all day. I am not saying schools should fix all societal issues, but I know that we can create an environment where students feel appreciated, and like educators, will more likely thrive in that type of setting.
- No matter how happy (or sad) your colleagues or students seem, don’t hesitate to share a kind word or action.
You never know what anyone is going through so if you think of something nice about a person, say it. Don’t ever let an opportunity pass to make someone’s day.
— George Couros (@gcouros) July 26, 2018
It is pretty natural to see someone as positive and happy and believe that they don’t need recognition or a kind word. It is often common that some of the people we see as the happiest are still fighting battles that we do not understand. Going out of your way to share a kind word, saying hi in the hallway (always), or showing appreciation for great work, can make a world of difference. Displaying kindness can take seconds but can make someone’s whole day. Always assume that there is something you can do to make another person’s day better.
- Give everyone a new beginning.
We know that kids should always start every single day with a new beginning. Things may have happened in the past, but if a school is a place where we are supposed to grow, we need to give our students a fresh start so that they can step into that growth. As a principal, I remember having to suspend students and when they would come back to school, the first thing I focused on was talking to them as a person, not focusing on the unfavorable action. I wanted to make sure that they knew that although they made a mistake, they were a valued part of our community and that we were excited for them to be back and making a positive contribution to our environment. It made a difference for myself and hopefully our students.
But do not reserve the “fresh beginning” for students. Staff can get pigeon-holed and the only way they can get a new start is if they leave or a new administrator enters the building. Expect your colleagues to impress you and most often they will. I am not going to pretend this is easy, but I will say it is important. The “fresh start” should not be reserved only for your students.
I would love any reminders that you have for educators to be shared in the comments below, and to all of the educators starting a new school year, I hope it is your best one yet!