My job is a lot about building and sustaining a positive school culture whose focus is always on children and teaching and learning. But the truth is that I don’t always know how what I do every day contributes to that work. I mean, if you look at my calendar, it isn’t always evident how what I’m doing across any given week is about doing that essential work.
Today I felt victorious for a few moments. I helped two adults start a conversation that has needed to happen for quite some time. Helping two teachers put aside their own hurt feelings in order to start working together so that children can be successful, that felt like I was doing the important work of building a positive school culture.
Yesterday (and actually, the past 3 days) I spent the whole day in meetings with one teacher at a time, along with the math and literacy coaches and interventionists. For each student who had not met the grade level expectations on a reading or math screener in January, we were talking about what supports we had put in place to help them be successful. These meetings are not unique. All over our district (and likely the country), people have “RTI meetings.” So how do I establish positive culture in RTI meetings? Focus on the positive. Celebrate what is working. And yet be unrelenting in ensuring all students have what they need to succeed. Teachers come with piles of data showing the growth their children have made. And even for the most struggling readers, this first grade teacher would say, “Look at what he can do now!” It’s amazing… and here is what she is going to do next so that he continues to grow.
At the end of the day today, as the April Fool’s snow was falling, a teacher stopped in my doorway. It’s Friday afternoon. He has a bit of a smirk on his face. He has a complaint for me. About how his room gets used by afterschool, and they don’t clean up. And… and… and… We have a strong relationship so he knows that I get him what he needs. But today I said to him, “You know you GET something out of all of this complaining.”
He protested a bit, “but, I mean, don’t you think this is important?” I nodded. He walked away. And returned about 20 minutes later. “You’re right you know. I do get something. It’s like an adrenaline rush when I get all worked up. I feel like I’m really doing something!”
I nodded. “And it costs you something, too, right? Like peace of mind?” He smiled, nodded. This conversation isn’t over. I haven’t “fixed” him. He’ll continue to get worked up. But hopefully the conversation continues to have an impact on how he looks at the world. Maybe it’s not always out to get him.
What is this job, really? Every time I feel like I’m just DONE with this job, I realize there is some aspect of it that I love and maybe I just need to do more of THAT, whatever it is.