Appreciation. Recognition. Encouragement.
Three simple words. As educators, we have difficulty using those three words when referring to our own practices. We don't like to be held up in front of our colleagues and told "thank you." Work hard, put kids first, keep your head down. That's not a terrible thing, but we can do better. The staff in our school district work extremely hard. They put kids first. But we often work in isolation and try not to draw attention to the great things we are doing. In East Moline, we've been working to change that the past four years. But we can do better.
We have custodians that take great pride in ensuring our students and staff have an environment that is conducive to learning. Come to our schools in January when the salt, slush and water can wreak havoc on tile floors and you will see custodians working to make sure our floors shine the next morning. Our school district has bus drivers that understand they have to not only get the children to school safely, but ready to learn. We have food service employees working to give the children entrusted to our district a nutritious breakfast so their brains can focus on learning. We have teachers that knock themselves out by working together to meet the needs of every child in their classroom. We have paraprofessionals going the extra mile for our kids in hundreds of ways each day. Our administrators are working harder than ever to enable their staff to do what they do best. And if we are doing things right, we are greeting each and every child in the halls, on the bus, in the breakfast line, or at our classroom doors with a smile. Annette Breaux, an author that has spoken with our school district a couple of times, would call those people "3's." Those are the individuals that are always positive, always smiling and welcoming our students because we know that might be the first smile they have seen that day.
I have a framed note from a student hanging in my office. I have had it my office wall since I left to take my first job as a school principal. A student in my 7th grade class at Frank L. Smart Middle School in Davenport, Iowa wrote me a note of thanks at the end of her school year. The note simply says:
"Mr. Humphries, you are one of the best teachers I've ever had. You are very supportive and always make sure people don't give up on themselves. Thank you for being such an awesome person and teacher."
*I will always keep that note. It means a great deal to me because it shows the impact we can have on children. I believe we can also have that impact on each other. Education is tough business. Legislators, state mandates, Federal programs, they all sorta get in the way of what is truly important -- ensuring that each and every child in our district gets a great education. But if we hold each other up, appreciate the good things happening in our school district, recognize those that are doing amazing things to help children, and encourage each other even when we know it's been a tough day -- there is not a thing we cannot accomplish, together.
I look forward to hearing those three simple words all over the East Moline School District this year.
*True story, that student came to our school district to do an internship two years ago and I was able to show her the note on my wall and tell her how much it meant to me, even years later.