I’m finally getting a chance to write. Wow! What a summer it’s been. I have been a busy boy, but it’s been a good kind of busy and it’s not over either. A year ago I enrolled at St. Bonaventure University in their Educational Leadership program and as part of that program I have been working in two different internships. One as a curriculum director and the other as an assistant principal. Four days a week this summer I rolled out of bed at 6AM, showered, dressed and climbed in my Rav4 and drove over to summer school at the Ellicottville BOCES Center. Students from four area school districts came everyday too for summer school. I got to work with a great staff of teachers and I had a great mentor who supervised me and gave me lots of keen insights and practical experience of what it’s like to be a principal at the middle and high school level.
I have lots of thoughts about where I’m going from here and it may be that I’ll just keep being the technology director that I am but maybe someone will give me a chance to lead or maybe I’ll get to do both. I really enjoyed working with the students and some of them challenged my ideas while others seemed to respond to my empathic outreach. I told many of them that one summer I had to attend summer school too, because I wasn’t the world’s best geometry student. I tried to help the students to see that failure is a part of life and that all lives include failure at some level and that being perfect isn’t the object, but that acceptance is what is most important. Some of the students responded to that and maybe the others did too. One of the hard to reach students nicknamed me “big bird.” No doubt someone my size and deportment looks a bit like Big Bird. I think I surprised this young man when I failed to take issue with his nickname. He was startled when I responded one morning with, “is that your nickname for me.” From the look on his face I could tell that he was shocked and a little embarrassed that I had heard him, but he was more shocked when I failed to respond negatively.
Many of the students who came to our school had lots of trouble in their lives and I tried to accommodate them while at the same time provide a positive direction for them. In addition to my co-principal duties this summer I worked with our curriculum director who is also in charge of writing grants and one of those grants centered around researching the demographics of our community and in the process becoming acutely aware of the demographic of those students I was working with. Cattaraugus County is home to some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in New York State. This summer has been an exceptionally beautiful summer. However it is home to increasingly disenfranchised rural poor and a middle class that is teetering. This fractured social fabric cries out for attention. The safety net here has gaping holes in it and generations are at risk. My heart ached for many of our students this summer and for the students during the regular school year. I often thought how can we reach these children? How do we impact them and their families. It’s easy to point fingers and assign blame but far more difficult to provide answers and change the culture. There are many desperate situations that cry out for attention.
Yesterday, in my reading I came across a program which I recommended to all the school administrators I worked with this summer. It’s called “Care for Kids” and it’s been successfully implemented in Louisville, Kentucky. I’d like to try it here and though I’m not in a leadership position currently I’m going to lead from where I am and as much as possible use the principles of this unique program to care for kids in my own sphere of influence.
Care for Kids Video