By Thomas Martellone, Principal, Fiske Elementary School, Lexington
This post was originally published on July 31, 2016 on Tom’s blog, A Principal’s Thoughts.
It’s that time of year again when I am immersed in “all things” school. Hard to believe, but we’ve already been back for three weeks. While I loved my summer vacation, it was good to get back to work and be with students and teachers. The start of school is one of my favorite times because I get to take all the thinking and reflecting I’ve done over the summer and begin to put it to practice. Not that I don’t reflect on my work and the work of my school each day throughout the year, but summer is a great time to really process all the things I did in the previous year and then gear up for the opening of school. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t get excited for school to start. Personally, and professionally, I am always excited for summer to end and to get back into routines and be with students and educators.
Just before school started back, while I was out walking my dog, I noticed in my newsfeed a heading about President Obama speaking at the DNC. I scrolled through the abbreviated transcript, and while I’m not interested in bringing politics into my professional life, I was struck by his speech and something he shared about his experience in the United States. I read it over at least three times, thinking about what he had said, thinking about my work at school and thinking about all of our collective work as school principals and leaders. The president talked about the United States as being a “generous, big hearted, hopeful country”. He then went on to share that because of that, the U.S. “made my story; that made all of our stories possible.”
As we all know, schools are intended to be institutions of learning. However, I got to thinking; Wouldn’t you want your school to also be known as generous, big hearted, and hopeful? It then made me think- What stories do we want to make and what stories do we want to be possible for our school communities?
There are two questions that arise from thinking this way as a principal:
- What conditions will you help create to have the best possible stories made?
- What stories will be made and TOLD by your students, educators, and parents?
As a principal, I know how important it is for me to not only create conditions for great stories to be told, but for me to share great stories as well. As I continue into the new school year, I am thinking of the following:
- Work hard to build positive relationships every day. Do this with students, educators and parents, colleagues, my PLN, and everyone I come into contact with.
- Listen, listen, listen. Talk a little, listen some more.
- Be present, both physically and emotionally.
- Hold everyone, including myself, to reasonably high standards.
- Promote creativity, innovation, risk taking.
- Celebrate successes, and be forgiving when mistakes are made.
- Promote positivity, gratitude, and curiosity.
- Communicate a lot, in multiple ways, and be clear about the work of the schol.
- Share stories outside of the school to showcase all the great work students and educators are doing: Do this as much as possible.
- Most importantly, never waiver or lose focus on the needs of students.
For my students, educators, and parents, I also recognize the importance of the school experience for them. I know that they will come to school each day, and at the end of the day, will leave the school house with their own “stories” to share. Here’s what stories I hope we’ll help make for them:
- I was listened to and cared for by my school.
- In the school community, I was known and appreciated.
- I had the opportunity to ask questions, lots of questions, and I got to talk about learning with others.
- When I had a need or a problem, someone was available to me to help and support me.
- If I made a mistake, I knew that I would be respected and use the opportunity to learn.
- School was a safe place for me to be each day.
- Our school promoted and gave me opportunities to be creative and think.
- Every person in my school community was valued for their individual differences, and our collective strength as a group.
- Learning and teaching were fun, and I enjoyed being at school.
- Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself, and others, along with learning content.
When school started on August 30th for 500 students, 115 staff members, and our extended school community, the words of the President ran through my head. I had finalized schedules, talked to new families, and supported staff as they came into school and prepared for the new year. I truly want them to leave OUR school each day and at the end of the year with stories that reflect kindness, hope, generosity, and most of all, a love for learning.
Now that you’ve launched your school year, what conditions will you work to create that will influence the “stories” being told about your school? What stories will you tell? One can’t help but think, and shouldn’t stop thinking of this while creating the best schools possible for our communities this school year. My hope is that we all help create stories that reflect hope, generosity, kindness, and most importantly, learning.
Tom Martellone currently serves as Principal of Fiske School in Lexington, MA.He is celebrating his 18th year as a principal and continues to love coming to work each day to support students, teachers and learning! As a connected educator, you can reach Tom through Twitter @TomMartellone, on Voxer @tmarte091 or through his blog.
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