ALL Kids Can Succeed: Be The 1

By William Burkhead, Principal, Monomoy Regional High School  (@burkheadbill)


There has been much debate in education on who is ultimately responsible for a child’s learning.  In a perfect world the parents would be the child’s first teachers.  They would then work closely with the best educators in the best schools led by the best principals using the best curriculum.  The students would receive an equitable education in a beautiful facility and then attend college for free, or enter the workforce or military with strong values and appropriate skills. If this were happening with every child we wouldn’t have debate on how we educate our children in America.  But as you know, this is not always the case.

It starts with 1 caring adult who shows genuine interest in a child and believes wholeheartedly that they can, and will SUCCEED.  This adult must then commit to doing “whatever it takes” to help that child succeed.  This adult can be a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, relative, administrator, grandparent, etc.  An emotion we don’t often talk about in education is LOVE.  We have too many children in our schools that don’t feel loved.  This 1 adult offers this through caring, sharing and advocating for the child.  My personal educational philosophy is to treat each child as if they were my own.  To love, respect, discipline, trust, and challenge them.  To hold them to high expectations and thoroughly enjoy their small victories and overall successes. If every child had at least 1 adult in their corner, they could succeed.  Will that adult be you?

I Can Relate

I can relate to children who may have it tough, and that is why I always knew I would be a teacher.  I was fortunate to have two loving parents, who instilled in me that school, sports and a strong work ethic were important.  I grew up in the projects on government cheese & food stamps.  But I was happy and enjoyed school, because I was loved.  I would go to the school gym on Saturday’s for “Open Gym” where we’d play dodgeball and other fun games.  I’ll never forget when the instructor of Open Gym pulled me aside and told me that an EDUCATION was the meal ticket to success.  He told me to get out of the projects.  I remember asking myself at 10 years old- how can I get out of the projects I’m only a kid?  Looking back I realize that by relentlessly pursuing an education I was able to reach my goals and enjoy a quality life.  I also realize that I was fortunate enough to have more than 1 adult care about me.  I wasn’t concerned with my socio-economic status, how nice my school building looked, or how many great teachers I had.  I was intrinsically motivated to succeed because people I trusted and respected valued education & did “whatever it took” to make sure I understood that.


Practical Application

Imagine how many children out there have NO adult support, attention and love?  I’d like to challenge all educational leaders to model this philosophy and watch it spread through your school.  I strongly believe that our enthusiasm as leaders is contagious and hope that after reading this you motivate your staff to each think of at least one child who may need attention, support and love and become the 1 for that child.

Personal Application

We have 620 students in our school and I have promoted the 620 rule this year.  The simple premise that each and every student (620) matters and is important.  Once we focus on kids as individuals and not groups/classes/cliques/clumps/etc. we allow ourselves to collectively get to know each of them as individuals and are more willing to do whatever it take to push them, support them, involve them and love them – to be their 1.

I personally have challenged myself to commit to the 620 rule and model it, by learning all 620 student names.  I took our school photo ID book home for the summer and began to study EVERY students name and picture.  I carry it with me daily and practice – I am making progress.  A student last week said hi to me as I entered a teacher’s class.  I responded by saying “hello Emma.” She was blown away! She responded “I can’t believe he knows my name.”  I proceeded to (with the help of the teacher) go around the room greeting each student by name.  At the door the next morning I said hello to Alana.  She smiled at me and said “I read your tweet about remembering all our names and think that’s really cool.”  I smiled and said “yes, and now I know yours.” You see, for the past two years I regularly confused her with Lucy, until I actually put the time and effort into learning a little more about what makes each of them unique.  In one of my favorite books “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” Dale Carnegie points out “we should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing…and nobody else.” He continues, “remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Now just imagine if all the adults in our building could get to know ALL 620 of our students and push ourselves to know a little more about each of them – powerful!

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