Like every educator at this time of year, I’m tired. December is a fury of trips, concerts, special events, incentives, and an energy that is impossible to fully capture. It’s fun, but it can also be draining.
This past week, I received an unexpected pick-me-up from the fifth graders at my school, who wrote me letters as part of a guidance lesson on gratitude. The letters were incredibly meaningful and encouraging. It was the exact boost I needed in this very hectic season.
As I read through the stack several times, I was reminded of some simple truths about kids; things that I believe we all need to remember now, in the midst of the craziness, and as we transition back to school in the new year. I’m choosing to allow these reminders to be my “why,” especially in the next two weeks, and I hope they’ll help you maintain perspective as well.
Kids Are Perceptive
Kids pick up on more than we think. They can tell when teachers are excited about a lesson, and when they’re not. They can sense tension and they can sense joy. Naturally, we all have ups and downs - days that we can’t wait to get to work and days when we’d rather stay in bed. In one of the letters a student wrote to me, they said, “I think you are special because you love being at school.” I am so incredibly thankful that students see and believe that, because it really is true! However, it was also a great reminder that, even on the tough days, I have a duty to approach the day with enthusiasm! Yes, some days we all have to “fake it until we make it” - but students deserve teachers and administrators who truly love their work and let that show!
Laughter is Great Medicine
One of my favorite books is Fish: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. Part of the Fish-Philosophy is to make time for “play” in your work and I try to ensure that our school culture supports that mindset. One morning, on our live morning announcement broadcast, I caught a case of the giggles and could not stop laughing! You wouldn’t believe how many students wrote about that in their letters. One student said, “I will never forget the time you almost laughed to death on morning announcements.” What a great reminder that kids - and teachers - deserve a fun, playful, and joyful learning environment! Learning is serious business, but it doesn’t mean we always have to be serious.
Time With Kids is Always Time Well Spent
My single favorite thing about being a principal is visiting classrooms and reading books aloud. Being a literacy leader is a major commitment I’ve made, and I try to keep that a priority in my schedule. So, imagine my delight when so many students shared things like, “You read the best books ever!” It was a great reminder to continue to prioritize the things that really matter because they really do pay off!
On the contrary, discipline is one of the more challenging parts of the job. Since I believe that growth, learning, and restoration are always more important than simply punishing, discipline issues are often time consuming. But, these student letters reminded me that the time is always worth it. One said, “I will never forget that time you helped me and Josh work out our problem.” Although not every situation may work itself out so ideally, I was reminded and re-challenged to continue to do that hard work!
Kids Want to Be Known
For me, two of the most powerful statements in these letters were, “I will never forget the time you said my name on announcements” and “I will never forget when you said hi to me.” Wow. What a simple reminder of the fact that all kids want (and deserve) to be seen, acknowledged, valued, and part of something. Every day, as educators, we have the choice and the power to give students that sense of belonging. We can, and must, choose to look them in the eye, to acknowledge them by name, to engage with them in conversation, to give high-fives and fist-bumps, and to SMILE. Kids are the reason we go to work every day! I’m reminded not to get so bogged down in the “tasks” I have to accomplish, that I miss the true “work” - the KIDS!
I am thankful for my fifth graders, for their encouragement and for these lessons they taught me this week. I hope these simple truths resonate with you as well, especially in this busy season!