Although a "clean, well-lighted place" is deeper than cleanliness, it starts there. Students deserve to come to a school that is consistently well-kept. A number of our students are in despair and their home lives are unorganized and in disorder. Having a predictably clean entry, hallway, bathroom, and classroom sets the stage for learning. It sends a message to students that they have something to come to each day - something with substance, something predictable, something with order.
The old man in the short story feels alone, unwanted and in a deep despair. The interaction in the story between the two waiters and the old man happen daily in our lives. Like the old man, some students show up simply to confront loneliness and have a purpose. Like the waiters, teacher either live their jobs where teaching gives them purpose or they simply see it as a job - not a place that provides comfort and routine.
School leaders must make sure that the work they do ensures that their schools are "clean, well-lighted places" and as long as students are showing up, we need to ensure that we are "open" and ready to serve.
"It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music.... What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order."
- Ernest Hemingway
“Returning from work feeling inspired, safe, fulfilled and grateful is a natural human right to which we are all entitled and not a modern luxury that only a few lucky ones are able to find.” -Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last
Currently, I am reading, "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. Something in the first few pages have got me stirred about our instructional assistants. At the beginning of each school year, we work so hard to make sure that teachers and students are ready for learning, but what do we do for our instructional support personnel? It reminded me of a video we watched once at a conference about how aware we are when we are focused so hard on something else.
I have been so focused on "counting passes" by one part of our system, that I have failed to see something that has great value right in the mix. Due to this reflection and realization, we have put together a draft of meeting schedules to formally place instructional support staff as key players in our school improvement plan. As we embark to reduce chronic absenteeism and work on full co-teaching inclusion, our instructional support staff will need support, access to administration, and additional learning. We need to make sure that the feel "inspired, safe, fulfilled, and grateful" as they spend so much time directly working with students and parents.
Our first step is to develop our understanding of their needs. It is our goal that they will be able to use our time together to address their support needs - do they feel safe and comfortable in their current (which is slightly new to them) roles. Our overall goals will be to train them in our PBIS model, Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), and Literacy. If they know what we expect of the certified staff, they will have a better vision of where they should be focusing their time.
Category: Shared Vision, Management
Ryan Dumkrieger is the principal of Sioux City North High School.