While I have always known it, from personal experience, this year made me realize once again just how important school is for our students. School is a safe place for many students. The ONLY safe place.
Our students know what to expect, for the most part, from school. They know what to expect from their teachers and classmates. They know they will be listened to. Their stories will be heard. We will laugh and joke with them. They know that they can come to any of the adults on staff with any troubles they may have and we will help them. We will listen to them and give them advice. We will also ensure that things that need to be dealt with are dealt with in a reasonable and fair manner.
They know they will be fed at school. They won’t go hungry here. They know they can come to school at 7:30am for breakfast. They know where they can go to get a snack for recess and they know the lunch program will provide their lunch.
Students know that they will have the opportunity to do fun things at our school. During the school day, their teachers plan engaging lessons for them. They plan fun activities throughout the day. After school, many students are involved in the programs provided to our students through our involvement with Community Schools. They have been involved with activities from floor hockey, hip hop dance lessons, mentoring by older students, basketball, and many other activities. For many of our students, this is the only time they would be able to be involved in such wonderful, organized activities.
Students at our school know they are valued. They are cared for and know it. They are smiled at, talked with, greeted by name, and hugged at a moments notice. They know we believe in them (even if we have to tell particular students this every day). They know that we understand that we all make mistakes. We are there to help them understand their mistakes and help them make different decisions next time. They are not afraid when they do something wrong. They know they are going to be supported to help them with their future decisions.
For many of our students, school is THE safest place in their life. The only safe place. This was evident in the tears they shed on the last day of school as they said goodbye to their teachers (never-ending tears, for some students). This was also clear when at 3:30, students could still be found in the school, two hours after early dismissal, helping their teachers clean their rooms and organize their materials.
As I am faced with this important realization about our students, I am also faced with important information about our staff, in turn (of which I was already aware). We have such a great staff, dedicated to all of our students, willing and able to make school “home” for our students. They are amazing professionals with whom I have been so fortunate to learn from this year.
As strange as it sounds, I hope that the summer goes quickly for those students who need it to. So they will be back in the safest, most welcoming place in their life.
For all who read this, I hope you realize the impact you have on your students. You really do make a difference in their lives each and every day. Our role as educators is so important. Essential. Often, school is the ONLY safe place for our students. WE are the only stable adults in their life. WE can be what makes our students resilient. WE could be the essential component that will make our most struggling students break the cycle they have lived with their entire life.
Believe it. Live it. Teach and lead with this in the forefront of your mind.
Thanks to you all for making a positive difference.