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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Little Kids In The Big Office

This morning marked the first day of our school-wide mentoring program. The concept and purpose was originally mentioned in an earlier Blog entitled, "What's Staff Development Anyway?" In brief, every learner in the school, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, met with their assigned staff member for a twenty minute interaction designed to heighten the value of relationships in the school. These groups consist of five or six learners for each staff member. All staff members have responsibilities as mentors. Mentors have been provided a list of developmentally appropriate skills and experiences as a resource guide for leading sessions that meet every two weeks for the entire school year.

I met with a group of seven children, with representation from Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. We  met in my office. I never knew where the superintendent's office was during my entire thirteen years as a student, and I never met him until the day he gave me my high school diploma. The kids were unfazed by my title and office, since they see me on a regular basis in the hallways or cafeteria, if not the entrance of the school each morning.

The goal of this initial session was to get to know each other. Following introductions and the sharing of birthdays, the children each wrote their name on a paper and drew pictures of activities they liked and things that they enjoyed. We engaged in casual chatter while they filled the papers with bright colors. Of the seven children, three had birthdays in January, including one that shared the same birthday as mine. As children this age would do, they quickly identified us as twins. Following that readily manufactured deduction, they returned to their drawings. I performed a simple magic trick from among the many different tricks I routinely employ during workshops I provide as a consultant to other school districts and organizations on the subject of school improvement. The children were very impressed with the slieght of hand! One quickly dubbed me the Magic Teacher, which is easier to say than my last name.

That's actually not the first nickname I've received from a kindergarten child already this year. As I've discussed in a previous Blog, I greet all of the learners as they enter the school each morning. I've only missed two days, one of which was yesterday due to my attendance at a conference out of town. In fact, I was happy to hear a parent tell me that her family missed me yesterday and my absence was noticeable. During these morning interactions I acknowledge smiles whenever I find them and encourage those without a smile to discover a reason to create a smile and share it with others. Well, one little girl in particular responds to my request for a smile with giggles every day, and then a big smile. On the night of Open House I was walking down the hallway which I thought was empty. That is, until I heard a child's voice fifteen yards behind me belt out, "There he is, Smiley Boy!" I turned to see who she was addressing, only to find out it was me! She was walking to her class with her hand in her father's hand, we were the only people in the hallway. She recognized me and pointed me out to her dad and told him I always ask kids to smile as they walk up the steps of the school.

It's humbling to realize that after thirty-three years as a school leader, blessed with leadership awards, armed with a hard earned doctorate's degree and the title and responsibility of serving as a superintendent - I'm simply a Magic Teacher and The Smiley Boy to the kindergarten children in Green Island. It's an important reminder of the world as perceived by five year-olds, and a reminder not to take myself so seriously.

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