Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Is A Superintendent? and, Why Are You A Superintendent?

Learners in our school district can sign up to have lunch with the superintendent. The individual who signs up is able to invite three friends to join them in my office. The experience allows me to nurture relationships and stay in touch with those we serve. It also permits me an opportunity to explain who I am beyond the role and title. That's important because one of my young visitors recently asked, in between bites of a sandwich, "What is a superintendent?"

That's an interesting question I think all superintendents should ask themselves at regular intervals. The question was made all that more difficult to answer because it was generated by a six year old. The response had to offer an explanation understandable to someone that age. There was no need to talk about developing budgets, forming coalitions, negotiating contracts, addressing the media, interacting with the public, creating instructional strategies...

"Well," I began, "a superintendent is responsible for everything in the school district." That was a start that made sense to me but her puzzled facial expression indicated that I needed to revise the reply. I changed gears a little and continued. "The superintendent is really the director of smiles. I greet everyone at the front of the school each morning and I check for smiles. If you don't have one, then I try to find out where it went and what the adults at school can do to get your smile back. Maybe you lost your homework, or you are having trouble with a classmate, or you are worried about a test. I'm the person who works with all of the adults in school to make sure that you are wearing a smile when you leave school each day. That's how we know if we're doing a good job at school, by the number of kids who leave with a smile." That seemed to satisfy her.

However, a few bites of the sandwich later, she followed up with another innocent question. "Why did you grow up to be a superintendent?"

Ah. I guess I should have expected that since our lunch centers around dialogue starters I pose to stimulate conversation, such as - Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? What's your favorite TV show? What character would you like to be in any book or movie you've experienced? What do you want to be when you grow up?...

The table turned on me a bit.

"Actually I wanted to be a teacher and help kids just like a couple of special teachers I had who helped me when I was a kid. I taught 5th grade. Then, I wanted to help more kids than the ones I taught in my class, so I became a principal. I enjoyed being a principal but after working with kids from Kindergarten to 6th grade I wanted to continue to help them after they went to middle school and high school, so I became a superintendent. Now, I have a chance to help everyone in the whole school district. I'm like a teacher for everybody in the school district."

She smiled and nodded her head before concluding, "That's nice. You help me with my smile every morning!

Even though John Quincy Adams, our 6th president, never served as a superintendent, he summarized the goal of the superintendency when he said the following: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." That describes our purpose and meaning as superintendents.

No comments:

Post a Comment