I get accused of optimism, and occasionally cheerleading, when it comes to my school, gentle ribbing about my ability to make even a high school dance seem wholesome, my weekly emails to parents called “Bjorn’s Wilfred Brimley moments,” that sort of thing. It’s a charge I’ll plead guilty to. I’m unrepentant in my vision of LCC as a place of powerful learning and great good.
As a site administrator I get to see more than just the spring musical, big game, and after school tutoring. In addition to the many acts of kindness, the declarations of school spirit, and the flashes of academic brilliance, I get to see something else. Vulnerability.
I see the student who just became homeless. I see the school psychologist after she’s met with a family on the brink of crisis. I see the young teacher shaken by a parent’s argument for a higher grade, and the young parent shaken by her student’s cry for help. I see glimpses into the often complicated lives of people, young and old, put in circumstances they
would not have chosen, even if they are sometimes circumstances they have created.
I choose optimism. I choose helping, as much as I’m able, and working with a network of others who make a difference. It is through these others (the counselor, the teacher, the parent, the school resource officer, and others) that I’m given hope.
Schools are places where strangers are put together and expected learn. Compelled by compulsory education laws, students attend classes, teachers present curriculum, and support staff (like me) do our best to keep the machinery of school running smoothly. Sometimes things go as planned; sometimes life has other ideas.
I’ll argue that a good school, a place that transcends federal mandate and becomes a true place of connection for students and teachers, educators and families, a good school is the best place for the vulnerable to find help. We don’t have the answers to every question, because the answers to every question don’t exist, at least not as handily as we’d like. But few places can match the level of empathy of a school. Couple that empathy with problem solving, something else educators are often guilty of, and the results can be inspiring. Other times, when the problems are too big for our unlimited hearts and limited hands, the results are heartbreaking.
We keep at it. Teachers enter education for many reasons, but they stay in it for one: students. How we support each other, the measure of kindness we each bring to our work together, and how we interact around our vulnerabilities, which are many, defines us and our school. Academic measures matter, awards for music, sports, engineering, and more matter too, but perhaps the truest sense of a school’s health can be measured in its collective kindness.