To say that I’m excited understates it. I’m giddy. Ready. As my grandmother liked to say “Rarin’ to go!” When I found out that I would have the opportunity to be the next principal at Diegueño Middle School my heart leapt. After five fantastic years at La Costa Canyon High, the chance to grow professionally, to engage with another great school staff, with involved parents, and with enthusiastic students has me over the moon.
I took this excitement to my parents’ house, excited to share the news, and I spotted something that added a new perspective to the salmagundi of emotions I was already feeling: a school photo of me as I was going into 7th grade. Of course I look ridiculous. It appears that my mother might have chosen the wide collared orange shirt I’m wearing with a mind to matching my poorly combed hair. I’d like to believe that a certain confidence lurks behind those twelve year old eyes, but I suspect it’s just the usual uncertainty all incoming 7th graders feel, or at best a false sense that middle school would be just like 6th grade.
And as I looked at that photograph, I realized that my current excitement is familiar. Just like that 12 year old, I’m looking forward to making new friends, to finding teachers I love and staff members I connect with. I’m looking forward to being a part of a new school family, of learning, of fun school activities, and of pushing myself to grow. This time around I bring the perspective of being a dad who has raised a middle school student. I’ve seen first-hand how important those two years are. Middle school is not a layover between elementary and high school; it is a vital time to learn skills, set habits, and make meaningful connections that have a hand in setting the trajectory of a person’s life. The dippy kid in the orange plaid shirt didn’t know that. At twelve I was just worried about remembering my locker combination and not falling down in front of girls. There’s still a bit of that in me today, but there is also the understanding of the importance for us to be a school family, teachers, parents, and staff working together to help all our kids thrive.
We are the people who will make our students’ middle school years memorable. We are the adults who will hold them to high standards, model kindness and caring, and join them in learning and laughter. My wife, who is my best friend and far wiser than me, offered me this advice: “Bjorn,” she said, “have fun.” It echoed the advice my folks gave me when they dropped me off at Parrish Junior High a lifetime ago. And knowing my own younger kids, now nine and five years old, it’s what I’ll probably say to them when they start 7th grade. We learn best when we love what we’re doing and where we are, and just as I set priorities around building community, engaging students in rigorous learning, and being a good steward of Proposition AA construction, so too I hear those words of wisdom in my ears.
So with just 99 days until the first day of classes at Diegueño, I’m looking forward to meeting students, and parents, and staff. I’m looking forward to being in classrooms, and maybe even seeing if an English teacher will let me do a mini-lesson on Jack London. I’m looking forward to spirit weeks, talking with students when I’m out at lunchtime, and events in Cougar Hall. Like the twelve year old I was, I’m excited to start school!