With just a week to go before students arrive at school it’s time for me to acknowledge that the summer days of short pants are just about over and that like scores of students preparing for classes, it’s time for me to go school clothes shopping. My list isn’t long. I have a closet full of ties and dress shirts. Really the only thing I need is a new pair of shoes.
Style isn’t my primary concern; no one looks to me for a fashion statement. What I’m after is a good sole, something that can survive the school year.
I walk a lot: into classrooms, around campus, from the entrance of the school in the morning to the back gate as the school day ends. I’ve been a site administrator at three schools and the one constant is that I wear out a pair of shoes every year.
Walking is a big deal to me. Every minute I’m out of my office and moving around campus I have the opportunity to experience what’s happening at my school. It’s on walks that I get to step into classrooms, the epicenter of education. Seeing great teachers engage with students renews me. Watching kids learn, asking them questions as they do a lab in science class or draw in the art studio, or even joining in a kickball game in PE (while tough on shoes) helps me connect with my students and my school community.
I notice things when I walk: the leaky faucet, the abandoned textbook, the parent walking her dog. And when I address these opportunities I help make my school a safer, friendlier, and better place.
Sometimes people walk with me -students on their way to class, instructional assistants between periods, teachers on their preps- and the conversations that spring up as we walk are some of the richest I experience. I’ve heard people stress the “visibility” of administrators, but the word has always struck me as meaning standing around. Give me walking; movement speaks of engagement.
Whether striding with purpose, on my way to cover a class, or strolling with my assistant principal as we talk over a situation or upcoming event, it’s that engagement that matters most to me. I want to be out on my campus, moving in this grand dance of learning, and connecting with others on this journey of education.
I’ll buy a new pair of shoes this weekend before the first day of classes, and if I find them worn out when I step on the stage at our promotion ceremony in June I’ll have a chance of being what I set out to find: something that can survive the school year, a good soul.