More often than not clarity is the goal of all communication with parents, students, and teachers. As a principal I strive to provide information that gives my audience what they need, and opportunities to ask questions and engage in conversation about what’s happening on campus. To this end I use Twitter and our school’s Facebook page, I’m diligent about keeping up with a monthly principal’s message on our school website, and I keep this blog (for those times I’m feeling a little more poetic than a more official memorandum would allow). In addition, short web videos have become an increasingly welcome way for me to reach parents, who get to see a face with the message, as opposed to a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone message (I use those too) that interrupts dinnertime.
In a playful mood, however, I jostled that expectation of clarity first, and engaged in a touch of subterfuge for my “Costumes on Campus” message.
The student who was kind enough to stand in for me had gotten my attention when I subbed for a drama class earlier in the year and he offered to get the students started on a drama warm up while I took role. A real leader and talented actor, he had the pluck I wanted to fill the suit and mask. My AP stood behind the camera, and told me when we finished: “This was your best one!” Because I wasn’t in it, I answered. “You said it, not me!” He laughed.
Using humor to support a message and embracing the unexpected are hallmarks of great teachers. To work with pre-teens and teenagers means an ongoing adventure into the world of anything can happen, and to be an administrator at a middle school means multiplying that by 40 or so classrooms.
I’m very fortunate to share this adventure with a team of gifted educators who see the good in the unexpected. As we learn, both students and adults, understanding is preceded by a moment of not knowing what will happen next. It could be the anticipation of hearing a student presentation, engaging in a lab in science, or wrestling for a solution in math. It’s the notion that we don’t have the answer …yet. And it’s in that “yet” that we cultivate the growth mindset that believes we all have the capacity to grow, to learn, and (to crib a line from Sartre) to be what we are becoming.
I heard once that one measure of progress in a laboratory was laughter, because it meant that something had happened that was positive and surprising. It’s a lot like that in middle school.
Learning should be fun. As we dance with the unknown and finish a little closer to understanding than when we started, students build the habits of curiosity that will lead them in exciting and uncharted directions.