We believe in things that will give us hope
Why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we?
-Mary Chapin Carpenter
Much of what I do as a principal is look for hope. I walk the halls, listen to students, ask questions of adults, and seek out those corners of the school where good gathers. When I find it, like a cat, I pounce.
Then I thank.
And I celebrate the hell out of it.
Because as much as I want to believe Emily Dickinson and cling to the notion of Hope as a thing with feathers that perches in the soul, the more prosaic world has taught me that as often Emily Brontë is right and…
Hope, whose whisper would have given
Balm to all my frenzied pain,
Stretched her wings, and soared to heaven,
Went, and ne’er returned again!”
That doesn’t mean you give up. As a principal it means you put on your walking shoes and go birding.
Today hope looked like this:
With just a week left in November, rain forecast every day for the next two weeks, and a mandatory fire drill hanging over our heads, my amazing secretary, intrepid AP, and I looked up at a break in the clouds and considered the possibility of evacuating and getting the kids back in the building before rain returned.
We needed to wait until the end of the period for the drill to count (requirements mandate a drill that takes place at least partly at lunch), so with an eye toward the clouds I sent an email to my staff:
RE: Blame it on the rain…
Put simply, it’s not going to get better, so we’re going to take advantage of what is supposed to be 18 minutes of not-rain to do our mandatory fire drill in just a few minutes. It will start at the end of this period and nudge into first lunch. We’ll get them out and back in as quickly as we can.
Margaret will ring the bell very soon.
Let’s do this,
Principals always hope humor helps.
It started to rain, not hard, just enough. We looked from the sky to the clock. Another ten minutes before our drill.
Five minutes later I put on my coat. I would not bring an umbrella. Not every teacher would have one for this unexpected drill and I’m a gentleman after all.
Clouds moved above me when I stepped outside. Rain fell, but not hard. The alarm rang and students flooded out.
I whistled a little Milli Vanilli. This might not be too bad.
Kids squinted up at the dark clouds blowing across the sky. Someone was barefoot. Someone else didn’t have a coat. A teacher, hood framing her face, looked at me and said “really?”
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all -“
And then the rain stopped.
We all looked up.
A student said “look,” pointing, and my momentary relief at feeling the rain stop disappeared, replaced by the wonder inspired by the most perfect rainbow I have ever seen.
It could just as easily have begun to pour.
But today it didn’t.
Today it didn’t.
As beautiful as that rainbow was, reaching over our students and reminding all of us of the artistic beauty of nature, tomorrow’s hope will be just as important. That found hope, seen in the kindness of a student, the caring of a teacher, or any of a thousand things there to be seen by someone looking for them, will have the power to inspire. If I can capture it, celebrate it, and remain thankful I will have done right by my school and those around me.
Life has the capacity and the inclination for greatness.
Sometimes it rains, sure, and sometimes there are rainbows.