The estimated reading time for this post is 3 minutes
Each year on the first day of school, the district office administrator team disperses to the sites to have a presence, to engage in quick check-ins, to take the pulse of the various sites, get a feel for what parents are seeing and how they are reacting, and to collect information about “must-solve” safety, facilities, transportation, staffing, or nutrition issues. Last year, I remember attending and listening to the list of logistical concerns that were reported back, addressed and/or recorded for further investigation. It’s a great effort to visit each site and collect those facts and impressions and it takes a while to listen to everyone report out.
Interestingly enough, this year I didn’t get assigned sites to visit and I didn’t even get an invitation to the first day of school visits or the debrief meeting. My 21st Century Learning department was out at Godinez observing a geometry class and at Valley High School, dropping off BreakoutEdu kits for an upcoming game experience for a journalism class on Friday. We had participated in site visits just because that’s what our day was already scheduled to include, and so when I heard about the debrief meeting, I was feeling slightly out of the loop, wondering should I go or not. Daniel Allen, Executive Director for School Renewal, mentioned the meeting at the end of our stand-up scrum meeting and indicated I should attend. I had scheduled office time with Jessica and Bryan to process our visit to Godinez and to start talking through the pedagogical implications of the hybrid Geometry course. In my hesitation, Daniel said “Bring Bryan and Jessica. Even if they just sit and listen and work on their laptops, they’ll benefit by hearing the conversation.” It’s a message of inclusion that I wanted to hear, so I said okay and we went.
The moment I stepped through the door and saw a table full of district office directors and assistant superintendents, I felt a sinking feeling, like “Oh no, what did I do?” No one else in the room was a program specialist or curriculum specialist. Maybe I had messed up. Maybe I had invited Bryan and Jessica into a space where they weren’t welcome. In my head, I addressed the fear. What’s the worst that could happen? In my imagination, the worst I could conjure up was that someone would stand up and say, with an arm extended toward the door, “They don’t belong here. You don’t belong here. Go now!”
I did a quick assessment and decided that it would be pretty easy to apologize and leave and that, even if it was embarrassing, such a faux pas would not do any permanent damage.
No one objected to our presence. We stayed and listened to the various reports from sites all across the district.
And then a magical thing happened. I started to wonder how the reports sounded from Bryan and Jessica’s point of view. They had just been teachers on staff at school sites as of last year. Jessica was on her third day at the district office. I listened with new ears.
There were tender moments shared: no kindergarteners reported crying at Madison. There were collective breaths held: a parent had refused to park legally, wouldn’t move the car and the car had to be towed. There were frustrations vented: one transportation company with which we contract routinely performs poorly, forgetting to pickup students or showing up an hour late but we don’t have any other options to hire buses.
From Bryan and Jessica’s point of view, I imagined what the effort of collecting and addressing concerns sounded like. I imagined that if teachers knew and heard the collective first day impressions and issues reported back during the first day of school debrief, which took almost two hours to process, and if they heard the action steps, plans and responses they would sense the same care, diligence, and service that I witnessed.