School started on Thursday, and just like every year, there is excitement and anticipation in the air. Students arrive with new clothing, fresh haircuts, and summer tans ready for new experiences and opportunities to connect with their friends. Teachers and staff arrive energized with hopes of making differences in the lives of children. This year has not been any different, as there has definitely been a buzz the first two days.
Dismissal time in any school is always somewhat chaotic with many people moving in many different directions in a short amount of time. It usually takes a good two weeks before the wrinkles are ironed out and the flow at the end of the day becomes smooth. We experience a number of small issues that work themselves out after students get into the routine and procedures are solidified. On the very first day of school, I was presented with an issue that I have not yet experienced in my years as a principal.
Near the end of dismissal, one of our paraprofessionals brought a young student to me who was supposed to walk home, but could not remember the path she was supposed to take. She was nervous, upset, and unsure of what to do. After talking with our secretary, I was able to get her address and walked with her the five or so blocks to get the student home safely. I am always a little uneasy on the first couple of days of school about dismissal time and making sure that students get to where they need to be, particularly when so many of our students ride busses for a significant amount of time.
As we were walking, I had a great opportunity to talk to this student about what she likes about school, what she is most looking forward to, and so forth. I realized that I need to make more time in my day to listen to the thoughts of students because they will tell you the truth while providing genuine feedback; they operate with no filter. We were getting close to where she needed to go and all of sudden her eyes lit up after recognizing the area. It was at this point in the walk that it became an experience that I won't soon forget. This student turned to me and said, "Mr. Butler, I wish I could stay here forever." I asked, "At your babysitter's house?" She said, "No, at school, because you guys always take care of me and make me happy no matter what." All I could muster at the time was, "I'm so glad that you feel this way, and we will always be here for you."
Walking back to our campus provided me with some time to reflect and I was reminded of the reason that I chose this career many years ago. Educators have a tremendous amount of responsibility in 2015 with high levels of accountability through standardized assessments, negative conversation in the national media regarding public education, and dismal budgets. These items are beyond our control for the most part, and I don't see things changing any time soon regarding accountability, the national media, and public educational funding. What we can control is the connections that we make with students. It was made very clear to me that they need us and are counting on us. I entered this field to make a difference while serving others. I feel fortunate when I have the opportunity to help others and brighten their days. If this walk was any indication of what the school year is going to be like, I absolutely cannot wait until Monday.