Not A Coincidence

I know, I know…I said that my next post would focus on the Netflix series, “When They See Us,” but that post has developed into something else which has led to me reading the book, The New Jim Crow, and articles that deal with the school to prison pipeline.  I feel myself not only learning multiple things that I didn’t know, but also becoming an advocate for the cause, which means I’ll need a bit more time to put that piece together.  Once created, I plan to have action steps we can take as educators to protect and educate our students…so I’ve pushed that post off until I can develop it fully.  I think that’s the best decision until I can finish everything completely.  It’s serious work, and I take it that way.

But, over the summer, I pulled away for a while to try to enjoy my family and my friends.  In the midst of it all, I was still able to attend professional learning and continue my learning process.  The admin team and I went to Model Schools and encountered Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s keynote, which you can see by CLICKING HERE. It was definitely a game changer for me.  I have a fascination and love with stories of turnaround schools and how teams of people make an impact on the lives of young people.  There’s something special about people to sign up to do that work.  They’re angels who walk this earth everyday, and there’s a special place in my life and my heart for them.  But in speaking of Principal Wayman’s keynote, I can assure you that there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.  I surprised myself at one point…like…UH-OH…my eyes are sweating a bit here!  But what we were able to take away from her speech were three things:

          1. If you’re going to lead, LEAD…
          2. So what, now what…
          3. Tell your students you love them because some of them never hear it…

I knew that the keynote would be amazing because I’d read her book, Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard the previous summer.  It was a gift I’d gotten from Dionne at The Principal’s Center at Georgia State University, and the book changed my outlook on leading the school.  I was sure to purchase the book for my APs and instructional coach before the keynote because I knew it would sell out…and it did.  I couldn’t let them miss the nuggets of wisdom that lie beyond the cover.  But Principal Cliatt-Wayman told her story in such an amazing way that I felt like it was my first time hearing it…again.  I’ve posted the link to the video, and although it’s about an hour long, I promise you (on everything, as my scholars say), that it’s worth it!  There’s something about a story of hope that grows from concrete, a story of beauty that grows from what seems to be impossible.  Her key points sent me into reflection.  Her points made me think of my own students and pulled on my heart strings.  Her story was similar to mine because I’d inherited a school that was full of hard working people where the obstacles stopped the progress.  And I could talk about all the challenges and hurdles, but we all were put there to LEAD…whether we were administrators or teachers.  During that first year, we all led in some capacity, and all of us were connected to students in some manner.  Our collective capacities determined what our students were able to do, and I thought of so many of our scholars as Ms. Cliatt-Wayman went through her story.  Her “so what, now what” lead-in helped to eliminate any excuse I’d ever made about why I couldn’t accomplish anything in my life.  We know that excuses are tools of incompetence…and I’d refused and still refuse to take the incompetent route because our kids need us just like her kids needed her.  Lastly, she showed how she was able to change her students’ lives by making sure they knew that she loved them.  The videos that were infused throughout her presentation helped to build a picture of what she was up against, and in the end, we could see that love truly could conquer any obstacle….ANY…not some…but ANY OBSTACLE!

So I left Model Schools in a good space.  I was encouraged, and I was energized to do better than I had for my own students.  I thought of what they were doing and the challenges some of them were facing.  I thought about summer school, which we had going, and the breakfast and lunch that many of them would get on those days.  I wondered what they were doing while their parents were away and work, and I started to think of ways we could integrate more for them throughout the school year.  I bothered my teachers while they were on break because I simply can’t let my thoughts linger, and I have to share them with people when they come to me.  I was all over the place, but in a good way.  Then, I fell into Dr. Elko’s session at GAEL.  He took a humorous approach, but his message was the same.   Now, anybody that follows my blog knows that I give all the glory to God for what He’s done for me, and Dr. Elko had me locked in when he mentioned how he’d been blessed beyond anything he could imagine because of God’s grace and mercy upon his life.  Here I was, again, at a story of how possible overcame impossible.  I was definitely being ministered to through these sessions.  Dr. Elko helped all of us see how people who have an impact talk differently and speak their success into the atmosphere along with the work.  They’re careful of what they do because other people’s lives are tied to them.  I held on to something that he said towards the end of his speech.  He stated, “If you don’t remember anything else I tell you today, remember to push your shoes way under your bed before you go to sleep at night.  That way, you have to get on your knees when you wake up in the morning to get them.”  For the sake of people not thinking something was wrong with me, I stayed in my seat; however, I wanted to get up and scream, praise dance, and start having a whole church service after that statement.  Those words he said meant a lot to me.  Dr. Elko’s words started to connect with the other things I’d heard at Model Schools, and I felt things shifting to another level in my being.  Not only had Principal Wayman reminded me of why we did the work that sometimes causes us to feel like crazy people, but here Dr. Elko was also reminding us that there was a higher purpose for this work, and there was a need to acknowledge being chosen to do the work.  Wow.  So I left GAEL, feeling like I was floating above the earth itself, but it didn’t stop there.

We moved into our administrative retreat and Liz Huntley, attorney at law, told us the story of how teachers changed her life, and her story was the finale to the series of events that I document as “Wow…Really, Summer 2019?  Really?”  Her narratives and descriptive details of her hard childhood lit a fire in me that has been burning since.  Her harsh tales of turmoil was one that I’m certain some of our students are living. I’m speaking of environments that are sometimes unstable.  Environments where parents aren’t always there and where there’s some exposure to dangerous drugs and unsafe situations .  In fact, I identified with some of her story but wouldn’t allow myself to go back to that place that I didn’t quite know was unsafe while experiencing it.  Liz’s story was not only inspirational, but it was a story of hope…and there’s a difference.  Despite all that was thrown at her to knock her down, she was still able to persevere, given the people who were placed in her life to help guide her through those situations.  The angels she had helped her not only get out of it all, but also they helped her to far exceed the expectation of a great life.  I was blessed to sit there and listen to the stories of true triumph.  It was an amazing story to experience.

So here I am, full of stories of people who overcame numerous barriers and told their stories to me this summer.  Being that I know that nothing happens without reason, I’m interested in knowing why I would be placed in three different situations where extraordinary leaders told stories of promise and love from educators.  I’m interested in knowing how these different stories will help guide me through the upcoming school year.  I’m interested in knowing where these stories will lead me.  But in all of that, I accept the miracle that was told to me not only once or twice, but three times.  I accept the passion of promise and belief that educators can build students into amazing beings, even when their surroundings don’t always support it.  I accept it all.

I know that challenges will soon come, but I also know that just like the stories that were told to me, there are undoubtedly miracles that lie ahead in my journey as principal.  I know there will be students who need me and teachers who need me.  I know that I will face times when I  need someone to pull me out of the trenches.  I know for sure after one year in the driver’s seat that my team and I will run into barriers…so what…we’ll get through it.  I know for a fact that some days will be harder than others, but my leadership team and I will lead because that’s what we’ve been tasked to do.  I know some of our students will come to school with broken hearts, but we’ll love them through it all and show them a brighter and better way.  And most importantly, when I go to bed at night, I’ll push my shoes under the my king size bed, give my thank yous to Him, and arise in the same manner to conquer the next day.  And I’ll continue to repeat the cycle.  I may not always want to, but I will.  It’s my promise, and I never make a promise that I can’t keep.  It won’t be easy, but we want even more progress for our kids.  Without struggle, there is no progress.  We’ll struggle through it.  We’re gonna make it.  We have to….for THEIR sake…for THEIR lives’ sake.  What a wonderful opportunity we have!

Be great.  Be accountable.

Dr. G.

One Comment Add yours

  1. JoAnn Brown says:

    Greg, you placed yourself with each of these leaders to continue your learning and inspire and challenge you and your team to do what’s best for kids … have a wonderful year!


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