I was sitting at my desk last week and I’d typed the title in the subject box of my Principal’s weekly note…Preparing to Plant. I didn’t have anything in the text box to communicate the message to my staff, and I was technically waiting for the thoughts to come. In the midst of waiting, our counselor, Mr. Craig popped over to my office and asked, “Dr. G., can I share some good news with you?” “For sure,” I responded. He proceeded to tell me that our students on the health survey mentioned that they felt like they had someone who cared about them and someone they could talk to at school. That made me smile, and it was what I needed to hear in the moment. Shortly afterwards, I was able to type the message that was sent to the faculty Friday evening. Moments like that happen spontaneously, but they are always important and always help shape the vision of what we need to do for our schools.
Last week, I lost a close colleague, Bart Pinckney, who I’d worked with for years at Carver. Coach Pinckney showed me how to show students you loved them. He was a prime example of that, and the seeds he’d prepared to plant and watered over the years were showing themselves throughout the week. I can remember discussions we had in being one of the first schools to take our 8th graders on a 3-day trip to Savannah, which tied in directly to our Georgia Studies units. When we faced obstacles, Pinckney would say, “I don’t care what nobody says. We are taking these kids to Savannah. They gotta get somewhere and see some of this stuff!” And he was serious, and he had us operating the concession stand at the Georgia Dome, selling barbeque plates, and seeking donations from wherever we could because it meant a lot to show our students something they’d never seen and have them experience something they’d never experienced. We were planting seeds! I found myself in tears talking to some of our previous students, one who called me sobbing. He was hurt. He said, “Dr. G., please tell me it’s not true.” I had no words, and it made me think about our work. There are so many times we plant seeds in the school. Sometimes, we water them and never see the end result for years and years, and we have to remember that our joy has to come from knowing that we will eventually see the seeds we’ve planted grow.
As I listened to a message from Mike Todd this morning though, one thing came through to me. He said, “The right seed on the wrong ground will never bear fruit.” Wow! That was a word that I needed to hear as the leader of a school. There are many times that we have good intentions and big ambitions, but we have to get ourselves together first. We could be the grounds. Our schools could be the grounds. Who’s to say? So it’s up to us to set the vision and be a positive example of what needs to happen to change lives. It’s not always sunshine and bright skies. Truly, the seeds we plant and water in the valley stand the test of time, and I know school leaders all over the world are working to make their buildings places of promise. Our kids need it; our teachers need it; our communities need it!
This morning, I had the opportunity to speak with a student about his hair cut. He said that someone had messed his hair up, and he was upset about it, but in all honesty I wish the cut he had was one that I was able to get. The tapeline was super sharp, and the barber had faded it just right.
I told him, “Man, it looks good to me, but if you don’t like it, I brought my clippers I use to cut mine. I’ll cut it for you if you want me to, but I only know how to cut one style.”
“A BALD HEAD!!!???” he questioned.”
“Yessir. That’s the only style I know how to do. You ready?” I responded.
“You know what, Dr. G. I’m good.” He replied.
We both laughed. He knew I was joking, but these interactions were and are what I miss about educating kids. I let him know that if anyone bothered him about his new cut to let me know or to go to his hallway administrator. I’m not certain if our conversation will make a difference, but I was glad to be able to engage with him and have a short conversation that he will or won’t remember in the coming days.
As we transition to the last 3 months of school, I want all of my educator friends and colleagues to operate with pockets of purpose and crews of connection. Many times, we miss opportunities to be great because the work looks different or difficult. Surely, it may be both of those things. One thing I know for sure, though, is when we approach things with an expectation, we’re able to make a difference. People don’t move from good to great on accident….they do it on purpose, and they are intentional. We have a short time left with our kid this school year, but during those times, we have to work to make a difference in their lives. We’ve been called to do it. It’s purposed work….let’s make sure we operate in a way that demonstrates just that. Let’s do it with purpose. Let’s make it our intention.
Be accountable. Be committed.