Stories From The Inside: Bridging the Gap Between Perception and Reality of Being a Principal

Isn’t it interesting to think about how school is one experience everyone has in common? Unlike being an engineer or business leader, everyone has school experience. So when it comes to thinking or talking about what’s right and what’s wrong with school, everyone has an opinion and usually it’s one they feel pretty good about because it’s based on their experiences.

 Lately I’ve been working on telling the stories from the inside of our school. Moving the conversation beyond micro political leadership, partnerships, and general school information. Instead, I’ve been working to tell stories about my students and the challenges they and their teachers face. Like the students who have no home, and bounce from place to place on a daily basis often bargaining with others to allow them to stay the night, or just take a shower. I’ve shared the story of a student who is one of the kindest students I’ve known, who volunteered to take the trays of others to the trash can each day at lunch, but only so he could pick through and eat their leftovers because he was so hungry. I’ve told the story of students who have come to school and requested to use the phone because they were worried when their mother did not return home after a night out, but came to school anyway. I’ve told the story of teachers who are trying to teach these students and garner their attention, despite the aforementioned challenges they face. It is an incredibly difficult task.
So now I ask all to think about your personal school experience. Ever had trouble focusing because you were so hungry that it made you feel ill? Ever had trouble finding a place to take a shower, but gone to work anyway? Ever had difficulty getting the domestic violence you witnessed out of your mind long enough to learn the causes and effects of the Revolutionary War? Ever had difficulty getting to school on time because you were up all night because the shooting you heard down the street scared you to death?
Was that much like your school experience? As educators when people ask us how things are going, we feel compelled to tell them how hard we are working and that we are doing great things to move our schools forward. Sometimes our positivity, while much needed, does a communication disservice to those who are interested in how things are going. When we tell stories from the inside it’s important to tell the whole story. The story that says here is what our kids are facing, but we are working hard and moving forward anyway. The story that says our teachers have an audacious task in front of them, but they give of themselves personally and professionally anyway.
Make sure you are telling the stories from the inside to help bridge that perception of what school might be like and the reality our students and teachers are dealing with everyday. Our teachers and students are doing remarkable under extremely challenging circumstances and they deserve for people to know the whole story.
Until next time- be you, be true, be a hope builder!

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