Above and Beyond?

This is my 3rd year as elementary principal in my current building. For the past two years I have "required" my teachers to spend one afternoon, after school, and ride a school bus. Well today was the day! We have early-out Mondays and the students are dismissed 30 min. early so teachers have collaborative work time. Since we only have 2 Mondays of school left and I didn't have another event scheduled, I decided to use our early-out time this year.

Reasons behind this idea/event:
  • One of the philosophies of an Accelerated School is Unity of Purpose. Basically we are all in this together. This is a bid deal to the bus drivers, to have the teachers ride their buses and see what their jobs/routes are like. I include my bus drivers as much as possible and in turn we work together with bus disciplines.
  • Relationship building - Getting to know where your students live gives you another perspective on their lives.
  • Realizing that some of these kids spend an hour on the bus in the morning and another hour in the afternoon getting too and from school. Maybe that is why they are so "awake" when they get to school in the morning.
  • PR - The teachers do not realize how big of a public relations event this is for them. The kids look forward to it and the parents are amazed. (Little do the parents know that I 'require' this.)
  • Bond Issue - We are going to try to pass a bond issue this June and need all the positive PR we can get.

My first year I rode all 8 of our buses. I rode some on the morning route and some the after school route. The kids were so excited when they got on the bus in the morning and principal was there with a happy "Good Morning!" Some of them weren't quite awake enough to realize it wasn't a dream. I think I received more compliments and pats of the back for just riding buses than anything else that year.

Last year, or it may have been the year before, this wasn't a "requirement." We are not unionized therefore I can make these requests and it is okay. I told the teachers I wasn't going to force them to ride the buses but that I expected it and I would be disappointed if they chose not too. Some chose not to.

This year, in my daily blog/news to the teachers, I think I did use the word required. Somewhere deep in my subconscious I knew a teacher would probably confront me but I forgot about it until today when a teacher did come to me not very happy about the prospect of the bus adventure. The good thing about this is that she came to me and she was very honest and open. I appreciated that and told her so and that I was glad she didn't go spreading her disagreement with everyone else. This teacher didn't see how this was going to make her a better teacher. As far as instruction and professional development, riding the school bus would probably not increase her test scores.

Keep in mind it is 'that time of year' and everyone is on edge and overwhelmed but this was about the kids and doing something special for them. You should have heard the cheers on one of the buses when the teachers got on. So, how did I respond to this teacher? I told her that sometimes part of being a better teacher is improving relationships with kids and parents. She feels she has a good relationship with her kids and has lived in the area and knows how and where they all live. Nice try I thought. Then I told her she may disagree with me but I expected this of her and it was an early out day and she could choose the shortest route if she liked. Then I turned it around on her. "When your students ask why you didn't ride the buses like all the other teachers, what are you going to tell them?" I think she understood at that point.

The bus I rode took about an hour and it was hot and we missed a stop and had to go around the curviest road TWICE, but I survived. A couple of other buses were driving in as my bus dropped me off. The teachers appeared to have survived but of course we all dashed to our cars and turned the air-conditioners on full blast!

When did just the day to day planning become above and beyond? Remember when you went above and beyond the last time? I try to make it very hard for my teachers to complain that I don't go above and beyond. Since I had my daughter last year I have not been able to do as much as I used to but I still love to do all the little extra things that are not in my job description. I want my daughter's teacher to go above and beyond and take that extra minute to listen and to care. I think the key is balance. I hope we can all find some balance so that we can continue to do the above and beyonds that we have always done.


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