What's best for kids?

“It’s what’s best for kids.”

Have you heard an administrator use this phrase to justify decisions? Did you think, “Cliche.” Or, “Easy for her to say.” Or, “How convenient, no one can argue with the merits of We do what’s best for kids.”

Well, it’s true! Who can argue with it? No right-minded educator, that’s for sure.

Administrators who say this, and mean it, stay focused on student needs and make students the center of the decision-making process. Those of you that are parents, or who have a child in their personal lives in any capacity (here’s where I gush about my sweet, sweet new nephew who was born today!) exist in a reality where in their family, children are the centers of their lives.

Children are, and should always be, our focus. Our schools should be families. What are some ways to transform your school into a family of learners?

Include parents. Often. Always. See David Truss’s thoughts on doing so. At our school, we held our first Moms & Muffins and Dads & Donuts mornings this year. All extended family members invited, too! We had an amaaazing turnout. It was unreal! I have never seen so many people packed into our cafeteria. I met Dads and Moms I’d never met before. Parents walked their children to homerooms after our breakfast. Some stayed to volunteer for the day. What a beautiful thing!

Build morale, the subject of recent posts by Dave Bircher and Janet Avery by making connections and building relationships with staff and community members. Show them videos of your dogs. Ask them about their families and their summer vacations. To start our opening day, we’re doing a round of “speed dating”-esque reconnect time where we’ll get in two circles, and every 2 minutes, the people in the inside people will move to the left. Two minutes, introduce yourself and tell them all about your summer/life. Tell your partner one goal you have for the school year. We had a difficult year last year, when a colleague passed away from breast cancer. This year will continue to be about healing. As the principal, I need to support my colleagues in their grief and help build relationships, because the success of our students depends on it.

Get to know, and love, your students. When I hear teachers say, “I don’t have to like all of my students, I just have to act like I do,” I get really tense and uncomfortable and a whole list of other adjectives. There are students who will always push your buttons. I was one of them, I know I was. Get to know each and every child on a personal level. Find out what they’re all about. How else can you possible expect them to respect you? Because you’re the teacher? Because you’re the principal? Children respect those that show them respect. They’re children.  Know your students on a personal level, because doing so will make discussions about behavior that much easier. George Couros often explores the importance of developing rapport with his students and the positive impacts this has on his practices.

I will conclude with just one example of when I was convinced that the children I serve are indeed part of my family. A  young man in an intermediate grade made some unwise choices, and was spending the day in my office. He was getting a bad rap around the school (and frankly, the community) for his behaviors, and it seemed as though the whole world was against him. His classmates were in the hallway outside of my office en route to the library, and not only did every single one of them crane their necks to see how he was doing in my office, several of them said, “Hi, buddy!” and “How are you, friend?” from their place in line. One boy in his class, a boy who was also known for lapses in judgment, asked to come inside my office and see his friend. He walked over to the boy, put his arm around his shoulder, and quietly, almost in a whisper, encouragingly said, “It’s okay, buddy. We all make bad choices sometimes. We know you’re a good kid.” And he turned on his heel and headed back to the line.

My heart burst.

We do what’s best for kids. They’re our family. Their teachers and parents are family. As educational leaders, we’re the head of this family, and we have to commit to making it the best it can be.

6 Replies to “What's best for kids?”

  1. As principal you can’t know all children personally but you can know the most difficult (needy) children. If you have relationships with these kids, discipline gets easier. Teachers might resent the fact that you have good relationships with their “worst” kids, but that is the way it goes.

    1. I am fortunate in that I am the principal of a relatively small elementary school (approx. 500 students), and I can say with a certain amount of confidence that I do know the majority of my students on a personal level. This can be as simple as knowing their favorite sports, hobbies, reading genres, family members, or recess games. Ways to help accomplish this include everything from spending as much time in the classroom as possible and talking to students, to eating lunches in the cafeteria and playing all-time quarterback in the fourth grade football games.

      In many schools, the students who have more needs behaviorally are the ones who get the most attention from administrators. Developing that rapport is crucial, as you stated, but I hope to also positively impact the lives of the students that will never set foot in my office for a disciplinary reason. All students know they are invited to see me anytime, for any reason, if only to say hi and shoot basketball.

      Thank you for your comments!

  2. Wow! What a beautiful blog post. I absolutely agree with what you said here, cliche or not cliche.

    For a number of years, I have had students teachers in my classroom. When discussing with them their rationale for doing particular activities, I always remind them that they should “think about the kids first.” Kids need to come first because we’re all here for the kids.

    When I go into the principal to talk about an idea of mine or discuss a possible solution to a problem, I always start by explaining why my idea or the possible solution will “benefit kids.” With this approach, the response to the idea is almost always more favourable. And all that being said, if I can’t think of a benefit to students then I don’t go in with the idea or the solution.

    In my second year of teaching, a principal taught me this approach, and your blog post reminded me of it today. Thank you!

    Aviva

    1. How wonderful that you are impressing the importance of putting children’s needs first with all of your student teachers! I enjoyed working with student teachers when I was in the classroom as well. I agree that if you approach any situation with your principal or other staff members from the viewpoint that the results will benefit students, the outcome will almost always be positive. Thank you for commenting, Aviva!

  3. A thoughtful post that once again brings to the forefront the difference between good teachers and great teachers. Good teachers like their kids because they have to, great teachers love their kids because they want to and can’t help it. Good teachers tolerate parents because they have to, great teachers embrace parents because they know they are an integral part of the learning community.

    1. This is very true, Pernille! “Good to great” is a concept many schools are embracing, but without putting relationships at the forefront, a school can not achieve greatness. I appreciate your comments, and thank you for reading!

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