- Kids really love seeing adults on campus. Even though my son is in Kindergarten and almost every 5 year-old loves to see someone who will play with them, the big kids were eager to talk to me as well. Asking who I am, whose dad I was, where I went to college, how old I am, and if I liked macaroni and cheese were just a few of the questions they threw at me. I answered each with a smile, knowing that many of these kids don't have a positive male figure in their life. Sad, really, but I was there to have fun.
- Elementary school principals (and probably principals in general) should truly have a degree in just about everything: business management to deal with the finances, chemistry to deal with the cleaning supplies being low, psychology to deal with a crying 7 year-old who doesn't want to talk, and social work to deal with the mayhem of a small city that we call an elementary school. Seriously, hats off to you for staying sane and loving what you do.
- Elementary school teachers deserve a hug every single day. Yeah, we secondary folks have it rough, but my son's Kinder teacher successfully lassoed 26 5 year-olds without skipping a beat and managed to listen to the alphabet songs on repeat (and will continue to do so for 180 days per year). You ladies and gentlemen are the first hope for many of these kids to right the ship in an otherwise rocky course for success. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.
- Kids love--and deserve--play time. Seriously. During each recess, those kids couldn't wait to get out to their play spot and continue the game that they had started that morning, the day before, or whenever. They fought, they argued, they made up rules, they cheated like crazy, but they all figured it out... or they went and told a teacher. The playground is for more than letting out energy stored during class time--it's an opportunity to learn necessary skills that will help as they grow.
- Lunchtime disgusts me. Sure, I get that we need to provide a school lunch system that provides nourishment for our underprivileged youth. At the same time, you should have seen how much food was wasted in the two days I spent on that campus. It isn't just my son's school, either; schools across the country are throwing away perfectly good food at an alarming rate. Since 2012 when children were required to take a full meal for lunch, school food waste has increased an embarrassing 56 percent. Sure, I get that Michelle Obama wants healthier kids, but this isn't the way.
- Our students with special needs are—or should be--the stars of the school. My day got exceptionally better when I met J, who claimed to be every superhero under the sun and followed me around like a shadow. He brightened my day and so many others on the playground, and his excitement for life was something I wanted to bottle up and spread to everyone. K wanted to give me a hug 5 minutes into meeting her, then only wanted to play catch with me during the P.E. stations. While she might not be able to have the designated campus "hugger" (darn those germs), she could certainly make more kids smile.
- Running the mile is a joke. The athletes cruise, the athletic-built kids survive, and the kids who are out of shape get inadvertently shunned. This isn't only in elementary school, either. We run the mile in high school as well, and it's only worse. We have to find a way to do better. Here's a thought: Have each kid run the mile the first time, then set up a differentiated metric based on time. Yes, kids can sandbag it so they don't have to work as hard, but so what? If an overweight kid "runs" a mile in 18 minutes, let him/her run a quarter mile in 8 minutes, then build up. It's a progression, and we do that in core classes, so why not exercise?
- Being on a truly diverse campus makes everyone better. All across the campus, I saw kids playing with kids from all backgrounds, cultures, races, and genders. I'm so proud to say that the Great Schools rating could not be more wrong, a 3 out of 10. The principal and his staff are working tirelessly to build a safe space for their students and that is very evident. This is just one of many reasons to take ratings like those at face value. Remember, not everything you read on the Internet is true.
For now, I go back to the high schools I serve, but fresh in my memory is a love and respect for the work that goes on in those classrooms with tiny chairs and color-coded crayon boxes, playgrounds with dozens of four-square courts, and adults who interact with miniature people who are yearning for someone to care about them, love them, and care for them.