Thoughts from the Front Foyer

Students, parents and staff sorting and organizing our school Holiday Toy & Food drive donations.

Students, parents and staff sorting and organizing our school Holiday Toy & Food drive donations.

“The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief.” William Shakespeare

I snapped the photo above this morning as our students, staff and parents sorted through the proceeds from our annual holiday food and toy drive in preparation for delivery to some of our families and our friends at the fire service. We have a couple of park bench style chairs that sit astride a round table in the foyer of our school that I often sit in during the school day. Many of these blog posts are actually written as I sit in this spot. I like the fact that the chairs are right by the front door so I’m able to greet visitors and parents as they stop by the school. I also love the fact that the foyer sits at the intersection of the three main hallways in our building; by the gym and library entrances, so I get to see lots of kids as they move around the school.

It’s pretty quiet now, as our students are all in classrooms learning, likely in the half distracted state that the week before a holiday often brings. As I it here I’m thinking about my principal colleague at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Dawn Hochsprung; like me a 47 year old elementary school principal who was active on Twitter. I can only imagine the shock she must have felt, and can only admire the protective instinct that prompted her to rush towards the intruder. I think about the many courses and workshops and training sessions that we as principals are involved in; trying to prepare us for every possible incident that could occur in a school and wonder how could one ever prepare for that.

As parents come and go, dropping off lunches, picking up kids for appointments I realize how open and inviting our little public schools is~ we have protocols that ensure all but our main entry door is locked all day, we have a CCTV system with an office monitor and our school office is located right in the main entry and we have an experienced staff who know our community and know our parents. One image I can get out of my mind is the school sign for Sandy Hook; with the message “Visitors Welcome” in black block letters across the bottom. How do we reconcile the role of the school in engaging young learners with the larger world while keeping them safe from the tragedy and threats that exist in that world?

Lastly, I’m thinking about the communications that our staff and I have received from parents over the past few days. Quiet offers of support, a squeeze to the arm, a smile. Some concerns about whether, and how, we would be addressing the events. Of course, we did respond to the events as they were raised by our students; appropriately, with sensitivity and discretion and, I believe, the same mix of admiration and sadness that I feel in the wake of this event. More than ever, the world comes into our school in a myriad of ways and there was no way we could’ve stemmed the media accounts of this event from reaching our children. I’m appreciative and proud of the way in which our staff supported and guided our students in these discussions, some very brief and some much longer.

The school I lead is not perfect, it is a place where great things are accomplished and where feelings are hurt, where both joys and disappointments occur at the same time. It is a place where children work closely on a daily basis, learning to take risks, show empathy and get along. They learn this because examples are more powerful than words and the adults who work at this school, model these very things on a daily basis.

So, as painful as it is to think about the incident last Friday, I remain committed to the idea that our schools are ultimately places of joy and hope. I believe that the actions of the brave adults who responded last week deserve that.

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