The Heart and Soul of a School…

So I had a great conversation last week with our new incoming High School Principal about the best parts about working here at Academia Cotopaxi….he wanted to know what made our school special from my perspective as a new member of the community, and what it is about this place that makes me feel really proud. I had to stop and think about it for a while honestly because there are so many things, but when it came down to it I answered…the people. Of course, when I said that I was thinking about our beautiful students and our outstanding teachers and our supportive parents, but it certainly doesn’t end there…the people that I want to talk about this week, and the ones who I talked at length about when I answered him, are the ones who don’t often get the recognition that they deserve in my opinion. I want to talk about the heart and soul and the bricks and mortar of any educational institution, the people who keep everything running smoothly behind the scenes so we can do what we do as educators. I’m talking about the administrative staff, the teacher assistants, the facility and maintenance workers, the guards, the cafeteria staff, our transportation department, and everyone else who works so hard to make our school what it is. Schools are only as good as the people who work in them, and in our case, we’re a special place because of the amazing human beings who work so hard in the shadows to keep our school afloat…and safe…and clean…and healthy…and smiling.

 

Every morning when I walk through the front gate with my son we’re immediately greeted by our guards with a smile, and a handshake, and a genuine feeling of kindness and caring. I walk up to my office and I see the gardeners working hard to get ready for the day, keeping our school beautiful for our students…I see and hear the cafeteria workers getting the healthy food prepared for our students and teachers for the day…I see our facility and maintenance workers fixing a cracked step, or a broken faucet, or oiling a squeaky door, and picking up any leftover garbage from the day before…I see the transportation department getting ready to welcome our kids through the gates with smiles and a focus on safety…I see the TA’s smiling and eager to bring love and joy to the kids in their classrooms…and when I’m sitting at my desk, planning out my day, in walk two of the most beautiful human beings that I’ve ever met…radiating joy and love wherever they go…the two women who do so much for me it’s staggering…our administrative assistants…the ones who really keep our division running so we can do our jobs.

 

The amazing thing about the people that just I’ve mentioned is that in many cases they’ve been here for years and years, and they truly are the heart and soul of who we are. They take so much pride in what they do, and I often wonder If they understand how important they are to the learning environment of our school. Their contributions are immense, and it’s because of them that we’re able to focus our attention on the learning of our students. I see them all smiling and interacting with our kids every day, and they are always on the lookout for anything that might be an issue of safety, or anything that might distract our students from their task at hand, which is learning and enjoying their day at school. Without their contributions we would not be the school that we are, and after I finished waxing poetic on their behalf in that conversation I started thinking about whether or not I’ve done enough to thank them for all that they’ve done to welcome me and my family to the school…I wondered if I’ve worked hard enough to get to know them for the incredible people that they are…I wondered if I’ve done enough to ensure that they know how grateful I am for the work that they do. So I decided that I’m going to spend the next few weeks making it crystal clear to them that they know how much I value their work, and how much I respect their contributions, and how much I appreciate the positive impact that they’re making for us all.

 

I want to challenge you all this week to go down this road with me, and to specifically go out of your way to thank this group of special people…our bricks and mortar…for all that the do. It doesn’t take much to make a person feel valued, and I know that for me I can live off of a compliment for a month if it’s sincere…so seek them out and shake their hand…or give them a hug…and say what you need to say to make their day. It’s easy to go days and weeks and months immersed in our daily routines, and it’s easy to take things that aren’t completely obvious to us for granted. Well, not this week…thank them for keeping our school safe and happy and clean…and ask about their lives outside of the school…how long have they worked at AC? Are they married? Do they have children? Who are they as people when they leave the walls of our school…and tell them about yourselves…it will make a huge difference to them knowing that you care and value their work…after all, in many ways, they’re are the reason that we can do what we do in our classrooms. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week….

It takes a village to raise a child.

– African proverb

Interesting Articles:

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin484.shtml

http://www.yorkblog.com/teentakeover/2012/04/02/keeping-schools-clean-custodians-have-an-all-important-job/

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas/348-help-keep-your-school-clean

http://www.kidsgardening.org/node/120

Inspiring videos:

http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/outreach/2014/09/24/trista-hopkins-cary-middle-school-dallas-rebuilding-together-greater-dallas-homes-4-heroes/16170487/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ra1MIKlYB0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fku1oDiROfk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxpBBkPeFGI

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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