As we near the end of another school year, we often think of graduation and those students who are moving on. And that makes sense. We are excited to hear of their post-high school plans. It is an exciting time for them and for those of us who have been fortunate to be part of their journey. They are setting off to the future that they worked for and will make our community proud.
But I want to focus on those students who are not graduating. Those in the grades below them whom we have the opportunity to influence a bit, or a lot, longer. Why? Because they also influence us.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of establishing a Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. This was something I wanted to do because I enjoy talking and listening with our students. They are important witnesses to much of what happens around them, and they should be encouraged to be active participants. They are certainly equipped to do so.
This group was comprised of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors each of whom wrote a one-page proposal of why they wanted to serve on this council. The community would be proud of their leadership and maturity. Their proposals were full of thoughts on their desire to serve their school and fellow students. No self-centered wishes. Second, they had no desire to simply give me their complaints. They just wanted to be part of making our district better. And they have delivered!
When the call for a National School Walkout was sweeping the nation, I requested time to talk with these students about how to support their First Amendment rights while not alienating students and parents who felt differently about the situation. When some concerns about bullying surfaced earlier in the year, these students provided grounded and realistic feedback about what takes place and how we can help them. When we needed to conduct a search for a new high school principal, they provided three chart paper pages of characteristics that we needed and did not need. Then they volunteered to give up a busy weeknight to participate in interviews.
I could not be prouder to have worked with this group of students this year. They make me laugh; they make me think; and they make me better. I have a feeling that they do the same for the many teachers, staff members, and adults that they encounter. They are influencing us!
I am thrilled for our new graduates to enter the next phase of their life journey, but the group of students that I call “My Student Group” has reinforced more than ever that John Dewey was right when he wrote, “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” I am glad to see our students living and contributing now and not waiting for the future because when that future comes… It’s going to be big!