Thursdays with North (and East) Oakview

    I am branching out this year. Following my time at North Oavkview each Thursday, I will head over to East Oakview to see if Travis’ advice is transferable.

    Those of you who followed “Thursdays With North Oakview” (also found in my blog) last year will remember that I am not the first one to arrive in the building. Judy, our Building Administrative Assistant, is always there early. Some teachers also arrive early to prepare to meet student needs. Today was no exception.

    One of the kindergarten rooms housed a meeting that started at 7:00 a.m. The goal of the meeting was to develop strategies to help a student. The small group was “conspiring – breathing together – to help kids.” Our food service staff member was in early, as she is every day, preparing breakfast for students who choose to eat at school. At the same time the PE teacher was setting up the gym for the first hour of classes.

    Two teachers, hands full of bags and a cup of coffee, came down the hall at 7:30 a.m. When I asked if I could open the door for them, the reply was typical – “Thanks but I can get it.” After all they are both a mom and a teacher. The comment influenced my thinking this morning.

    Everybody has a personal story that impacts them daily. Most of the time we don’t know the story when we are talking with the person. Just like our Northview families, our staff members have stories that impact them daily. It may be the death of a family member, caring for aging parents, a move to a new house, working on a relationship, dealing with an injury to a child, or just being able to find time in a busy day to stop at Meijer on the way home to buy milk. I am constantly amazed at the ability of our staff to handle their individual stories and still make each student feel like they are the most important person in the school.

    The Drop-Off Line Wisdom……

    Travis had a little advice this morning. He was wearing shorts today and was quick to say it was a little too cold for shorts. He was glad I listened to my mom when she told me to wear long pants today. I think his mom may have said the same thing this morning. He was distracted by a white circle in the grass near the playground gate. “Is that a golf ball?” he asked. It wasn’t. It was a white cap to a water bottle. I modeled the expected behavior and picked up the cap, turned to get an approving nod from my life coach, but he was off to the playground.

    The very next child in the drop-off line asked me if that was a golf ball in my hand. When I asked “why, do you have some golf advice for me?” he replied “yeah, hit it straight and don’t lose your ball.” I think Travis may have taken on a partner in his firm.

    Another student wanted to know what is that “clinking sound” he hears every day when he gets out of his mom’s car. I had the answer for that one, it is the sound made by the high school band to help them march in time. “Good” he said, “I thought it was my mom’s car. Hey is that a golf ball you are holding?” Our kids see and hear more than we think. They are constantly watching us.

    Meanwhile Back in the Classroom…….

    The teacher/librarian at North was introducing herself to a class of students – “I’m a teacher, a mom, a wife, a sister, and I like going to Grand Haven. How many of you are the oldest child in your family? The youngest? The middle child?” When she reached the question of “who is the only child in your family?” a young girl responded “in one house I’m the only kid, in the other house I’m not.” Everyone has a story. Sometimes our students are more willing to share their story.

    In another classroom a first grade boy shared that he had his tonsils out a few weeks ago. He told me he didn’t like the medicine he was supposed to take but his mom forced it down his throat but then he got a popsicle so it was alright. When I shared that I had my tonsils out when I was about his age he responed “that was more than a few weeks ago since you are kind of old now.” My response was “hey, want to see a really neat golf ball?” The cap was still in my pocket.

    And Over at East Oakview…..

    Pete the Cat, red and blue tennis shoes and all, was helping teacher/librarian Kurt Stroh memorize the names of kindergarten students. Building relationships is of primary importance if we really expect our children to learn at high levels. Dr. James Comer says that no significant learning occurs unless there is a significant relationship between the teacher and the student.

    Walking down the hall I passed one of our teachers who was escorting a young student down to the office. The student “shared his story” and as a result Child Protective Services was contacted by the school. The case worker was there to see if we could make an appropriate intervention to help the child deal with his personal life story.

    My time in Jenny Barnes’ 2nd grade classroom included learning how to react in a Code Red Lock Down Drill. As part of our safety and security plan, we practice the drill several times a year in all schools. Part of the drill involves students moving to a safe area in the classroom. Mrs. Barnes is a skilled, veteran teacher. Even when 22 second grade students and the superintendent are standing in the safe area, also known as the classroom bathroom, she continues to teach.

    “We stay quiet and stand still” she whispers while scanning each small face and determining the comfort level of each student, “you are really doing this right.” When the drill ended, she moved students back to their desks and began the next lesson.

    Our staff are responsible for so many things that our students must know and be able to do. Every time I am in one of our schools they teach me something new. Now if one of them could just teach me to “hit it straight and not lose my golf ball!”

    Sincerely and With Great Respect,

    Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent


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