Date: Every Thursday (minus a couple) for the Past Two Years
Arrival Time: Early, but never before Judy and several teachers and the cook
Two years ago I agreed to spend the first 90 minutes of each Thursday at North Oakview Elementary. One of my before school duties was to serve as the supervisor of the “drop-off line.” The assignment was to make sure that kids exited their family vehicle safely, say good morning to each one, and usher them onto the playground. I had performed similar duties during my seven years as an elementary principal and I really believed that I could handle the job.
The very first Thursday a little five-year old boy named Travis jumped out of the side door of his mom’s van and ran in my direction. His red tennis shoes were on the wrong feet and untied. I stopped him with my friendliest “principal voice” and suggested to him that he might have the shoes on the wrong feet and maybe he should tie the shoelaces before he tripped and fell.
♥He looked at his shoes, looked up at me, looked down at my shoes, looked up at me and said “I think your shoes are on the wrong feet and they are black.” He then proceeded to run onto the playground. I stood silently and mentally agreed that he was right about the shoe color but had to double check to see that they were on the right feet. I started planning for my next encounter with Travis.
The following Thursday Travis once again jumped out of the van, ran up to me and stopped. His shoes were on the right feet and the shoelaces were tied. I asked him where his mom bought his shoes because “I would like to buy a pair of red tennis shoes” like his. Once again he looked down at his shoes, up at me, down at my shoes, and then back up at me and said “at an outlet mall, but your shoes are kinda big and you are kinda old. I don’t think they have your size.” Once again I stood without comment and watched as he ran onto the playground.
I relayed the scenario to my assistant Deb and the very next Thursday morning a pair of red tennis shoes were on the table in my office – Chuck Taylor, All Stars. I pulled off my “black, old man, big” shoes, put on the new red shoes (on the right feet) and laced them up. I was ready for Travis.
Same drill – van pulls up, Travis jumps out, runs up to me and stops. I pulled up my pant legs and showed my new red tennis shoes. “They had my size” I laughed. Travis looked down at my shoes, looked up at me and said “it is about time you got a pair.” He left me standing in silence.
Travis became my life-coach that day! That afternoon, I named my blog “Thursdays With North Oakview” as a take off from the book Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom.
Several Thursdays later I was distracted by email messages, a couple of early morning phone calls, and I forgot to put on my red shoes. I really didn’t even notice until I met Travis in the drop-off line. He looked down at my shoes and then up at me with the question “where are your red shoes?” I told him I got busy and forget to put them on. His gaze never left my eyes and he made a simple yet very profound statement that solidified our coaching relationship “Dr. P. you need to remember the important stuff.”
He was right! As an educator, I need to remember the important stuff. I made a commitment that day to wear the red tennis shoes every Thursday. The red shoes remind me to never take myself too seriously but to take what we do for and with our students very seriously. That is the “important stuff.”
I am retiring at the end of June after 40 years of serving students, their family members, staff, and community members. Over the past two years, Travis has provided me with many words of wisdom. Travis, his sister, and his mom presented me with a framed picture of the two of us with our red shoes and Travis’ final words of wisdom:
- Always have FUN!
- Remember the “IMPORTANT STUFF.”
- Don’t forget to wear your RED shoes on Thursdays.
- Never take yourself TOO seriously!
- NEVER give up!
- TRY to wear your shoes on the right feet!
- Red shoelaces are always BETTER!
- And DON’T forget you owe me your red shoes when I get into high school.
Thanks Travis (and your mom, dad, and sister) for two really great years of being my “life-coach.” If you see me in the community and I have on red shoes, you will know it is Thursday.
Sincerely and With Great Respect,
Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent (until June 30, 2015
Northview Public Schools