I walked into the elementary school office to sign in and apologized to the principal for my son. She looked and me, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry. We teach children. We are in the flexibility business.” She pulled up a desk for Stuart, gave him some work, and told me not to worry; she would watch him. I was impressed. She surely had pressing issues with over 400 students and teachers in the building. She held no obligation to me or Stuart, yet she made us feel honored to be there.
You have to realize that I had just completed several college courses on policy and regulations,
assessment and evaluation, discipline and classroom management, state mandates and laws. I had paid big bucks for those courses. But here, in an unexpected moment, this lady left a deeper impression with me about what education is all about. Her attitude, her obvious love of children, her consideration of others and her willingness to help made me want to be a part of it all.
The practicum took one hour and I was worried that Stuart, even as mature as he was for his age, would surely not be comfortable in the school office for that length of time. When I returned to pick him up, the Principal was gone—no doubt being flexible about an unexpected problem. I walked into the office just in time to hear a stern voice directed at my child.
Stuart’s desk had been moved to the outer office. Remarkably, he was still on task. With pencil in hand his little fingers were moving fast. The gruff office worker glared at me and mumbled something as I left with my child in hand. A little confused and upset that the flexible Principal had been replaced with an inflexible adult, I asked Stuart what happened.
“Oh, Mom! It was great!” he said, proud as punch.
“When the Principal left, the other lady thought I was a bad student. She told me to keep my head down and do my work and not to look up. “
Evidently Stuart’s presence had not been explained to the office staff. I was just about to turn around and correct that mean ol’ person who picked on my sweet innocent child when Stuart with sparkling eyes continued, “She thought I was a real student mom, a real student!” Seeing how happy he was, I smiled and asked him to tell me all about it, which he did over and over for the next few days!
Flexibility means seeing the glass half-full and not half-empty; making the most out of the moment at hand; making lemonade when given lemons; looking for the silver lining in gray clouds; looking for the bright side of things; and going with the flow.
Looking back, that day had been a pretty darn good day for both Stuart and me.
The practicum was successful, the course was completed, and I met one of the best Principals ever.
And… my son experienced being sent in the Principal’s office, reprimands and all—without even being old enough to register for school!
THE LESSON LEARNED:
We are in the flexibility business; we teach children.
Looking at problems through the eyes of a four-year old may help us realize that there is a silver lining in every gray cloud.
LENGTHEN THE LESSON:
Educational Leadership: The Effective Educator: The Flexible Teacher
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), December 2010/January
2011 | Volume 68 | Number 4 The Effective Educator Pages 46-50
The Flexible Teacher By Leila Christenbury
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