I left for Winter Vacation filled to the brim, in contrast to the usual exhausted trek to the December finish line.
It all began on a blustery Wednesday. I was chosen to join three other colleagues to help deliver coffee and snacks to two other buildings in our district. One of the middle schools closed unexpectedly way back in September. That school was dispersed between two of our other schools. It’s been challenging for all involved. Our staff wanted them to know we were thinking of them, so we collected donations and we set off to deliver.
I wasn’t sure what those middle school teachers would think about our visit, but as we loaded up carts to push through the halls, the joy began to flow immediately. “Why are you doing this?” one teacher asked, confusion painted across her face. “Just to be kind,” I replied. The confusion washed away. “Can I hug you?” she asked coming in for an embrace.
This reaction came again and again as we knocked on classroom doors and invited staff to grab a treat. Two hours later, we had showered a small act of kindness on a group of people who needed a little lift- yet we were also leaving on cloud nine.
What a gift it had been to be able to deliver a little light.
Then late last week, I received an email about performing a secret song at our annual winter sing-a-long, the day before break. I quickly deleted that. I’m not a performer.
But fast forward a few days and Dawn, my fellow literacy lover, texted to say she had signed our team up to be part of the surprise song. “We can do it…together!”
So we had two super fast rehearsals before showtime. When our final act was announced, the eruption of excitement from the students and the surprised look on our principal’s face were priceless!
We made our way through our number and what it lacked in timing and tone was overshadowed by the overwhelming sense of community that this silly act brought. The variety of participants that came together, willingly during this busy time, no doubt gave something back that day.
It also had me riding high until our next surprise moment that day!
Grace. A night shift custodian at our school for eleven years will retire at the end of the year. We planned some special things to celebrate her on our last day of school in 2018. We decided it would begin with her entrance- another quick minute decision and execution!
During the sing-a-long earlier in the day, our principal announced that we would all line the entryway as Grace entered the building that afternoon. We’d “clap her in.”
So at 1:32, our assistant principal invited everyone to join in the hallways. Kids filtered down, clad in their finest pajamas, of course- not really knowing what to expect.
Then Grace arrived and was adorned with a makeshift crown and sash. We clapped and smiled for her, giving her back an ounce of the warmth and joy she has given to us over the years. Many eyes filled with tears as she took in this moment, her community welcoming her in.
As the kids made their way back to their classrooms, after Grace made her way through the crowd, I overheard several kids saying things like,”We made her so happy.” “Will we do this for everyone who retires?”
More than test scores, curriculum, and the building itself, these are the moments that define a school. These are the moments that matter.