As I write this article, I am completing my tenure of ten years with Sidney City Schools and a 37-year career in the field of education. I served as the principal of Central Elementary and Lowell Elementary during my first five years with Sidney City Schools; for the past five years, I have had the opportunity to serve as the Director of Federal Programs and Food Service for the District. Over the course of my career in education I have learned many truths about this honorable profession and have had the opportunity to interact with many people. Let me share a few of the observations I have made during this time.
School is the one aspect of life everyone has experienced. We have all been students and have had opportunities to be in the school setting, and often times, based on these experiences – good or bad – everyone is an “expert” regarding how education should take place. Regardless of this, I still firmly believe that children are not “nuts and bolts” and schools are not factories. Each child is a unique individual with a unique set of circumstances that defines where they come from and who they are.
Every parent wants success for their child. They send their child to school as a kindergarten student believing that their child will be the graduating class valedictorian. Children start out in kindergarten with lots of creativity but often schools stifle their creativity for the sake of structure and economy in the child’s classroom; however, children are resilient – they learn and grow, and they mature and become responsible adults wanting the best for their own children!
Schools have become our society’s political football. Schools may help solve societal issues but school will not cure society’s issues on their own. By age 18, a child has spent approximately 13 percent of their waking hours in school. Societal issues must be addressed somehow during the other 87 percent of time.
Life is a journey. Educators are servants. Change is good if there is a plan or goal. Taking risks is important. The best learning experiences come out of failure. Being honest with “bad” news is not easy, but important to do. Parents, communities, and school personnel want the same thing – for each child to have a nourishing environment in which they can grow up, learn, and develop the skills necessary to become a productive and contributing member of our society.
I have enjoyed the challenges of working in public education for the past 37 years. A day hasn’t gone by in which I didn’t learn something new. It is still a joy to have former students greet me with a kind hello! I hope the footprint that I left over the course of my career has left a positive impact on the world that we share.
The writer is the director of Federal Programs and Food Service of the Sidney City School District.