Mrs. Yoho, they need you. Johnny is having problems in the classroom.
“Johnny, what is going on today? Let’s go walk and talk.”
“I don’t like her. My teacher is not nice, and I don’t like those kids.”
“Johnny, did you eat breakfast this morning?”
“I bet you didn’t take your medicine either.”
“Let’s get something to eat and see what we can do about your medicine.”
Johnny and his big eyes always melted my heart. But when he would smile and laugh, it was all over for me. I so enjoyed all of the children I served, but each one had unique qualities. His IQ was very low, home life was the best his mother could provide, and we would do all we could to help Johnny grow to achieve.
Contacting Johnny’s mom by phone was not always the easiest, but we connected. I made home visits, and she always invited me in to sit down to talk. Giving medicine at home in the mornings was not working out; she could not keep up with getting prescriptions picked up, so I made arrangements to have them sent to our school, and we gave medication in the mornings to Johnny.
Johnny continued to have issues in the classroom, according to our weekly data, so what next? Talk to Johnny! Kids should never be left out of solution-seeking team meetings; they have the answers.
“I like basketball, but I can’t play. My grades, I get in trouble, no transportation, and no shoes.” Johnny knew what he needed.
“Well, let me see what I can do on my part to help, but what can you do to help?”
This is how Johnny and I started working on his solution to his classroom success and playing basketball. We worked out a plan with his mother, and I drove him home when he earned the right to stay for basketball practice. This also meant I stayed too! The coach and other boys were great! He did not stay the entire time, just 20 minutes. Then he would earn going to a game to play. Johnny had behavior issues, but he loved basketball and playing with his classmates. It was amazing to see. He would play in the game for just a little while, and his classmates would cheer him on. This makes you proud as a principal, mom, and person! Johnny would smile, his eyes full of excitement, and he played just like the other boys.
Johnny looked at everything with amazement and excitement. He asked questions all of the time. Every time I dropped him off, he would get out and turn back to say, “Thank you, Mrs.Yoho it was great!” His mom would come to the door, and a giant wave yelling, “Thank you.”
When we look at how to address the many issues facing education, many overlap each other. One glove does not fit all, and managing all of the individual needs may seem unattainable. My school enrollment was 602 students. When we think of equity, I think of life. Not everything in life is fair; equity is the same thing. Our school was one of two middle schools. The equity between the two could be seen through the eyes of others. The north end seemed to have “better” than the “south.” Johnny got a little more of my time than some others, but I spread my time around as much as I could. It is when we look at the hard data we can determine the truth in the equity of funding, resources, curriculum, performance, and other measures of equity. We would discover different realities in the data than what we could see with our eyes. Is it biases at play or something different?
Data we generate for ourselves provide us with the evidence we need to turnaround children, classrooms, and schools. “Research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement in their school, thereby decreasing the likelihood of school failure and drop up (Finn, 1993; Lamborn et Al., 1992). I believe it is the individual need to feel included, belonging, and having joy. When kids can be kids and enjoy something they love, hope is found. “Poverty creates a mindset of insecurity.”-Horacio Sanchez, The Poverty Problem It can be a combination of many factors.
Hard data is our next step in utilizing SHARE. My Johnny story is a reminder of your “Why.” Data drives our decision-making, but the Johnny’s are counting on us to turnaround our schools to address all of the issues they are facing! Also, remember our biases when looking at problems. When we wanted to discontinue an assessment, some of our staff felt very strongly about keeping it. “We have always used this.” Nothing changes unless we do. Problems are never solved unless we face them. Solutions are there if we can see through the lens of solving.
I am positive you have a Johnny! Just a thought of him playing basketball, looking at a new discovery, coming down to tell me he was having a great day, and being thankful I shared a few days with him!
Data is important! Being data-rich and information-poor is not the way to be. Understanding the information you need is your first step. One of your first actions is finding out what data you are collecting and why. As Director of Education, my team reduced the amount of data and assessments we were doing. According to our SHARE steps, the following are the essential steps.
“The three most important steps to becoming a data-friendly school are (1) selling teachers on the value of data so that they can teach smarter, not harder; (2) creating a culture of continual data collection, analysis, and application; and (3) emphasizing that using data to improve, the teaching process is a sign of professionalism, not an acquiescence to failure.”-Eric Jensen, Teaching with Poverty in Mind What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It
I will add next week additional materials to my resources page to help! Dig into your data! Always remember it is the relationships established that mean the most. Not only to the children and families, to you and your “why.” Thank you for being the solution daily!