If this is your first time reading a post of mine, let me please tell you I am not an ordinary individual who always does things the way you expect them to be done. So….I love Walt Disney, crazy acronyms, inspirational videos, music, and thinking way outside the box people feel comfortable being inside of with no complaints, well, a few. When asked, “Who else has tried this or is doing this?” No one, I don’t follow the paths of others; they follow mine. This needs to be your response to get things going!
I was an Assistant Principal in my hometown middle school with an enrollment of 300. It was not too long that I found myself as Principal of a middle school in a large unit district with an enrollment of 600. A very diverse group of students, low-economic and other challenges the students and families faced to thrive. Staff also faced many challenges as they had administrative changes often and did not have opportunities to connect for sustainability. The first words I thought of when I looked at the big picture for all of them was: relationships, trust, connections, and solutions. They all had been through so much and needed the essential foundations to build. We needed solutions that would not be complicated, simple to apply, gave all of us ownership, but most importantly, trust in ourselves, peers, staff, and community.
It takes work, time, and effort to make this kind of climate and culture change. It does not happen on day one. Consistency in what you say and do, today, tomorrow, and every day after. Believe entirely in what you are doing because the perspective of others is what counts in making the change!
On day one with the students, I asked them all to the gymnasium to sit in the bleachers to introduce myself. I asked all staff to leave. Say what? The looks on the faces of the staff matched that of the students. “This lady is crazy; she is not going to make it on day one!” I repeated, “It is okay staff, Take a 10-minute break.” Finally, they began to move. I could still see them standing in the outer hallway. Did they not trust the kids or me? Maybe both of us?
I raised my hand. I started asking kids to raise theirs. Soon everyone had their hands raised. No one was talking but looking at me, all 600. This is how I start to speak. I will raise my hand; you do the same and look at me with no talking so we can begin. I trust and respect you, so I do not want to yell. Could you show the same to me by following this procedure? Hands down
This is when I also tell them about only having two rules. We will talk more about how to implement these at a different time.
“How many of you looked in the mirror today? Come on; it is middle school. I know you did! In our main hallway, you will find a mirror I placed there. I will place some particular messages around it each week, so when you look in the mirror, you can think about my message.”
The one for this week is:
“Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.”Amir Ray
I was placed here to be your Principal. Many people from my hometown thought I had done something wrong. I asked why? They said because this was a horrible school. No way. It is not, and we will show you!
Now, please think about their perspective. People have a perspective that this school is not good. I am looking at you and know we can change that perspective. All we have to do is make a few adjustments in their minds to see through the mirror the greatness inside this school. It will take trust, connecting with our community, building relationships, and working on solutions. This will take time, effort, and hard work, but this will be the best school ever!
Active lessons in the halls
The mirror in the hallway costs $3.00 on clearance. It was one of those dorm room mirrors for doors. It worked out perfectly in our hallway, hanging horizontally. All students passed this intersection so they could all look in the mirror and receive my message. I am happy to help you with messaging if you have a specific area you want to address. It did help and was successful, along with a few other things we did. Our staff, students, families, and community worked hard to turn this school around to find success.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, what do you see? Students and staff working to achieve!
- “The mirror reflects what you want to see, but those who see you reflect on what they see.”-Brenda Yoho
- Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
- “Reflect what you want others to see and be.”-Brenda Yoho
- Mirrors don’t lie. They only show part of the truth.
- “What you see in others has more to do with you than them!”-Brenda Yoho
- “Your words are a mirror of your character; choose them carefully.”-Venkat Desireddy