Across the Principal’s Desk…Shoes and Open House

Aug 11

Dr. Shane Rayburn is the principal at Oakwood Elementary School in Oakwood, GA. OES is a Title I school that has worked extremely hard to be a place where all children and staff are empowered to embrace the leader within. And he happens to use and love Core Essentials!

It’s open house.  An energy reverberates the hallways.  Doors are open and a flood of storied lives come through the main entrance of Oakwood Elementary.

The hallways are covered in shoes, shoes that have been everywhere – places we could never even imagine.  The gait of each person reflects a certain style and manner.  Some reflect a slow pace of contemplation while others race in a confidence of known direction.  There are big feet and small feet covered in shoes of every kind.  And they all are going somewhere.

This week as our school hallways began to fill with children and families, I could not help but attempt to imagine the many places that these feet had walked …  an overwhelming and impossible task but not one that was futile.  This pondering and consideration was a good starting place for reflecting on a new year of schooling decisions and directions and a once-again acknowledgement of the big responsibility hovering in the corners of schools.

Now the pitter-patter of shoes was echoing alongside the sounds of others’ shoes pacing under the roof of a building called school.  It really gets no better than this.  But before we can begin to teach the children who occupy the shoes, we must begin to build a bridge of trust.  Since few of us have walked the same path, we have to build empathy and be guided by a set of principles and habits that allow diversity to be celebrated.

Wow, I’m still amazed as an educator at how the possibilities for learning teeter on the balance of trust.  There is a barrage of expectations currently on schools and the landscape of curriculum is shifting with the new Common Core Standards, but the time is right for educators to broaden our understandings of what counts as ‘schooling.’  Before we can do that, we have to create or sustain cultures that allow for differences to be explored and alternatives to be considered.

At Oakwood Elementary, we have spent two years establishing a common language of the culture of expectations around leadership by employing the 7 Habits of Happy Kids, because we believe that every child can become a leader. That in fact, every child is a leader of ‘something.’  We can help them discover the leaders within.  In assigning classroom jobs and allowing students to explore voice within our classrooms through workshop approaches, we see firsthand the effects of our labors and we are more determined than ever before that we are helping prepare the future.

One area that we are currently working on in our school is using a common set of expectations in terms of how we interact with each other in every part of the campus, and we have selected to use The Big Three as espoused by Core Essentials: Treat Others Right, Make Smart Decisions, and Maximize Your Potential.  The Big Three reinforce the already strong foundation that has been established as a Leader in Me School where we have adopted and practice the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  The Big Three has become one of the pillars of our front porch.  When you enter Oakwood Elementary, you can expect to be greeted with a smile, handshake and a warmth that is uncommon in today’s society.  It is fun to hear people talk about how “good” it feels at Oakwood Elementary.  It seems difficult for the person reflecting on the ‘feeling’ of the building to put their finger on it, because it is such a natural part of what we do and who we are.  We are teaching children to use the language of the habits and to live their lives by employing the expectations of The Big Three.

This is the time, the beginning days of school, to set forth a culture of trust, a culture wherein students are encouraged to bring their stories into the hallways of school and to use learning to make sense of their lives.  Where their shoes have taken them can be a starting place from which all learning evolves.  We are working to create bridges to learning for each child, but I’m convinced that the first bridge to learning must be the bridge of trust.  And the first steps must include expectations of interaction and The Big Three are helping us do just that.  Now reaching back to the focus on shoes in the opening paragraphs of this blog, allow me to extend. We must become attuned to the diversity of stories among the children who wear the shoes that enter our buildings.  We must demonstrate an educational journey laced with integrity that follows the golden rule and is governed by our heads and or hearts.  We must walk along with our students into an unknown, uncertain future, and do so with a greater confidence than ever before because we have established an expectation of living in harmony with those around us.

The possibilities are endless and as Disney claimed, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  So get out there and do something BIG for our next generation.  Use The Big Three to Dream BIG!  Let’s do this.

To follow Dr. Rayburn and learn more about OES and his school/leadership thoughts … visit his blog at: 

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