Monday, October 26, 2015

Taken too early...

I lost a student this weekend. 

I had the honor of being his principal while he was a 7th grader and an 8th grader at Sam Rayburn Middle School. But sadly, it was not until his last few months with me at Sam Rayburn that I really got to know the REAL Tony. 

I used to get on to him for not doing his work. 
I used to get frustrated with him for not "actively" participating in class. And I used to get so disappointed as I watched him "waste his potential" because I knew he was SO DARNED capable. 
Each time I talked with Tony, I was even more convinced of his abilities, so I tried everything I knew to try in order to convince him to be the student I knew he could be...

But then once I took the time to get to know the REAL Tony, I learned his whole story. Tony was not just an 8th grade student; he was also a provider and contributor for his family. 

When he left our campus each day, he went to work. He worked afternoons, he worked weekends, and he worked holidays. And when I learned that about him, I was ASHAMED that I ever accused him of not WORKING to his potential because the more I got to know Tony, I realized he was one of the HARDEST WORKING kids we had on our campus. And at that point, I began to work FOR him. 

We began a plan to get him into MC Harris, our alternative high school of choice so that he could get his diploma faster. He told me about how YES, he WANTED to graduate, but that he needed to get out of school as soon as possible so he could work full time in order to help his family even more.
The forms were filled out. 

The data was gathered.
The signatures were attained and by the end of June, I had approval to send Tony to MC Harris in August.

He was special beyond measure and he HAD A PLAN. 

How often do educators fail to get to know our kids' WHOLE stories? How often do we think we have them all figured out and then get mad at them when they don't meet OUR expectations for them?
How often do we write kids off because they don't seem to do things the way we want them to?
And how often do we have kids sitting in our rooms SO NOT plugged into the academic world because they have so many other responsibilities vying for their attention?

My answer to each of these questions is: TOO often.

Teachers & Principals-
It is time to change HOW we do school.
It's not enough to shake their hands when they walk in our doors each day.
We have to hold onto those hands, look into their eyes, and ASK THEM to let us in to their worlds.
We have to make the effort every single day, every single class period to make sure that special kids like Tony don't slip through our educational cracks. 
They are ENTRUSTED to us each and every day.
Ask yourself if you're worthy of that trust.
And if the answer is not 100% of the time "yes", then what are you going to do to change that?

RIP Tony Ramirez.
I am a better educator because I got to be your principal for just a little while...

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