Every child needs a champion. It only takes one. Each of us has the power and potential to be that one. One adult. One teacher. One paraprofessional. One custodian or principal or cook. Just one.
I was recently reminded of the difference that just one person can make in the unlikeliest of places. Our family has a tradition of combining bike rides with park-hopping. (We’re blessed to live in a town that has a multitude of fun parks for our kids.) This weekend my wife and I were seated at a park bench chatting when she shared that our son had requested the park we were at. He called it the “dinosaur park.” As I listened to my wife my eyes scanned the landscape at a loss for why our son would refer to this park as a dinosaur park. I glanced at our five-year-old son who was trotting along the wood chips and noticed his back was arched and his arms were tucked near his chest similar to how a T-Rex would run. I figured he probably called this the dinosaur park because he liked to pretend to be a dinosaur at this particular park (???). My mind meandered as I questioned my own logic…my son likes pretending he’s a dinosaur EVERYWHERE, so this could not be why he chose to name this particular park the dinosaur park.
Then it hit me. Off in the distance stood a lonely green dinosaur toy. It was a modest spring-loaded ride that must have been a remnant from before this park was updated with newer equipment.
This got me thinking…kids really don’t need an entire prehistoric theme park experience to name something the “dinosaur park.” They just need one connection. One memory. One thing that makes a difference to them. The most improbable piece of playground equipment earned this park its nickname in my son’s eyes, and I will join my son in forever calling this park the dinosaur park.
The same concept applies to our schools. One person can change the entire outlook and trajectory of a child’s life. Each of us has the power to be the dinosaur. In a world that is moving at a frenetic pace, each of us has the option to connect with a child…to make a memory…to build a bridge.
Whether you are a teacher, principal, administrative assistant, school board member, or serving on a school’s food service team…you just might be the person that your school is named after in the eyes of a child. Never forget that. Embrace the magic and all the responsibility that comes with this truth. Be the dinosaur.
If you work in a school…you matter. Don’t think for a second that you don’t. (When a principal uses a double negative in a sentence you know he means business.) If you work in a school you touch hearts and minds every day. If you work in a school you make a difference.
Seeing how our staff works together on a daily basis…often quietly and behind the scenes…is one of many humbling privileges I have. As principal, I feel an obligation to share some of these stories; primarily because I’m also a dad and I would want to know. I would want to know about the people and stories that were being woven in my own children’s minds. I would want to know the “whos” and “whats” of their day.
Perhaps at dinnertime tonight you can ask your child a different question. Instead of asking, “What did you learn today?” Try asking, “Can you tell me about Darryl?”
Our beloved custodian, Darryl, is part of the “Greenwood Story.” He’s a quiet hero that’s always been willing to drop anything and serve. Darryl was given a wonderful opportunity to serve in a new position in our district and we are so happy for him. He will be missed dearly in our school, but his story and impact will go on because he did more than come to work each day; he impacted our building culture. Darryl’s spirit and sacrificial approach to work will be carried like a torch by other quiet heroes in our building.
If you have a chance to watch the video above you’ll likely see a wonderful and humble man doing a “final lap” around our school and giving out friendly high fives to others. I hope you’ll also see the difference he made in our staff and students’ lives. Check out the 2:08 minute mark on the video and watch how excited one of our students is to connect with Darryl.
If you work in a school you matter…don’t think for a second that you don’t!