Thoughts from a Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy Head
of School

The
role of classroom teacher is awesomely challenging and greatly rewarding.  As teachers embark on a new school year, they
are in a unique position to dramatically impact their scholars’ lives.  When
I joined the BVP team as a founding Kindergarten teacher in 2009, this time of
year meant painting my classroom, inventing school-wide cheers, and trying to translate
the wishes of eight very passionate and strong-willed teachers into the simple
“I Do, We Do, You Do” lesson planning template. 
Little did I know how much my life would forever change for the better
following that first day of school. 

On
August 31, 2009, I met 19 smiling faces– all from proud families and
representative of four very distinct communities.  In those first days, my co-teacher and I taught
our scholars the routines and procedures to help our classroom run smoothly
throughout the course of the year, consoled those who missed their families, and
introduced them to the beginning literacy and math concepts that would set them
up to achieve great things over the course of the year.  Several of our scholars had not previously
attended preschool, and the incoming Kindergarten achievement gap between those
who had and those who hadn’t was quite noticeable.

I
still think about one scholar in particular, Zachary*, at the start of every
school year.   When he entered my classroom that first year,
he was asked to identify the letters of the alphabet and responded by counting
from one to five. Throughout the year, we worked diligently in partnership with
his family to help him find success.  By
sending home personalized homework to specifically meet his very unique
learning needs and constantly staying in contact with his mother, we made
progress.   When he was able to correctly
identify all 26 upper and lower case letters by January, I almost cried with
delight in seeing our hard work make such noticeable gains. To this day, I still
keep in touch with his mother.

Now
that I am in the position of Head of School, I am charged with constantly
looking out for the best interest of the “Zacharys” in my school to ensure that
they are receiving the high-quality instruction they deserve.  By providing coaching and professional
development to my team, I am able to see improvement not only in their
instructional practice, but also in their scholars’ academic performance.  

In
those first few days of school, there is so much to do.  So much time is spent focused on the “what”
that needs to get done and the “when” it needs to get done by. My advice to
teachers
as they prepare for the start of what will quickly become a very busy
school year is to not miss out on the opportunity to focus on the “how.”  Although our work is urgent, please take your
time.

·      
Take your
time to learn about our scholars and their families.
  Enjoy each opportunity to interact with our
families in the upcoming weeks at our Ice Cream Social, during Home Meet and
Greets, and over the first few days of school. 
See each and every interaction as an opportunity to develop stronger
relationships with our scholars and their families who entrust us with their
children.

·      
Take your
time to learn about your colleagues and what makes them tick.
  Prioritize spending down-time with those who
you will be working closely with this year. 
Whether it’s as simple as continuously greeting them in the hallway,
engaging in light chat at the Keurig machine or water fountain, or simply
enjoying lunch together, these small actions will help to forge the positive
and professional staff cultures we all strive to create this year.

·      
Take your
time and get to know your office and school staff.
  From our office managers, to our
receptionists, nurses, custodial staff, and so many others, these are the people
who can either make your life incredibly easy or consistently challenging.  Make every effort to treat them well and they
will certainly look out for you in the future. 
(Believe me, you will need their help with something very shortly, if
you haven’t needed them already.) 

Although
my focus has changed as a school leader, my priorities are still the same.  For me, and for many at BVP, the “why I do
this work” is simple.  I do it for
Zachary, and for every scholar who deserves to have the bar raised for them. Our
teachers and school leaders are charged with raising that bar and proving what
is possible—for each and every scholar to have the opportunity for success in
college and the world beyond.

Best
of luck to our families, scholars, teachers, and community in the new school
year, and never forget to treat every day like the first day: full of that
possibility to change a scholar’s life. 
If you’re like me, this work will forever change your life, too. 

*Name
has been changed to protect the identity of the scholar.