Let me set the stage:
Act 1 ~ One day, three years ago, when Kareem was in grade 5, he engaged me in a conversation about wanting to be “Principal For a Day”. He was intrigued with the role and wanted to be in charge. He talked about promoting his favourite teacher and extending outdoor nutrition break times for himself and his peers. My response was, “As soon as you are as tall as me, you can be Principal for a Day.” Throughout the next 2 years, we revisited that conversation numerous times and each exchange included new predictions about the role of the principal and how I spend my days. He was always so respectful, polite, and playful. To this day, I remember when he joined us in 2017, the year we opened. His family had been traveling overseas and they arrived the second week of school. I recall accompanying him and his mom to the door of his classroom. He seemed apprehensive and a bit nervous, but by the end of the day, when I checked in, he had already made some friends and was looking forward to day two. Throughout his time at our school, he was always the first to volunteer to help when needed, he is the type of learner who always acknowledges adults when he sees them in the hallway, on the stairs or on the yard. He is quick to share what he is doing in class as I pop in for a visit. He is one of those students whose absence next year will be significantly felt.
Fast forward to September 2021. Within weeks of being back to school, Kareem found me on the yard, stood back-to-back and low and behold he had considerably sprouted in height. Now, standing at 6 feet tall, he had indeed met the criteria of being as tall (or in this case, taller) as me and therefore I needed to make good on my promise.
Well, today was the day. Yesterday we met and reviewed what our respective mornings were going to look like. You see, the other half of the deal was that I would be a grade 8 student ~ we were switching roles! When I shared what today was going to look like, his former grade 5 teacher found me in the hall and remembered that initial exchange 3 years ago.
Here was his schedule:
8:30 ~ meet with the leadership team to ensure that all assignments were covered
8:45 ~ roam and say hi to staff/students on yard
8:55 ~ be ready to greet primary students at the top of the South Stairwell
9:00 – 9:45 ~ visit classes, collect artefacts for display case
9:45 ~ Read Aloud with K class
10:15 ~ ELITE (Early Literacy Intervention Team Effort) reading group ~ 3 grade one students
10:40 – 11:40 on the yard for all three outdoor breaks.
At noon, we needed to switch back to our regular roles as he needed to help with Track and Field, and I needed to attend some PDT meetings.
8:45 am ~ wait outside with the grade 8s until the bell rang at 9:00
9:00 ~ Math test (Surface area, volume, metric conversions)
10 ~ Literacy class ~ Persuasive paragraph with the prompt, “Should Sam be granted full custody of Lucy?” based on the movie, “Sam, I am”.
10:40 ~ on the yard with the students, as a student
The staff were amazing and embraced him as a team member. He was provided with a walkie-talkie and used it to send positive messages to the staff and to find a student on the yard who needed to make his way to the office for a pick-up. He was escorted to the staff room where he got a coffee (not sure he really consumed it ~ when I got back to my office, there was water in his mug). He used the PA system to share that it was going to be an outdoor nutrition break and for students to use, “Care, Caution, Common Sense and Kindness” while on the yard. He was provided with some e-purchasing paper copies which he checked to ensure that there were appropriate consumables listed. He did a beautiful job with the Read Aloud ~ we had talked about some strategies to use, and he took those strategies and personalized them. My ELITE group loved spending time with him. I understand that a number of staff inquired about raises, days off, crazy purchases and he handled all of them with professionalism and a sense of humour.
When we debriefed at the end of the day, I inquired as to what he enjoyed the most. With enthusiasm and passion, hands down it was the Read Aloud. He talked about how surprised he was with their responses and how good they were at predicting the morale of the story.
He was also pleasantly surprised that during nutrition break, although he went looking for it, there were no issues on the yard. “Everyone was playing so nicely.” In classic Kareem style, he did not let the day end without revisiting his desire to promote his favourite teacher ~ who just happened to be the same Grade 5 teacher who inspired him 3 years ago.
Our days are crazy busy. It is easy to lose ourselves in endless emails. As I craft this blog, I know that I have a number of emails to get to before calling it day. It is easy to lose ourselves in planning. I know that timetables are weighing heavy on my mind. It is easy to lose ourselves in reports. I know that HR is awaiting a report for a former educator. It is easy to lose ourselves in meetings. I know how necessary they are to support student learning.
Today was a tangible reminder to find ourselves in what is most important ~ relationships with our students, creating memories and following through on promises.
Stay tuned for Act 2….
Susan, please know that you have made a difference in Kareem’s life, not just today, but forever. I am sure he will never forget this opportunity, or the faith you had in him to succeed in this endeavour. You also demonstrated great integrity with following through with a promise made three years ago! These are lessons he will take with him forever. Wow!
Way to go, Kareem! Clearly he’s an insightful individual. I might be bias, but I love that read aloud was his favourite part of the day, and he was so in tune with the strengths of those kiddos!
That is an experience he will remember forever, Sue. I love the build-up from Gr 5 to Gr 8. I bet he enjoyed the pre and post experiences too. Bravo!