I apologize for not writing a blog last week. Instead of blogging, I was trying to complete a fifteen page analysis of the budgeting process of Independence, MO. Unfortunately, all the work was for naught, as my laptop's hard drive decided to die right before I was to submit the paper (students - always save valued work to a secondary source!)
So, this week I am writing the blog I wanted to write last week, had I known what would occur in 24 hours time.
One of the cool things about "The Remix," my new car, is that I can hook up my ipod without the highly erratic, old-school tape deck connection. So, I have been downloading all my favorite podcasts to cram in during my seven minute commute (or during my travels to meetings and GSU).
As I have stated in a previous blog, one of my favorite podcasts is "This American Life." The May 7 episode featured a story about Chen Sah and his work on the Yangtze River Bridge in Naan-jing China. This four mile bridge happens to be notorious for the number of people who choose to jump off that bridge and travel nearly 80 miles to their probable death in the hands of the River.
Mr. Chen is an army of one determined to save people from themselves. He regularly drives across the bridge in a rickety moped on the lookout for people crossing the barriers in an attempt to get on the wrong side of the bridge. Mr. Chen is not paid to do this, nor is he trained for this role. Mr. Chen simply feels compelled to serve for something greater than himself - humanity.
According to Mr. Chen's blog, which regularly accounts for his activity on the bridge, from September 2003 to December 2009, Mr. Chen has prevented 125 people from physically jumping, counseled 5,510 on the bridge, counseled 16,000 on the phone, and received 51,000 text messages.
Reporter Mike Paterniti had the opportunity recently to visit Mr. Chen. Ironically, it was Paterniti who actually wrestled a man down who was about to jump off the bridge. Paterniti was amazed to witness Mr. Chen's dose of tough love counseling, questioning the man's loyalty to his country and family, while also working the address the root causes of his state of depression.
In many ways teachers are like Mr. Chen. Instead of traveling on that rickety moped over a four mile bridge, teachers travel through the minds and hearts of hundreds of students and parents each year. Both are life saving callings, as research shows that minds without education or hope suffer slow, painful deaths. Neither receive much for the huge impact they have on humanity. And just as Mr. Chen varies his methods for dealing with potential bridge jumpers, great teachers differentiate instruction for their students, making sure that teaching is relevant, rigorous, and engaging for the students they have been charged to teach.
But teaching isn't entirely about instruction, nor is the title teacher fixed solely to people certified to do so. Everyone in the building is potentially a teacher - from food services to custodial, from the front office to the security desk, from the bus drivers to the volunteers. Everyone in the building is responsible for doing exactly what Mr. Chen does - ensuring that every student who walks into Sequoyah realizes their worth as people, their immediate value to their friends and family, and their future value to society.
The month of May is a time for celebrating - celebrating the end of a successful school year and all of the people who worked so hard to make it happen. I have truly enjoyed the past couple weeks of celebrations, whether we were recognizing teachers, food service workers, or the accomplishments of students. And as we bring the school year to a close, I want to thank the adults of Sequoyah for their life-saving work. If you don't think you are making a difference, take a look at Cross Keys' Senior Class, whose members have received local, state, and national recognition for their outstanding work as students, whether for academic prowess or for their commitment to service. The vast majority of those students walked through the hallways of Sequoyah Middle. Your life-saving commitment to teaching the whole child has made, is making, and will make a difference for our society.
Please know that, even in the midst of paycuts, and diminishing financial support to K-12 education, your work is important and you are appreciated. May this final week be both academically stimulating and rewarding. I hope that in the weeks ahead, your summer is a mix of opportunities to rejuvenate, whether through thought-provoking professional development or through relaxation. Thanks for a great year.
Thanks Ms. Cunningham...bridge over troubled waters...students achieving...everyone in schoolhouse a teacher...I'm glad you are the principal at Sequoyah.
You know I was so concerned for Sequoyah when the last principal was moved. She sounds fabulous though.
What an outstanding letter this is the the community. Teachers do so much more than teach but if they are good quality teachers also they are worth their weight in gold. I recently heard Mr. Hicks who is running for Ga. Labor Secretary say, "Education is a key to our future and the state needs to be putting education first." Because they are not and due to the economy education is a "bridge over troubled waters."
I would like to thank "Doc" personally on this website. Doc volunteers hours of time free to the Dekalb County School System to work as an athletic trainer for the Lakeside Varsity Boys' Soccer Program at Lakeside High School. He has no children associated with the team however, all the boys on the team are his children.
Recently he was at Adam Stadium when a young man from Upton-Lee had a head injury and he took care of this young man's injuries for 35-46 minutes until Dekalb Counties ambulance service arrived. He is my hero of the month. He donates his services to the community soccer programs also with no compensation. He asks for his supplies to be paid for. Thank you Doc for all your volunteer time. You are my hero of the year. In this horrible incident it made me aware also of the good things that are happening in our school system and great people like Doc who care enough about our school system and young people in the communities safety to volunteer his time and expertise.
I pray that this principal is able to stay on, with the changes in the next year. She sounds fabulous and DCSS needs more principals like this.
What a gem. I've read Ms. Cunningham's blog before - all her entries are inspiring. I also met her once and was impressed with the strong, positive energy and warmth she brings to the room. We are very lucky to have her in our school system - working so hard for children and working to lift up her teachers and staff. I hope all principals are making the choice to saddle up closely with their staff - shield them, protect them as best you can - and praise them when it's deserved. They are going through very rough waters.
Teachers - just keep doing what you always do - focus on the students. We honor you for that.
Can someone post a link to Ms. Cunningham's blog?
I want a superintendent who thinks and writes and communicates like Ms. Cunningham.
I have noticed smart people aren't afraid of other smart people. And they don't tolerate ignorance for long.
Wouldn't be great to get a smart superintendent?
And how about smart BOE members, too!
In what other line of work would employees be happy to be appreciated for what they do while they are being fired, receiving pay cuts, working in increasingly substandard conditions, seeing all their top leaders leave under clouds of shame, and preparing for more of the same next year? Only teaching--or maybe nursing, too, or social work--all the traditional "women's" fields.
Cross Keys is a success story and the remarkable people who work there and at Sequoyah have made it so--but it's erroneous to think that this cohesion, drive and achievement can become more than the exception in DCSS without close attention paid to the state of our schools.
As a message from a principal to her staff, that surely ranks among one of the best I've read. A principal who is also a communicator and who takes time to be one, is a gem--we rarely see ours outside his office and when we glimpse him frowning in the hall, we'd rather we didn't. But let's not substitute good feelings about how much we're "appreciated" for the self-defining outrage we ought to feel for the way DCSS has treated most of us, and the students, in the schools.
Let Ms. Cunningham be a model for the administrators we sorely need. But let's not lose sight of the fact that communication is only part of the battle--we need administrators who will stand up for what students need, which is smaller classes, functional and engaging technology, teachers with enough job security that they don't have to focus on "what's happening next?" all day at work, and an administration that feeds itself last, not first.
Anonymous teacher said...
"But let's not substitute good feelings about how much we're "appreciated" for the self-defining outrage we ought to feel for the way DCSS has treated most of us, and the students, in the schools."
I have always proudly spoken of my years in DeKalb until recently.
I agree that Ms. Cunningham expresses wonderful sentiments and she must be a welcomed breath of fresh air in her area. I wish that the county felt the same way. But in my 30 years in education at the schoolhouse level, I have found that the principal must be the constant cheerleader for the "worker-bees" in the schoolhouse.
They are not supposed to criticize the higher-ups at the county for fear of repercussions.
I agree with Anonymous Teacher above that we have come too far in this battle to ease up now.
I fully expect cheerleading rallies in the fall where the county says that we can do more with less, rah, rah, rah. The cuts that have been made will have far-reaching effects for years to come.
Until they have stopped all unnecessary spending at the county level and cut out all waste, the employees will not feel appreciated nor will the students be served well.
Please continue fighting for our students. Our shelves are full of certificates of appreciation already.
Hey, "Used to be positive and proud", I am sure there are some soon-to-be out of work Cobb Teachers that would love to attend a pep rally this fall.
Uh-oh. As much as we need to keep an eye on the school system, also need to keep an eye on the county. Look who might be on the hook for paying to re-develop the Doraville site: All of us county home owners!!
It's true that DCSS employees and former employees should still be outraged at what has taken place in regards to lay-offs, pay cuts, etc. However, not all principals are the same. It was refreshing to read a principal's blog that was uplifting and appreciative of everyone on her staff. She values her employees and lets them know that they are all connected with student achievement. This is rare! She speaks out and that is also rare! Reading her blog makes others hopeful!
"I have noticed smart people aren't afraid of other smart people. And they don't tolerate ignorance for long."
No Duh, this is so astute, and really speaks to what is needed not only within DCSS, but all through the political landscape - smart individuals who do not operate from a such a defensive, combative position.
I want to get some information about smart BOE members. How do they manage it?
Smart BOE members? Look closely at the City Schools of Decatur.
Every BOE member in Decatur is an educated person. This cannot be said for DCSS. Folks on this blog have argued that a college degree should not be a requirement for serving on the BOE but it should would be a good place to start. Seems to me that a Board of EDUCATION should be comprised of EDUCATED people.
Don't confuse educated with smart. They are by no means equivalent. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd go with smart every time. There are plenty of very intelligent people whose life circumstances did not lead them to a college degree. Bill Gates has done pretty well for himself despite his lack of a college education. Same with Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, Dave Thomas. We've had plenty of lousy, highly educated leadership in DeKalb. Let's focus on skills and intelligence rather than credentials.
Yes, I agree that there are many very smart people who did not attend college; however, a degree shows that you have atleast some educational experience and can learn.
One of the smartest people I ever knew was my father. He absolutely loved being proven wrong. His opinion of you would rise sharply if you could best him.
He happened to be well-educated, as well. He could speak the english language in grammatically correct sentences and he was willing to admit when he didn't know something. But you can bet your sweet bippy, he'd be in the library the next day finding out about that something...
These are the kind of people we need leading and motivating DCSS.
Not only do we need educated people (and I support at least college educated from top institutions) but we need folks with kids who are in or who have been in the school system who have a future with the system rather than only their past with the system and the City. We need people willing to and interested in looking forward and not ones perpetually looking backward.
Well, we had two super good candidates last election who fit that description perfectly - but they both lost to two retired guys.
"Well, we had two super good candidates last election who fit that description perfectly - but they both lost to two retired guys. "
And they need to "retire" from the BOE now.
I guess my point was - retirees vote in droves - so anyone who choses to run must figure out a way to reach these voters. They are not in the schools and usually don't have deep knowledge about the schools - but they tap that screen! (or some still punch a card I guess...)
"They are not in the schools and usually don't have deep knowledge about the schools "
You'd be surprised how many are raising their grandchildren these days or have a hand in raising their grandchildren. So there are a lot of grandparents who are as interested in schools as parents.
True that! Point is -- never under-estimate those retirees - in fact - campaign to them!
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