Tuesday, August 16, 2016

10 Years of Gratitude and a Full Heart

Last week, I attended the Glacier Ridge 10th Anniversary Celebration. It's hard to believe that it was that long ago when we started our dream of opening a new elementary school. As principal, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I witnessed what happens when people work together toward a vision of what is right for children.

On the day of the 10th Anniversary Celebration, I parked my car and walked to the school entrance. I paused to remember our hopes and dreams for this school. 

             We wanted others to believe that we could build a school 
             that was a great place to learn.

             We hoped we would create a school where every 
             decision would be founded on what was right for children.

             We were commited to bringing together a staff that would
             collaborate and keep children foremost in their planning 
             and teaching.

             We wanted to gather dedicated and supportive parents who 
             cared so much about their children's learning.

             We wanted children to have a voice and provide them with 
             opportunities to take on leadership roles and help make 
             decisions about their school.

I retired from the principalship three years ago knowing we had tried our best. The teaching was brilliant. The learning was thoughtful. And the families gave us endless support. Student leadership was strong. Together we had made an impact on the learning community. It was a special time for all of us. I knew they would continue the important work of sustaining a school community that was best for children.

I was so appreciative that I was asked to come back for the 10th Anniversary Celebration. I knew I would see some changes. So much can change in three years. There were several new teachers on the staff. A new playground structure was added to the playground. Four new beautiful classrooms were added to the school building to help with the growing enrollment. The artwork on the walls in the hallway and the shared spaces had changed a bit but all of them represented the creativity we hoped would flourish. Children who had attended the school those first few years we were open had returned for the celebration so much taller and wiser and ready to take on the world. Parents came back to say hello and there were plenty of hugs all around.

But there was so much of the familiar at the celebration. Several of the original staff were part of the planning and facilitating the celebration. I wouldn't expect anything less. There was always a let's-pitch-in attitude among the teachers and staff. It was great to see them again. Before the celebration began, I saw them bustling around, as usual, getting things ready and working together. I was able to peek into a few classrooms to visit with some of the staff, and it was evident how much their classrooms represented their beliefs about learning and teaching. Classrooms were learning environments dedicated to helping children be successful.

It was in the faces and voices of the children where I recognized those initial intentions we had so long ago. They were laughing and enjoying every minute of being part of the school community. The children had been part of the research for choosing the new playground structure. When they cut the ribbon and ran toward the new playground structure they must have felt an ownership that comes from being part of something bigger than themselves. Their voices were being heard.

During the program presentations, I listened to the voice of the current principal as he read the vision statement we had written for our school so many years ago. It still is a part of the fabric of this school. When it was my turn to say a few words, I looked into the audience, and I saw the faces of parents and children who invest in this learning community in so many ways. The school is a shared community of people who believe in thoughtful learning.

As I walked back to my car to leave that day, I felt such a full heart. The spirit and commitment of staff, students and parents is strong.

Carry on, GRE friends. Glacier Ridge Elementary is a great place to learn!