By Michael R. Pinto, IPLI Leadership Team & Cohort 8 Mentor, Principal at James Cole Elementary School
Our school staff theme this year is based on the book The Old Truck by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. The book has many messages within its colorful pages and simple text. When the idea for this theme took shape last winter, it was about the fact that sometimes the things we have always done are still good – like the old truck. We don’t always have to do everything new and flashy to be successful as educators. We have to remember pieces like listening to children during community circles, offering positive affirmations, having routines and procedures in place, and making lessons engaging and maybe even hand-dirty engaging. It spoke to me at the time about how nothing gets done in life that is worth doing without a lot of hard work. That doing hard work is tiring, and that changes inevitably make our task even more difficult. But being courageous during those challenging times, still dreaming, and chasing the stars matter. And that persisting is really what gets us through.
Angela Duckwork coined the phrase “GRIT” as an approach individuals take while “chasing the stars.” She defines GRIT as “Passion and Perseverance for long term goals.” This theme has taken a different turn as we venture into this school year, but its message still rings true. I never thought in March we would be where we are right now – opening schools with such uncertainty and such change. I never would have imagined the hours of planning and preparation that have gone into making today a reality. I never would have imagined we would still be where we are in terms of active cases and uncertainty. What I did imagine and what I go back to as I face with you the daunting task of teaching children in this new environment with safety as a focus, was that all who call themselves staff members in this building and every school building in this corporation, county, state, and country bring with them the three tenets of grit: Passion (for children) Perseverance (hard work to make education possible) and long terms goals (raising productive kind, citizens). That gives me hope, and that buoys my spirits.
Do all the things today that you wished you could have done last March, April, and May. Be present. Be Kind. Be welcoming. Be Engaging. Be Safe. Continue to work hard. Realize I know that you will grow weary and tired along this journey. Keep dreaming and chasing the stars. And by all means – persist. Have a wonderful first day of school. Thank you for all that you have and will do for children this school year.