Yesterday I had a chance to view a documentary on the street gangs of Southwest Houston. The video, produced by Harvard University student Damilare Sonoiki, was impactful to me both because I grew up and went to school in the area and also served as a high school principal in a neighboring district.
You can view the video here but be forewarned that it contains explicit language. Along with the explicit language, it also features some of my former students brandishing weapons and talking about their daily lives in the street gangs. It is heartbreaking to see young people anywhere making those kind of choices, but you usually are operating from a place of detachment as you don’t actually know the people you are watching. When you realize that you do know the students and you think of all the time you spent building relationships, counseling, and working with them, then it is particularly devastating.
I’m reminded that the choice to serve as a principal is only a job to those who will ultimately be unsuccessful. To the rest it is a calling and a mission. In the midst of the internal and external system pressures competing for their time and attention, principals have to daily remember that they are serving to impact and change the lives of their students.
Each day as principal you will have a chance to make a positive difference in the lives of your students. You have the authority to help (or to not help) them every day. Take advantage of that incredible blessing and do not forego the associated responsibility.
Here are a few ways to begin building the relationships with your students that they desperately need:
- Push a trashcan around the cafeteria at lunch and talk to all of your students rather than stand off to the side and monitor
- Stand in the hallway and greet them by name as they walk by during the passing periods
- Tell them that you care for them and that you are proud of them as you speak to them each morning on the public address
- Show up at their events and functions and make sure they see you supporting them
- Always stop what you are doing to answer a student’s question, even if you have answered the same question before to ten others
- Each Friday remind them to make good choices over the weekend; tell them you want to see them back at school on Monday
- Give them moral guidance
- Model and teach character and integrity
As families continue to break down socially, economically, and spiritually the role of the principal and other education leaders will continue to become more critical. You were chosen for a reason, now go make a difference!
“…Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” Esther 4:14