His name was Jack. He was such a cool guy too. I didn't just know my superintendent when I was a kid, I liked him. I think lots of other kids liked him too. He wasn't invisible, you know, like OZ behind a curtain or something. He was everywhere. Walking around. Shaking hands. Kissing babies. But, not because he was a politician. It was because he was genuine. He didn't let paperwork or meetings rule his life. He let kids enter his life as a superintendent. That's the big difference.
See, I grew up in a large suburban school district outside of Buffalo, NY, called the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District. Two high schools, three middle schools, and 10 elementary schools. Today, there are fewer schools due to enrollment decline. As a result, consolidation took place, but you don't have to consolidate the personality of the district too.
Jack was good at listening to others. He showed up at events and smiled, not because he had to smile, but because he just naturally smiled. He loved children. And, he valued his staff who were in charge of his children. Sometimes, that's all anybody really wants out of a competent leader: a connection, an understanding, a supporter, a cheerleader.
You might be thinking, "Well, with a school district that size, how could someone be everywhere like this Jack guy?" Forty weeks of school with fifteen schools? It was easy for Jack. Maybe things were different back then. Fewer Federal demands. Fewer State interventions and fewer silly hoops to go through. Fewer piles of minutia. But, that still doesn't change the fact that when I first met Jack, he walked into my classroom and looked at what I was writing. He introduced himself to me and asked me what my name was. He told me that I was talented. And, that stuck with me forever.
I will always remember Jack. Relationships dominate over everything else going on in our schools, next to being safe. How does your school or district place a high emphasis on relationships? How does your school or district take walks (not to sneak up on teachers) in order to have talks about the human spirit? How will we connect with one other each day?
That's what education is supposed to really be built on, anyway.
For more information about building relationships, visit www.leadershipdunktank.com