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Administration, Students, Teaching

There Is No Excuse…

We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.   ~Rudyard Kipling

It is amazing how quickly our minds go to the art of making excuses.  Second nature, really.  Our rationale,  and justifications, serve as a salve for stinging criticism, public failure, or feelings of guilt.

Philippines Public School Teen

cc flickr photo by moyerphotos

Recently, a former student has been offering up some rather pointed criticism of our school via social media.  The posts are an embellished mix of the student’s perceived reality and inflammatory language.  The writing is easily dismissed as the immature ramblings of a spurned teenager – someone looking to cause trouble.    So…why am I having such a hard time being dismissive?

As I considered the potential reasons for this student’s vindictive posts, I immediately began excusing my responsibility in the matter.  I wasn’t aware of any problems or issues.  The student never came to see me about concerns.  I never heard from a parent.  I’m not even sure who this kid is….

I’m not even sure who this kid is.

Uh oh.

Maybe if I knew who the kid was, I would have noticed an issue.  Maybe I would have asked questions.  Maybe I would have noticed a change.  Maybe I would have spoken to a parent.  Maybe I would have gone out of my way to encourage and advocate.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference…or maybe it would have made all of the difference.

During my time as a school administrator, I have been diligent in my efforts to get out of my office – spending time on campus, in classrooms, and interacting with kids.  There can be no argument that these efforts are an essential part of effective school leadership – if you are not visible, approachable and knowledgeable about what is happening on your campus you will not be seen as a leader.  In spite of my efforts, I fear I still fall short of “knowing” my students.  In fairness, there are over 900 of them, but they are ALL my students, so shouldn’t I know who they are?

To that end, here is my first goal for the 2012-13 school year.  I am going to learn the name of every student on my campus.  I am certainly not equating knowing the names of my students with knowing them as individuals…but I think it is a start.  It will begin a dialogue, demonstrate that I value each and every kid on our campus, and hopefully help students develop a greater degree of familiarity and comfort interacting with me.

There are a million reasons that would prevent me from accomplishing this goal.

But not a single excuse.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


9 thoughts on “There Is No Excuse…

  1. That’s a wonderful goal to have. As a classroom teacher, I know an administrators job can be very consuming and stressful;however, of the schools I’ve seen, there are much greater successes when the kids know the administrators care. Even just little things help. Our principal and vice principal write personalized inspirational notes on every middle schoolers report card. Takes a lot of time, but the kids definitely notice it!

    Posted by myfriendmissmiller | April 7, 2012, 8:17 pm
  2. I always challenge myself to have all first and last names remembered by the end of day 1. To do that for your entire student body (obviously not on the first day) is an amazing goal. You’ll be the Sandy Cooper of WJHS.

    Posted by Mr. Michael Buist (@buistbunch) | April 7, 2012, 10:45 pm
  3. Jeff, that is a very ambitious goal and I wish you well. I think it is well worth the effort, if you know every student in your school it should have a profound impact on the culture. More kids will feel connected and have a more positive outlook toward school. Imagine if your entire faculty had the same goal, that would be something.

    Posted by darcymullin | April 8, 2012, 7:27 am
  4. Jeff, not only is being visible important, but the opportunity to genuinely engage each student with a positive is essential. Not knowing what each student has had happen in the time before they have come on campus, or what has happened in their life the night before, we have the opportunity to let them know that our campus is a safe, predictable place where they can learn and be part of a supportive culture.

    Thanks for writing about this. It’s often these types of interactions that we forget about or take for granted, that can have such a huge impact!

    Posted by Scott Fillner | April 8, 2012, 7:58 am
  5. Great plan Jeff. As a P/VP I always felt job 1 was to learn every student’s name and something about them. To this day I believe that was the most influential factor in my interactions with kids. It made the high points higher and the low points manageable. The first year was the biggest challeng as I only had one new cohort to learn in subsequent years. Learn as many as you can in the remaining months. Enjoy.

    Posted by Tom Hierck | April 8, 2012, 8:01 am
  6. One thing we did at our school (one quite smaller than yours) was we had all the student’s pictures and names printed, each on a single sheet, and we posted them around the room at a staff development day. The staff circulated. If a student had a connection with a teacher, someone that student was comfortable talking to about large or small thing, the staff person put a check on the sheet. We could then see who had a lot of connections and who was unconnected, or could use some more deliberate relationship-building. It was also a good way to learn names. It was work to get it organized, but it was a valuable exercise.

    Posted by kinden | April 8, 2012, 8:12 am
  7. This is a great goal to have Jeff. When I made the transition from the classroom to VP (at a different school) five years ago, I recall feeling that my very strength, knowing my kids and something about them, was something I was struggling with. Since then I’ve made a point of interacting with students at any opportunity in the halls, cafeteria, etc. It has made all the difference. Although I admit I don’t know all 1400 students by name at my school, knowing a good percentage of them has made feel more comfortable with the kids and them with me. In some small way, when you know kids by nane it points out to them that you care, that it’s worth you knowing their names. Best of luck with your goal!


    Posted by Aaron Akune | April 8, 2012, 4:39 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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