The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Experiences, not just more classes

The time has come when we as educators, we find ourselves with one foot in each school year. The day to day operations of the end of one year seem to be intertwined with planning for schedules, programs, budgets, and logistics for next fall. In this spirit, it is time for our school to begin thinking about what the future our Title 1 budget and program will look like. This work is important as it provides direct benefits to those who come from homes where parents are doing their best to make financial ends meet. So often, when we begin to critically think about this programming, we think about tutoring and extra coursework. While supplemental support is important to help close the achievement gap that exists between those from different socio-economic groups, we also need to think about the experiences our students have. For our students that come from poverty, a field trip to the museum can be just as important to their education as an extra opportunity to get help with reading fluency.

This idea hit home for me a few weeks ago when our media specialist organized an after school outing to see The Hunger Games. Our school did not sponsor a field trip, rather, we announced a time when we would all meet up at a local theater after school to see the movie. Several of our staff members were vital to making contact with families to let them know about the outing, and parents were more than willing to carpool or bring their children so they could participate. In some cases, with parent permission, some staff members even gave some students a ride to the theater. At the last minute, I ended up stepping in and giving one of our eighth graders a lift myself. While making small talk on the ride over, I discovered that this student had not been to the movies since he was in the second grade. As we entered the movie theater, the lack of experience in these situations quickly set in for this young man. Helping him get a ticket, find the theater, and then find a seat were all important moments in the opportunity our school was creating for him. Selfishly, the look on his face when I purchased the biggest bag of popcorn and the largest soda the theater served for him was the highlight of my trip, though I enjoyed the movie too. After watching him hop into his mother’s car and heading for home myself, I realized how critical these experiences, which many take for granted, are for all of our students, especially those who come from poverty. I am grateful to one of our teachers who created not only this experience for a student, but also for me, that afternoon was a highlight of my year.

Our art, choir, and band teachers have taken students to art museums and performances. Our school is also sponsoring field trips to a planetarium and a Holocaust museum. These opportunities are key components of a well rounded education, which we have to consider as we plan our programs. Trips to movies, museums, concerts, and other events are just as important as extra opportunities to learn. The goal of our school will be to create more of these opportunities, taking advantage of grants and donations to fund more trips for all of our students, particularly those who receive extra support from Title 1 funding. In addition, we’re going to start thinking of ways to make these moments happen even when school is not in session.

As you think about next year, think of ways to offer classes for those who need extra help and for those who need to be challenged. Plan for the best intramural and extra curricular programs you can offer, and devote time to maximizing opportunities and providing experiences for students that need them the most.

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