The Principal's Principles

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

3 words for the year: Hope, Opportunity, and Courage

After classroom prep, team meetings, department meetings, a district kickoff, and a training on our Bully Prevention Program, it was finally time for our staff meeting to kick off the year for our building. Our hour together ended with one of those opportunities for me to speak from the heart to our staff. I chose to focus my message to our teachers on three words: hope, opportunity, and courage.

Each day, kids come to school without hope. We see it in their eyes, and we hear it when we listen to what they have to say. For one reason or another, they don’t see that tomorrow can be better, and don’t realize that their future can be bright. Other students come to school brimming with hopes and dreams, we can see it in the margins of their notebooks where they draw or write about their vision for where they hope to be. Whether they are filled with aspirations or fail to see a better tomorrow, no one can have enough hope. Our charge is to give our students hope, every day. If not us, who?

Last spring, our school took a trip to see The Hunger Games. As part of the effort, I gave a student a ride to the movie theater. On the way, through making small talk, I discovered he had never been to a movie theater before. While I’m sure it was not malicious on the part of his parents, part of me felt sad that someone could make it to the 8th grade without this experience. We must think in terms of experiences we can provide. A trip to a museum, to the art institute, a concert, or a sporting event is an experience that cannot be replicated. Our charge is to think about opportunities we can provide to our students. If not us, who?

Education is a profession under attack from all angles. Negative reports from the media, policies from the state that take away from what our profession should be about, inadequate funding, and an uncertain future of what our business will look like in years to come are all frightening and can cause anxiety. Each day, students will walk through the door, they don’t care about policy or what is in the newspaper. What matters to them is if their locker will open, where they will sit at lunch, and whether or not their teachers will know who they are. We must put our worries aside each day while our students are with us. Our charge is to have the courage to focus on our students before we focus on ourselves. If not us, who?

Next week, I will start my tenth year as an educator, and I could not be more excited. Let’s make good things happen – if not us, who?


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7 thoughts on “3 words for the year: Hope, Opportunity, and Courage

  1. I think this is a great post. What a wonderful way to start the year with your teachers! I am currently studying to be an elementary school teacher and I think the three words you chose to focus on (hope, opportunity, and courage) are three things we should incorporate into our lives as educators as well as our everyday lives. I also like how you end each paragraph with “if not us, who?” I think as educators it is easy to forget how much influence one has on students. It really is amazing, if we take the time to do so, how much we can affect a child’s life.

  2. Mr. Bernia, what an inspiring post! I think it is great that you were able to give the message of hope, opportunity, and courage to your teachers, and I hope they were as enlightened by your message as I am. It is so true that educators are a source of hope, opportunity, and courage to students, and sometimes they may be the only source the children have. Teachers have one of the biggest opportunities in life and that is to shape and encourage each and every student they come in contact with.

    I am studying Secondary Education, and my main goal in becoming a future educator is to positively impact students’ lives. Without these three attributes, where would students be and where would we be as educators? Like you said, if we aren’t the ones to step up and provide our students with the qualities they need, who will? I agree that is is vital that we put aside our own needs and focus on what we can do to benefit our students’ lives. I enjoyed reading your post, and thank you so much for your thoughts!

    • I also wanted to let you know that I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and for my EDM310 class, I have been assigned to comment on your blog for the next couple of weeks. I will summarize your blog posts and my visits to your blog with a post to my blog on September 23rd. Also, here is a link to my class blog:

  3. Kathryn Reynolds on said:

    I am studying Elementary Education at the University of South Alabama. Commenting on your blog is part of my assignments for my EDM 310 class. I will be summarizing my posts as well as your blog posts. Please take some time to visit my class blog

  4. Hello Mr. Bernia,
    I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. Your blog post was so amazing. I believe everything you talked about. Having hope, opportunity and courage is a big part of a child’s life. I feel that if the parents does not give their child hope, opportunity, and courage it should be left up to the next person they can look upon, their teachers. If teachers do not let them experience things such as museum, concerts, arts, and much more who will if they not experiencing these things at home. I did not experience concerts, museums, and other activities if it was not for my teachers and field trips. Taking trips can make a difference in a child’s life. As a future educator, I will make sure that I give my students hope, opportunity, and courage. Thank You for this amazing post to read.

  5. Amanda Patton on said:

    Mr. Bernia,
    Thank you so much for your encouraging post! I am studying to be an educator and is my passion to help students realize how great they are and show them all that they can accomplish. I felt sorry sometimes for my classmates in grade school that did not have the same opportunities as me. Kids seem to shield negative sources from the outside, which is why the field of education is so rewarding. They only care about you and what you are telling them. I hope you have an awesome school year and thanks again!
    Amanda Patton
    University of South Alabama

  6. Keiko Ito on said:

    Mr. Bernia,

    I am Keiko Ito, a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed to read your post. I really like your opinion, 3 words including hope, opportunity, and courage for students. I also think educators give them hope and dream for unlimited possibilities in the future. To get them, we should give lots of experiences for them and encourage them to find their own dream for their future. Thank you for sharing.

    Keiko Ito

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