When They Come Back

December 15, 2017

Recently, a former student named Sofia stopped by Greenwood Elementary to say hi and deliver a special gift. I'll get to that story in a second...

 

There are so many meaningful moments in a day, and working with students is the privilege of a lifetime. However, there is one thing that gets me every time; it's when they come back.

 

When kids come back we get to see who they've become. And who they are becoming. We see how they've grown into the "sparkle" that we once saw in their eyes during elementary school. Personally, hearing former students share specific memories of learning experiences and teachers who impacted their life trajectory is unbelievably inspiring.

 

Now, back to Sofia...

 

This morning I received a communication from our main office indicating a student wanted to visit with me. I was helping out in a different part of the building, so I transitioned to the office as quickly as I could. When I arrived in the office, I was greeted by Sofia. I invited Sofia and her dad into my office to catch up. She handed me a gift bag and I proceeded to open it while asking her about the small business I knew she had started. (Keep in mind that Sofia is only in middle school now.)

 

Her business is called Stud Ties and the company tagline is, "Start a conversation without saying a word." (This is perfect on so many levels...Sofia was a little shy in elementary school, but she always had a quiet confidence and many hidden talents.)

 

And speaking of hidden talents...her story gets interesting when we look at the catalyst for her small business. It starts with Sofia's own talent and passions (of course), but those things were truly ignited when her 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Ray, collaborated with colleagues to launch an inventor's unit. Combined with the support of her family, these teachers created the conditions for Sofia's vision to take root.

 

A picture from the inventor’s unit (taken before Sofia was a small business owner) is below. I’ll conclude with an unofficial product endorsement of sorts. These ties are not your typical inventor’s fair-grade. They look sharp and are very well made.

 

 

Teaching the Whole Child

 

I could go on and on about the incredible work our teachers do to cultivate and unearth student talent. It's humbling to watch and I couldn't be prouder. Seeing Sofia this morning was a vivid reminder of our responsibility to teach the whole child. This goes far beyond trying to teach a curriculum to kids.

 

The school experience must include "seeing" and "listening" to students so that we fully understand who they are and the unique abilities they come through our doors with. We need to ensure school is a space where abilities are noticed and dreams are activated.

 

I sincerely hope that when other students come back they share that their school was the space where big dreams became a reality.

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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