Six years ago, when I retired from teaching, I never expected to write such a headline again. Yet, here I am, with my life revolving around the school calendar.
Yesterday I wrapped up year 2 of being a school chaplain and working with first graders. I handed out certificates from the police department and police badge stickers. The kids were thrilled. The teachers were pretty pleased, too. They all asked, “you are coming back next year, aren’t you?” Yes, I will be back. They also gave me lovely gifts, which they shouldn’t do, but I love them for being so kind. The kids wrote lovely notes to me on the cards they included.
The principal and vice principal of the school will not be returning. I don’t know the whole story, but the principal has orders from her doctor. Her health has deteriorated this year and she needs to take time to repair it. Running an urban school is not the way to do it. That’s a job that needs energy and vigor.
This year has been a hard one for the principal. Her mother fell ill in the fall and died at Thanksgiving. The parents of students were murdered. Other caretakers died. Staff spouses died. A few teachers decided they couldn’t keep doing the job so they left. Substitutes came and went. One of the students died during Easter break. Some students moved, others arrived. It was a chaotic place with so much coming and going. Tempers flared. Unkind words could be heard.
And I was only there 3 hours twice a week. I can imagine what life was like for the staff and students who were there day in and day out. Children need a soft place to fall. The children at this school have hard lives and home isn’t the soft place. That means school must be. The kids need kind, caring, generous adults who speak softly but firmly. Adults who are consistent, who show up every day for the kids. Adults the kids can count on.
I don’t know who next year’s principal will be, but I hope the person can fill the bill. The students will be counting on it.