“Be where the students are.” “Wherever students are that’s where I need to be.” Baruti Kafele explained the importance of interacting with students and teachers as a school leader. Good leaders are in the midst of students and learning.
After this Empower 2019 presentation, these words stuck with me: “Be where the students are.” Later I contemplated how I was no longer where the students are. Being in the midst of students was always my dream from little on. A sense of sadness enveloped me. My eyes teared up. My sense of purpose was gone – my life’s work no longer valued. I was no longer a teacher.
“Be where the students are.” In my early years as a child, I was already a teacher. I was in the midst of children helping them to grow. I grew up in a family of eight children. Being the oldest girl, and second to the oldest of all the kids – I helped to care for and nurture my siblings.
“Be where the students are.” I became a “real” teacher in high school. It was an actual paying job, teaching baton to many students and creating a baton corp from this group of students. During my years twirling, I competed on an individual level and was also the leader of a baton team and a baton corp. My own teacher had carefully taught me how to lead my peers. I used many of these lessons in my teaching. And I was always in the midst of my students as I taught.
As I went on to become a classroom teacher, I saw my job as a calling. My calling required me to be in the midst of students. After all, the greatest Man to walk this earth did the same. Jesus knew he had to be in the midst of his “students.” His role required him to “be where the students are.” Lutheran teachers use Jesus as a role model and perfect example of what a teacher should be. He knew the needs of His people, was called “Teacher”, and loved even those who hated him and betrayed him. What a teacher!
So that day, after listening to Mr. Kafele’s excellent presentation – I was sad. I was no longer where the students are. I had retired; I really hadn’t expected to retire – but circumstances necessitated the inevitable. The writing was on the wall. I had always been where the students were, even as a principal for 10 years. But I was also in a cage, fighting to be free – fighting for the needs of children. My voice no longer mattered and the needs of children were not put first and foremost.
So it was that I went back to developing York Academy of Discovery. I contacted a few people instrumental in supporting York. York is an endeavor to be where students are. We use this platform to make a difference in the lives of young children. Working on York led me to being with students again. This past school year I was very thankful to Christa Isenburg and Stephanie Densford for going to bat for me to volunteer in their classrooms. I once again felt a sense of purpose and passion. I felt my calling once again.
I don’t know what the next year holds. Will I be where the students are? Who knows? I do know that God has put a passion in my heart. My passion is to be where students are. May God use me and guide my passion to still make a difference in the lives of children. “Be where the students are!”