About teachmechem

Assistant principal at Benton High School in St. Joseph, MO. My main goal... to lead our students, staff and community through a diversified, contemporary learning experience.

Starting. For Real.

So tonight was Kindergarten Round-Up for my first born (out of three….boys….yes, go ahead say it……say it…..here it comes….”wow you have your hands full, don’t ya?”..couldn’t help yourself…..yea, haven’t heard that before…especially when I take all three to WalMart and leave the shelves in shambles).  Anyway my little Elliot, who is sharp as a tack, is going to be a Kindergartener at a public school.  I don’t know why that is such a hard thing for me to come to grips with.  It really isn’t that he is kind of little and somewhat sensitive that worries me.  Unfortunately I think it is more about our educational system than my own personal apprehensions as a parent that scares me.

I probably need to pause a little here because it isn’t my own personal system that I’m going after here.  I think that my own district does miraculous work with the resources given.  We aren’t perfect, but our teachers, custodians, admin, etc. work incredibly hard and as effectively as possible.  I know that my little boy, and the two others to follow, are in great hands at the elementary school we live close to.  I mean the counselor is a neighbor, several teachers are friends, we know many parents, and the principal is a firecracker.  We have no worries that our little boys will be well taken care of.  And I absolutely want them in a public school setting.  Lots of reasons there, which is probably fodder for another blog.  What I am going after are the looming frustrations and fears that seem to grip our ranks in public schools which inevitably filters down to our students.  Where do those originate?  I have some opinions on that, but for certain there are state and national lawmakers perpetuating those frustrations and fears because think they know what is best for our kids…..My Kid.

So here is the deal, I’m making a pledge to my kid to change that thinking.  I’ve always been an advocate for other parents’ kids and I take that very, very seriously.  But now the gloves come off.  Can’t promise that I’ll succeed, but I’ll give it my best.  And it might not even touch my own kids’ educational careers.  Maybe it will be my grandkids or their kids.  Who knows.  What I do know is that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to continue my education in a doctoral program offered by the University of Missouri that has a reputation of growing leaders.  I know first hand that is true because some of the most influential colleagues in my world have been a part of it.  And with their help and guidance I’ve been accepted to take the challenge.

Honestly, I’ve wrestled with this for awhile- continuing my education.  I love my family and become very irritated at things that take me away from them.  This undoubtedly will force me to rearrange some time budgets, but as I look at my little boys, grubby fingernails and all, I think that I can learn to become a leader that will lead our system to real change.  The kind of change that benefits my kids and yours.  I am absolutely prayful and thankful for that challenge.

BTW, I have to give a public shout out to my parents, Larry and Judy McCoy.  They gently pushed me in many things, including this, and I love and honor them for it.  Thank you over and over.

A Good Time To Show Up Late

Being 5 minutes late sometimes provides reflective opportunities (it can also get you in trouble, but we won’t be going into personal examples of that!).

My wife and I along with our three little boys under the age of five rolled out the van to walk into our church.  Of course you probably could have guessed that we’d be exiting a van based on the number of small children we have.  Anyway… Hurriedly we moved across the parking lot and into the lobby.  Something was obviously wrong.  Why are all of these people in the lobby?  Are they all late as well?  Wishful thinking because we are usually the only folks strolling in as the final prayer is being said.  Reading the faces of the people gathered it was clear that something was terribly wrong.  Fear, urgency, and worry were spreading amongst the crowd without many words being spoken.

Long story short, a little girl had run out of the doors and before anyone could react she was GONE!   Of course when we heard about this situation the mobilization of forces swiftly began.  We divided up, took different directions and began a rescue mission for this vulnerable little girl.  After approximately 20 minutes of looking, we heard that a law enforcement official found the girl running along a two lane highway.  Whew.

Here is why this is such a reflective opportunity, besides my personal terrifying thoughts about my own children in a situation such as this.   We have a lost student problem at our school.  I know, I know… we have a lost student issue in our country, but I have to be able to fit this reflection into my own schema.   Everyday we have a student bolt from our school.  Maybe they leave physically, or maybe just emotionally and academically.  But they most definitely leave.

What I’m wondering and asking myself is why, as an educational community, are we not urgently reactive.  C’mon, we are talking about a kid that bolts from OUR building!  I know that being reactive is long thought of as silly and ineffective.  But in emergency situations, reactivity or lack of oftentimes leads to life or death.  And in the case with students leaving our schools, we are letting them choose a path that might very well mean death.  Dying dreams, ideas, ambitions, potential, etc.

Keeping them in is one thing and we tackle this with ongoing instructional, relational and operational improvements.  But chasing after them when they do leave is our responsibility as well.  Not for the benefit of us, but for the benefit of them.

Our pastor scrapped his sermon that day.  He simply told us to target one person.  Help find them.  I think we need to do the same with our students.  Target one student that has checked out, either physically or emotionally, scrap the sermon and find them.  I have mine picked out.  She is going to make it.  I know it.  Let’s go authentically looking for kids.

Image: Casie and Chad by smoorenburg via Flickr

Relationally Starved?

I was sitting in church on Sunday listening to a person speak on various matters. Ok, let me start over.  I was actually running up and down the lobby of our church, chasing my two year old because he wouldn’t sit still in the sanctuary and wouldn’t cooperate in the nursery.  So I tried to listen to bits and pieces of the sermon via speakers in the hallway while giving my own sermon of “stop that, get up, come here, don’t mess with the water fountain, walk please, don’t bother that nice man, don’t bother that nice woman, don’t mess with anything that resembles a human or something they might sit on or otherwise find value in.” Amen.

Anyway, I didn’t hear much.  But I did pick up on a piece that intrigued me.  He made a comment about the generation of our children being “relationally starved.”   Now I didn’t hear all of his comments on this, so I won’t go into whether I agree or disagree with his take on how this equates to a child’s religious belief system. But I would like to give my two cents worth.

It seems everyone has an opinion about this generation of youth.  Unfortunately, it seems to me, most of those opinions aren’t favorable.  Think of the common, and sometimes most over-used excuses for our kids…. The single parent household, the family who has been a product of generational poverty, and my favorite, the two parents that work many hours and rely on a center to care for their children for most of the week.

Granted there are cases where those situations can cause very stressful situations for families… I’m not turning a blind eye to that fact.  But there are many cases where students have found successes in spite of difficult circumstances, and maybe even with the help of those circumstances.

The more I toss it around, I’m not so sure that our students are “relationally starved.”  I just think that relationships look much different today than they have in generations past.  Their relationships are more fluid and maybe a little more fragile.  It is obvious that advances in technology have changed the way relationships are built and maintained (it has for me).  This doesn’t mean that children aren’t in need of the same nurturing and love that we might have had, but there are other layers that we need to ask them about.  And I think that might be the key, ASK THEM!

Dad and son on farm

I firmly believe that the heart of constructivism is trust.  Trust stems from a relationship that is constantly monitored and cared for.  Kind of like farming- the field you ignore will be the field that gives you the most difficulty down the road.  But unlike crops in a field, our students can tell us what they need- let’s listen.