Being Principal for a Day brings many lessons about Tyler ISD

Published on Friday, 10 November 2017 10:02 - Written by ALLISON POLLAN, apollan@tylerpaper.com

Most mornings in my house are a frantic sprint to get two kiddos fed and clothed before rushing out the door and hopefully making it through the carpool line before the last bell rings. 

They disappear into the crowded hallway for a day filled with activities and learning that leaves them exhausted yet fulfilled by day's end.

What goes on during the seven hours they spend within the school walls? If you were to ask my children, you'd learn their day was "good" and that they "don't remember" the specifics of what exactly they learned, what they ate for lunch or who they played with on the playground.

Perhaps it's that they truly are too exhausted to recall specifics by the end of a long day or that they've grown weary of my endless questions at the dinner table (as a former reporter, I tend to be relentless when I'm trying to get information, even from my kids). 

Getting details about what goes on behind those school walls  is why I jumped at the chance to be a part of the Tyler Independent School District and Tyler Area Business Education Council's  Principal for a Day. 

The half-day event is  designed to give business leaders a glimpse into the education world, as well as an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of local schools; demonstrate the dedication of the business community to helping schools and students succeed; and form ongoing partnerships between local businesses and Tyler ISD.

I spent Wednesday morning at Jack Elementary School, my request since it's the school my kids attend. 

I learned so much more than just how my children spend their days. Through observation, I learned how hard the faculty and staff work to make the school live up to its mission statement - building leaders of tomorrow. 

I saw those leaders in action, from the way the kindergarten classes walked the hallways calmly, quietly and in a straight line to the way my three student tour guides conducted themselves throughout our time together. 

It started immediately after the school bell rang, as I observed the KJAC News team of five students confidently reading announcements about happenings at the school, healthy food choices and the leadership habit of the week - think win-win. I saw it in a brief hallway interaction between two members of the KJAC crew after the announcements were over, with one boy saying, "Big smiles all around, high five!" before successfully landing the high five with his friend. 

And I learned about the leadership of the school from the school's leader and my gracious host, Principal Patricia Henderson. 

I wasn't the only one who spent time witnessing the leadership happening on Tyler ISD campuses. I was among almost 30 community leaders who spent time as Principal for the Day. 

At a luncheon after our morning spent on campuses across the district, we shared our experiences and a theme emerged. The words care and compassion were repeated countless times as the guest princpals described what they saw on campus.  

One guest principal said he appreciated allowing folks in the business world the opportunity to see what's happening in schools, noting how much of what people hear about schools these days is negative. 

"If more people would take the time to come and see, the narrative would certainly change," he said. 

After my short time on campus I couldn't agree more. 

And while I've had a healthy respect for principals since my own elementary school days, I've developed a deeper level of respect having walked a few hours in Ms. Henderson's shoes. 

I've learned why I sometimes get those one-word answers at the dinner table.

The school day can be exhausting!

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Allison Pollan is editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph