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Virginia Journal of Education

On Point

To-Do Lists -- For All of Us

By Riley O’Casey

The 2015-2016 school year is now underway, and we who work in schools are busy establishing school routines, like eating lunch in under 20 minutes, going to the bathroom once a day, and being pulled in a million different directions. I’m starting year 16 – halfway done! I love my job!

The beginning of the year is exhilarating, yet daunting, as we organize our classrooms, attend meeting after meeting (PLCs, teams, departments, professional development workshops).

I’ve learned the best way to keep myself organized and focused is to create a To-Do List. And follow it. Everyone needs a To-Do List. Here are a few I’ve come up with for people involved in public education: 

Legislators. You make the rules and it’s essential that you listen to the experts – the educators! Don’t assume you know what’s best for children without asking for our input. Please make public education decisions with children, adults and reality in mind. You’ve already taken a stand against overtesting our children; please don’t stop. Walk a day in the shoes of an educator and visit as many classrooms and schools as possible. You’ll earn the respect of your constituents.

Administrators. You were once in the classroom; maybe 20 years ago, maybe three years ago. Remember what it was like? If not, why not take some time this year to go back in the classroom and teach for a day, or several days? Please support your employees and treat them with respect. Ask for their input, insist on positive dialogue, and communicate on a regular basis. Educators can do amazing things and make incredible progress when they have the resources they need to be successful. Trust us to do what’s best for our students.

Support Professionals. Whether you’re a secretary, custodian, bus driver, food service worker or specialist, you’re important in a child’s life. You make a difference! Never doubt that what you do on a daily basis is important. A few may overlook your work, but know that many more are appreciative, especially the children.
 Parents. We love your children and want the absolute best for them. Trust us to teach them not just content, but how to think critically and make good decisions. Respect us as professionals. Keep the lines of communication open and ask questions, while holding your children accountable for their behavior and work ethic. We’re on the same team and everyone’s goal is to ensure your children learn and succeed. 

Teachers. First and foremost, take time for yourself this school year. Teaching is hard; feel free to say no to extracurricular activities and come home at a decent hour. Collaborate with colleagues and always ask for help. Each day is a new day with a new attitude. Don’t ever be discouraged by negativity; stay positive. Laugh a lot! Smile a lot! Fight for your students – they need you to be their fiercest advocates. Love all of your students, even the ones who drive you insane. Love them the most. Make your voices heard when needed. Never fear your role as an advocate for children. An occasional Friday “professional development” with colleagues is a great way to end the week.

Students. School is your only job right now – take it seriously. Your teachers will do anything they can to make sure you learn and succeed. We care deeply about you and expect you to do your absolute best. Meet us halfway: be prepared, do your work, ask questions, study and have fun. Talk to your teachers if you have problems; we’re willing to work with you. A school year goes by quickly and then it ends. You don’t get it back.
This is going to be a great school year. Our students will do amazing things, and continue to exceed our expectations. Where are the best educators in the world? Right here!  Michelangelo said it best: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Remember this for the children, from Haim Ginnott’s book, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Educators: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or deescalated and a person is humanized or dehumanized. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” 

Have a great year!  The Irish say it best: “Slainte!” 

O’Casey, vice president of the Prince William Education Association, is a social studies teacher at Bull Run Middle School.


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