A beautiful house on a park-like yard. Plenty of food in the fridge and new clothes hanging in the closet. Yearly family vacations spent fishing, water skiing, and eating ice-cream. Huge Christmas celebrations with plenty of presents for everyone. Numerous family gatherings featuring games and rousing sing-a-longs around the old family piano. The security of a loving family together every night and then always there in the morning.
This was my life growing up in small-town Saskatchewan. Norman Rockwell himself could not have painted a better picture of life in the Mellesmoen home. It was a house filled with love and laughter.
So why was it so difficult for me to navigate life as a high school student? Why was the mental mirror in my head always reflecting something akin to a fun-house freak, rather than the happy kid in those sepia-tinted pictures I now see in mom’s photo albums? When the soundtrack for my life should have sounded like Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry About a Thing), why did it sound like some depressing, sad song, sung by a broken soul? Why was it so darn tough growing up?
I thought about that today after I was blessed to have a deep, uninterrupted conversation with a group of grade 12 students who were on their spare, sitting in the hall discussing life. You see, I’m a nosy principal, and the kids have gotten somewhat used to me asking how things are going. They have also developed a great deal of patience when faced with, what I think, is a great sense of humor and wonderful puns and jokes. I’ll never understand how they don’t find humor in questions like, “how else would the cells in our bodies communicate if not by cell phone?”
This conversation was not about jokes though. We talked a lot about the real struggle people face growing up in a world shared through social media. We talked about the way kids put on a brave face every day, when inside sometimes they just want to scream. We talked about kids who hurt other kids, and how they must be feeling. We talked about life.
As I sat there, I could not help but think about how confident I am in our leaders of tomorrow. I felt like these kids are going to be more than just okay. I could see and hear in them a desire to make the world, even if it’s just that world around them right now, a better place. I know as my career slowly moves along, one day, I will be on the sidelines watching as the next generation leads the way. I’m confident they will do a great job of taking care of those who have come before them.
They will take up the charge if we remind them that the reflection from their inner mirror is not always telling them the truth. They will lead the way if we make sure the radio in their soul is tuned to the right station, not the one playing songs of false lyrics. They will take care of us tomorrow if we take care of them today.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why my path has guided me where I am today. How did a person who dreaded school so much, and felt so lost and alone for so many days at school end up back in the exact same environment? You would think I would have done anything to avoid school after the experiences I had growing up. But I didn’t. I believe I am where I am today for two reasons. The first is a dream.
I have a dream that every student who walks through the doors of our school will do so with their head held high. I have a dream that every student who walks through the doors of our school will do so with a belief that they have something to contribute. I have a dream that every student who walks through the doors of our school will do so with the belief that they are part of a loving family. I have a dream that every student who walks through the doors of our school will be able to share their voice without fear. I know we are not there yet, and I know I can’t do it alone, for there are times when it seems like a mountain too big to climb. Our school is made up of close to 400 students and over 25 caring adults, and it will take every one of us, working together, to actualize this dream.
That’s one reason why my path has lead me back.
Here’s the second reason.
School broke part of me as a youth. Not intentionally, nor was it the sole culprit, but it was part of the reason. For years I struggled with self-doubt, and the residue of those feelings still show themselves even to this day. For example, as I write this, part of me is scoffing at myself, saying, “oh Bruce, people will think you are so full of yourself for writing this”. Here is the second reason I believe my path has lead me back; healing. I am finding that the more I work with these incredible students, the more I am healing. Those pieces that were broken in my youth are being put back together by our incredible kids.
This is where you come in. Whether you are a teacher, an EA, a parent, a cousin, a neighbor, a director, a custodian, a grandparent, a coach; you have a role. The next time you see a leader of tomorrow, stop, and with a smile, ask how their day is going. The next time you see a leader of tomorrow, stop, and with a smile, ask them for advice. The next time you see a leader of tomorrow, stop, and with a smile, allow them to help you. The next time you see a leader of tomorrow, stop, and with a smile, listen. They will take care of you tomorrow if you take care of them today.
My gosh, who would have thought my students would be fixing me!
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