Today is Friday, August 24, 2007. In my district it is Teacher Work Day - the uninterrupted time for my staff to get in all of their final plans, meetings, decorating, etc. before our students show up on Monday. I jokingly refer to it as Teacher Question Day, as I find myself unable to leave my office with a steady line outside my door of "Dave, can we...." questions. Ahh, the glories of leadership.
I'm in the Chicago area, and we have been absolutely blasted with rain over the past week. It began raining last Saturday morning and has not stopped for more than a few hours. Many of the storms rolling through have been the type that knock you out of your bed in the middle of the night and we've had many areas with significant water and wind damage. I've never seen our grass so green in late August.
Our neighbors are out of town and we have been watching their home for them for the past two weeks. Last night, in the midst of the most severe storm of the week, I knew I needed to get over to their house and check on things. What I found was a flooded crawlspace. The sump pump had simply been unable to keep up with the surge of water attacking the house, and water continued to seep in from under the concrete slab. ON MY WATCH, of course!
I spent the bulk of my evening hunched over in a 4 foot crawlspace with a shop vac, brooms, fans, and my wife worried that I would electrocute myself in the process. I found myself scrambling to move boxes and plastic containers to dry ground, bombarded by spiderwebs and their unhappy inhabitants, and generally working my tail off in an incredibly uncomfortable place. But, it had to be done and I was the only person able to do it.
Why explain this to you? In my world, the flood is coming next week. My 700 students will enter my school ready to go. You're never sure if your sump pump (staff & structures) can keep up with their needs, but you try to tweak things as needed and get all of the pieces in place to assist every student. At times, it's uncomfortable and challenging. Sometimes you feel as if you are the only person(s) working to take care of what needs to be done. But, in the end, the satisfaction of knowing that you had direct impact on the process of saving the contents of the crawlspace (your students) lifts your spirit and you take pride in overcoming the challenges. The only people who completely understand are those who have sloshed around in a flooded crawlspace themselves.
So, from me to you, I hope that whatever your new school year brings your way - the challenges, joys, triumphs and doldrums - that you approach each day with the thought that you are the best hope that your students have. They are flooding your school and in need of your leadership. They come to you excited and ready to go. Their future success depends on whether you get them to higher ground, and your colleagues who share your experiences understand how important you are. Here's to your best school year ever. Enjoy it!