July 22, 2018
To the Exceptional Staff at Willis Junior High School,
We are embarking on what I believe is the most important week of the school year. As I write this letter, our campus is quiet and empty, but on Monday morning it will be abuzz with activity as our students return for the 2018-19 school year. Some will be ready. Some will be nervous. Some will bring baggage — problems at home, poor previous experiences with school, or any number of things that will impact their behavior and performance.. We must be ready them all. Every. Single. Student.
How we conduct of ourselves this week — our interactions, the connections we make, and the relationships we begin to build will truly shape the remainder of our school year and may, in fact, determine the level of success of some of our students. We are a community. We need our students to see evidence that Willis will be different (in a good way) than any of their previous school experiences.
With so much riding on a short period of time, I ask you to focus your efforts this week on making it evident to our students that at Willis they are safe and valued (WJHS Core Value #1).
- Work as a staff to ensure that every student has at least one positive and personal interaction with an adult on our campus every day this week
- Learn, and call them by, their names
- Be diligent about giving students a voice in what happens in your classroom
- Allow students to share something about themselves and then work to acknowledge that they are a unique person with infinite value
- Share some things about yourself — they need to see that you are a human being with your own interests and unique experiences
- Be determined that you will not be offended by a junior high school student, or take their behavior personally
- Be sure your filter is fully operational — biting sarcasm, rude comments, or any statements that might be perceived as belittling or treating a student as “less than…” have no place on our campus
- Take every opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce the positive behaviors you see on campus
- Shake hands, fist bump, high-five like crazy
- Model kindness, patience, empathy, and humility
- Be visible — a strong adult presence helps students feel safe and gives them someone to go to when they have questions
- Smile, affirm, reassure, encourage, and smile some more
Let’s all commit to doing everything in our power to ensure that when each one of our students leaves on Friday they describe this week as the best of their entire school experience. We want every child to know that they matter and to be excited about coming back next week. I have unshakeable confidence in the Willis staff and your commitment to doing what is right for our kids! You are truly the best and I am honored to work with you.
Have a great week!