Publication: Freedom — OCR - Placentia News-Times; Date: March 24, 2017; Section: News; Page Number: 3
WHAT A DAY
Starting small to make the big picture better
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of view we take of things, from the big picture, to the close-up. For example, we can look at Placentia as a city, citing statistics and making generalizations about “most of the people.”
Or we can look at each person’s life in our city and see if we can make it better.
It was an idea that was driven home this week when I got to participate in the Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District’s “Principal for a Day.” People from the business and government sectors were invited to shadow a principal, and learn what they do.
I was assigned to Sierra Vista Elementary School, where I met with Principal Shirley Fargo. Not knowing what to expect, I brought some books as presents. I was very excited to be there, and was ready to do anything I was told.
They could have asked me to sweep the floors, and I would have said yes.
I thought I knew what a principal does. In a way, I equated it with upper-level managers, who monitor performance and deadlines, and report their department to the next level in the chain.
Elementary school principals just do it in a kind, upbeat way, perhaps surrounded by Dr. Seuss books and plush animals.
I was surprised to see how involved Ms. Fargo was with all the students. She knew their names and greeted them all in the morning, not an easy feat when you have almost 500 names and faces to remember.
We spent our time visiting classrooms and talking to students. I got to see all of the technological advances they have implemented to help the children learn. In between, she answered a few calls to the office to handle this or that problem. I tagged along, trying not to insert myself.
The problems were minor. A couple of students were too rough with each other, not because they were angry or mean, but because they are young and boisterous and don’t always have self-control. Parents were called, students were counselled, and the school day went on.
One little boy was new to the school, and the teacher recognized immediately that he was struggling with the material in her class. She sprang into action, along with the administrative staff, to get information from his previous school and make certain he was in a class where he could succeed.
The incident hit home for me, when I thought about our schools. There is an overall, big picture view of these measured entities, consisting of grade point averages, test scores, attendance records, etc. I used to believe these were important, to be able to tell whether a school was “a good choice.”
Now I’m not convinced. The school I saw today was made up of children, smiling faces who wanted to learn. The teachers were lively and involved, doing anything they could think of to keep the students motivated.
And the principal, plus her staff, were committed to keeping each child from falling through the cracks.
Today, if I was looking for a school, I’d search for the one that teaches each child according to their abilities, encourages their curiosity, and models kind and thoughtful behavior. Would a more successful child move the statistical needle?
I don’t know, but maybe if each person’s life is better, the big picture will look brighter.
Longtime Placentia resident Gayle Carline tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, computer whiz and horsewoman. E-mail her at [email protected].