“I hear your school district is one of the best in the state.” I hesitated to respond when a new parent said this to me. She was filling out her registration paperwork in our conference room. I had stopped by to introduce myself. Her answer to my general question, something about what brought her family to Mineral Point, threw me for a loop. She had shared other reasons, such as a new job, but apparently our reputation preceded us.
Why did I hesitate? Shouldn’t we be proud of the results we have achieved? Other than to check my ego, I paused in my response for a couple of reasons.
First, I have been on the other side of this achievement coin. My previous school in which I was a principal had almost three times the level of poverty. The staff and I worked tirelessly to push back on any preconceived notions about our school and become known for our work in excellent literacy instruction. But we were never “#2”. So when I hear that we are one of the best, I think about these other schools with compassion and empathy. Every new student that comes to Mineral Point during the year is from another district.
Second, and maybe more important, when we see ourselves as successful in our profession, hubris can set in. Organizations may quickly become comfortable with “good enough” if outside indicators tell this story. Yet with complex professions such as teaching, it is imperative that we are constantly seeking to get better. That’s why we have a strategic plan: to keep our focus on where we can improve while not forgetting about our successes from the past.
So what’s the right way to respond? Maybe with a little bit of appreciation and a lot of humility. What if we acknowledge the positives and accept that we have much yet to learn? One of the assistants in the office chimed in before I could to the parent. “Yes, we do a lot of good things here. I am sure the last school your child was at had positive things going for it, too.” The parent smiled and continued to work on her paperwork. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
PRINCIPAL, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
This is Matt’s 20th year in public education. He started as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, Matt served as an assistant principal, athletic director, and building principal all in Wisconsin Rapids. As an elementary principal with the Mineral Point Unified School District, he enjoys working with students, staff, and families in a collective pursuit of lifelong learning.