When I was a classroom teacher, I received funding to purchase red physio balls to replace students' chairs. I thought it would help my fidgety fourth graders do some self-regulation and improve their focus. The idea didn't really go as planned...turns out that a roomful of squeaking balls can be even more distracting than fidgeting students!
But that was just one of my many experiments in helping to make school a place where everyone was excited to attend. And as time passed and I became a principal, I realized that my unique approach to working with schools was embodied in those red physio balls — they were a symbol that school was a safe space to experiment, learn and grow.
Over the course of my career, our students’ confidence in speaking up and trying new things was magnified by the freedom teachers felt to try out new ideas, too. The ripples of this freedom, helped by a democratic education ideal, extended beyond our school into the children’s families and communities.
I have found that by focusing on the well-being of children and adults in a school community, the conversation about how we do “schooling” changes dramatically — for the better. People start talking about their hopes and dreams for their children, and how their schools can support the realization of these goals. I’ve found that each school creates their own vision for how they want their students to thrive and I love helping schools to implement their visions.
I’ve worked as a teacher, coach, workshop leader, school consultant, director of curriculum, assistant principal and principal — and what I have learned, beyond the value of freedom and risk taking, is that the well-being of each child and adult is paramount to the well-being of the whole school and of the whole community... because in order for children to thrive, the adults need to be thriving as well.
That's what I strive for. That's what these programs are all about. And while I can't promise there won't be any squeaking red physio balls, I can tell you there will be more well-being.