Every single day on this job provides a new experience and a unique learning opportunity. There are days when I grasp those opportunities and soak them in as much as I can. I am certain that there are other days when these opportunities pass me right by without a notice. This week I made sure not to miss it.
Earlier this week I looked out of the main office window and noticed a young lady hanging posters on our hallway walls. This is not an unusual occurrence as we often have Student Government, Friends of Rachel, Yearbook, or other such clubs hang posters on the wall regularly. I thought nothing of it and moved on with my day. Later, as I was walking the halls, I began to notice that there were quite a few of these papers hanging in our main hallway. They weren’t advertising any specific club or activity. They were just messages. I continued to look into it further and could not find a single adult in the building that was responsible for these posters. My curiosity was peaked. The inner Principal in me was screaming out, “How dare someone hang something in our hallways without permission!” Luckily, my inner parent, educator, learner, and human side was screaming even louder, “How awesome is it that a lone student would do something so brave and creative!”
Today I sought this student out and had a very brief conversation with her. I have to say that it was the most thought provoking 5 minute conversation that I have had with a student in a long time. In those 5 brief minutes, this student reminded me why I wanted to become an educator 15+ years ago. With one single statement, “I just wanted to do something to make a difference!”, she reset my state of mind to the place I was when I first applied to Quinnipiac University’s education program. She sat in her room one evening and heard something on the radio or TV that just struck her. She spent the next couple of hours writing down thoughts, quotes, song lyrics and any other inspirational message that came to her mind. Then, without fear or worry, she taped them on the school walls for all to see. Not one of these posters have her name on them, not one is signed, not one has her own label. This student was not looking for attention. She was looking to make a difference. Please take a look at some of the pictures that I have included. These pictures are worth more than a thousand words.
When asked what my philosophy of education is or why I wanted to become an educator or an administrator, typically you would hear me say that I wanted to make sure that the student voice is heard above all others. I consider myself an advocate for kids first. I think that this student just changed my answer to that question. I do not want to be the voice for students or their advocates, I want to empower them to be their own advocates. I want to empower students to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
As you read this, I hope that it encourages you to take these next 12 days “off” to find a way that you can empower the students in your lives. Whether you are a teacher, parent, brother/sister, paraprofessional, custodian, administrator, secretary/clerk, counselor, friend, grandparent, or anyone else that has access to these awesome Moran children, it is your job to give them the opportunity to make a difference.
I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me the opportunity to lead such a wonderful group of staff and students. As I look forward to 2014, it gives me great hope that I chose the right path in my life and that there are such brave and thoughtful kids out there that I get to work with every day. I wish you all a wonderful break and a very healthy and happy new year!
Joseph A. Piacentini
James H. Moran Middle School
It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time — for we are bound by that — but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time.