I am the principal of Eagle Peak Middle School, and I have been a teacher and principal for 26 school years. Despite all of the challenges that are inherent to the profession and work we do, I still, after 26 years, find inspiration every day.
First and foremost, I am inspired by our students. Their kindness to each other inspires me. I flashback to this past fall when a new student who was going to receive nothing for his birthday was given food, clothes, presents, and a small birthday party by other students who came together to support a new friend.
I am inspired by the 5th-grade girl who came up to me at lunch and asked if I had a voltmeter she could use to test something on her science project. I love working at our Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) school! A voltmeter? Now that was a new one for me.
When you look out on the playground or basketball courts or lunch tables, you will see many social groups that are racially diverse. I truly believe kids are inherently class and race-blind (but society can adversely affect that in some). I am hopeful that in the future we can overcome the racial challenges we regularly see on the news. I am inspired by our new generations of students who don’t see race, they just want to hang out with their friends and have fun.
Grandparents inspire me. For various reasons, grandparents often become the parents and caregivers of their grandchildren. It happens quite a bit. Grandparents show up in droves to sporting events, student of the month ceremonies, after school car pick-up lines and graduations. When an elderly grandmother brings in a lunch for her grandkid she is caring for, or a grandfather attends an after-school event or is the family representative at a parent-teacher conference, this inspires me.
Teachers and staff inspire me. Often as I wander around our campus, I discover some new and random acts of kindness by a teacher or staff member. Giving up lunch to help kids be part of a dance club. Buying a group of students lunch as a reward. Making a sign to hold up at a basketball game, cheering on students. It’s a lot of little things that end up being big meaningful things to our kids.
Our government inspires me too. Well, maybe not all the time, but let me explain. After the Redwood Valley Complex Fire hit our community back in October of 2017, I observed city, county, state, and federal government work tirelessly and seamlessly together to help support and rebuild the burned portions of our community. Here is an example of what’s possible. Red tape was cut. Politics were put aside in favor of getting stuff done, passed, funded, and rebuilt. There was a lot of supportive talk and even more action. Truly inspiring!
It’s good work we do as educators. Hard work, and things don’t always go perfectly in middle school, because it is, well, you know, middle school. But there is still a lot of inspiration and kindness to be found everywhere, every day. I went into education 26 years ago with the goal of being an inspirational teacher to students. I think I underestimated how much students and a school community would inspire me back.