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  • Aubrey Patterson

I Help Kids Learn by ____.

Gerry

I met Gerry in the winter of 2002. I was a day or two into my first job as a principal when he nonchalantly offered me a leadership gem that would reframe every conversation I would have about mission, vision, and later my why over the next 17 years.


Gerry was an exceptionally deep thinker, a strong leader, and a lousy caretaker. When I first met him, I was unsure of what he did. I thought maybe he was a teacher.


I opened with my common joke. “Great to meet ya, man. I’m Aubrey. Apparently, I got in the wrong line and somehow ended up as the new principal here. ”


My smile was returned ten-fold. “Awesome! I’m Gerry.”


I had no choice and asked awkwardly, “I’m sorry, Gerry, but what do you do?”







He smiled. “I help the kids learn by keeping things clean around here and making sure the kids and teachers can safely get from A to B.”






My How

How many adults in a school could finish this stem? I help kids learn by ____.


Perhaps we include part of the vision of the school or district into this stem. I help kids learn and become an exceptional citizen in a vibrant school by _____.


Shouldn’t everyone collecting a paycheck be able to easily complete these statements in less than 5 seconds? The computer technician helps kids learn by ensuring all the software updates are running. The secretary helps kids learn by choosing a kind voice and keeping parents connected with a newsletter. The principal helps kids learn by helping the teachers learn.


If you’re a teacher, this might seem obvious. But is it? I help kids learn by teaching? Nah, we can do better than this. I help kids learn by opening up the world to them in a safe, literature-rich and technologically vibrant ecosystem. I know most teachers would top my clumsy wording.


Gerry was by all accounts, a pretty shoddy caretaker. The storeroom was a disaster, he couldn’t level a bulletin board, and he always forgot to lock the shed. But the desks and lockers were spotless, the floors always clean and dry. He acted as our fire drill marshall (I just made up the term so I could give him a whistle and a special badge), and he knew every one of our kids by name. Gerry helped kids learn.


Imagine the clarity and the synergy if every adult in the school could complete this sentence easily:

I help kids learn by _____________.

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Canada ~ Lloydminster ~ Alberta

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