This past Friday, my school held its annual student talent show. It’s always an event our families look forward to, with students showcasing their talent in the form of playing instruments, singing, and dancing. This year, the scheduled closing act was to be three boys dancing the Whip/Nae Nae, and they asked me to join them on stage toward the end of the dance. Though dancing skill is not something I possess (imagine the male equivalent of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes), I agreed, thinking the students would get a kick out of their middle-aged principal trying to bust a move. How’d it go? Judge for yourself.
My embarrassment was completely worth it to see all the kids dancing along with me, screaming, and laughing. Hey, as an administrator, embarrassing yourself is one of those “other duties as assigned.”
The rest of the day students approached me to talk to me about my “dancing.” While this was not unexpected, hearing the following statement from several students was a surprise:
“Mr. Coley, you broke the dress code. You turned your hat backwards.”
While I was on stage risking multiple muscle-pulls, what many students noticed was not my dancing, but the fact that before I began, I turned my hat around. In my mind, I was getting into “costume” for the dance. But in the students’ eyes, I was breaking the dress code. Busted.
As teachers and administrators, we often wonder how much our students are really paying attention. The answer? Way more than we think. It’s what they pay attention to that we often overlook. Though we may not realize it, every one of our actions and words is being observed, filed away, and evaluated -- we teach our students so much more than what’s in our lesson plans. My talent show experience was a sobering reminder of this fact. Though unintentional, my “getting into costume” (even for 30 seconds) contradicted what I’ve been telling students -- that hats must be worn forward while at school. Ouch. The worst mistake I could have made? No, but it was a good reminder of our need as educators to be careful about the example we’re setting for our students.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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