The strength of students and staff… to Be the Change

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As a leader in a building with close to 800 students and 90 staff members, the dynamics of these groups give a quick glimpse of how smooth a year will be within the first few initial weeks. We have started the year with new staff who are learning the ropes of a new school and a large number of students who have moved into the district or, in some cases, even left the district, impacting this dynamic. This year has presented many surprises, but the staff, in their own professional stride, have helped everything come together smoothly. The administration chose this year’s theme as “Be the Change.” Students and staff were asked to consider this phrase and give contemplation as to how they could “Be the Change” that they want to see in their surroundings. Both this year’s students and staff picked up this challenge, reached deep, and thought about how they could help the Middle School be the best for everyone. They have stepped up to the plate and offered some pleasant surprises to this phrase that shine a light on to a strong year for growth.

The staff at Greenville Middle School love students and desire them to find success on their path toward adulthood. Middle school is a gateway from childhood to becoming young adults, and every year students bring their own unique spin on this destination. Each group of students holds their own gifts that need to be honed and barriers that need to be overcome. The Middle school staff engaged in looking at the students this year in the 5th through 8th grade. The team determined a method to pursue in order to identify with student challenges and combine them with them to guide them toward a strength that the students did not even know that they had. The staff worked independently and, at times, with a small team to identify these student needs, and based on this, connected them with a staff member who could come alongside and make a relationship with the student in finding a successful transition. Mr. Curtis, our Student Leader Advisor, offered this related to working with our students, “Our work promotes opportunities throughout the year to have fun, give back, and give students the opportunity to develop and display their abilities.” This is still a work in progress as we move into the year but signifies their dedication and determination to “Be the Change” they want to see. These students may be those who are suffering from loss, personal trauma, struggle with poor attendance, behavioral or academic struggles. These students have a need for encouragement and support to be able to navigate the trials before them. We have seen some great opportunities and development in these students through this positive interaction already this year.

Our students have also connected with this theme of “Be the Change.” This change has them considering how they can impact their own thoughts and attitudes within the building and as a larger connection to the surrounding community. They have discussed as individuals and in groups with the administrative team about how they might work with us to change the thoughts and attitudes of their peers in making progress toward being the change. Their ideas were not only insightful but instrumental in shaping conversations with the entire student body toward this theme. Students identified through conversation areas of concern for peer behavior and thought that did not hold to the challenge and then built upon this by offering suggestions for positive change. Their efforts were inspirational, to say the least.

A group of students asked to meet, and we took time to speak with these students and a couple of staff members about what they were seeing and the thoughts they had on this. One of the students offered her own outlook stating, “This school is not perfect. We’re not perfect, but as long as we have our power of words and actions, we are going to make the most of this school year and be the change that we need (Reese Stewart).” The group discussed that what they saw from their peers in the lunchroom was that they lacked compassion and empathy for others in many cases. The aspects of what were identified included leaving their trash behind not only at lunch but in the community, annoying others around them by touching them and their food, not taking time to stack the trays correctly, causing concerns for these tipping over and splashing the lunch ladies by throwing their silverware rather than placing it in the dishwater. These may seem minor to some, but just signify a lack of thought toward those being impacted by these activities. These were the heart of the identified problem. A student in the group offered, “The school year is off to a great start; as student leaders, we are encouraging change. By doing this, we are helping kids with low expectations set higher ones for themself (Amelia Zimmer).”

The Student Leaders offered suggestions for this problem from their standpoint, and, to say the least, their thoughts were inspiring to the idea of “Be the Change” as well. The group offered that they wanted to have class assemblies where these specific concerns were identified and connected to the specific impact on others. As part of the learning process, they believed that their peers needed to hear this impact specifically and connect with it on their own level. They believed this process would elevate student understanding and promote student support toward correcting these behaviors. Shane Gilman, one of our student leaders, had this to offer, “The school year is shaping up to be a great one! We are persevering through problems that we have been faced with, and we will keep doing so until we can get everyone’s desired outcomes.”

These groups of students discussing the problem, identifying actionable solutions, and working to put them in motion for the improvement of their school and community is commendable. Our students and student leaders, combined with the staff, are guiding this year to be one that will have a marked impact on the future success of not only this group of students but one that impacts their families and community as well. This group is shaping up to be one that makes me proud of Greenville Middle School and is not just about saying “Be the Change” but beats the chest with a show of strength that says, WE Are The Change! The change for the better.

Chris Mortensen, GMS Principal 7-8