A Principal's Confession: A Lovely and Welcomed Tension.

I am the very proud Principal of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center (HACTC). And I am going to make a confession: I love all of my students. A lot.

But there is more.

I often find myself in the position of loving my students but not their behavior. Or their choices.

I’m okay with that, though. It’s part of the job. A hard part of the job.

And if you are not in education, you still know what I meant two sentences ago: loving people but not their behavior is simply hard.  Ask the friend or parent or child of an addict; they’ll agree. For sure.

However, the focus of this confession is not really about that.

Rather, it is about the tension that sometimes exists between the love of a school administrator, the expected school rules that govern student behavior, and student learning and growth.

I feel this tension frequently but particularly at this time of year. The Fall. When students are late for school or miss school entirely...to hunt.

Yup. There it is.

There is the true heart of my confession: I love it when students break the rules but in doing so increase their learning. And their growth.

In missing school to hunt, students are technically ‘late’ or ‘unexcused’ in their absence. And the HACTC has a fairly strict attendance policy. A policy I am ultimately in charge of enacting. Or, I guess, enforcing.

But when a student hits the fateful twelve days of school missed and an attendance plan needs developing, I review the absences and tardies (three tardies equals one absence) and hope that some of those tardies and/or absences are due to being in the woods. Hunting.

Why that ‘hope?’  

Because time in the woods teaches students more than being in class. Every time.  

And that is a big statement considering the teachers and the curriculums at the HACTC are the best. Simply the best. Hands down.

But time in the woods - walking slowly, thinking deeply, sitting attentively, listening acutely, examining carefully, acting safely, and patiently waiting…and waiting…and waiting...to sometimes be disappointed...for years...teach more than any class. Or two. Or three.   

And yes, as an extension of my confession, if there are tardies or absences due to hunting, I do not ‘excuse’ them per se, but certainly understand them.  An understanding that plays out with grace in their attendance plan.

Am I a hunter and are my thoughts biased? Yes. And also no.

I have hunted. A lot. And not successfully if harvested number of deer are the determiner for ‘success’.

But success in hunting, as asserted previously, is defined by the experience, the time in the woods, the learning, and the growth. Not necessarily the harvest.

In that case, then, I guess I am a ‘successful’ hunter.  And, of course, biased. So take that for what it is worth.   

Certainly, though, my desire for kids to learn is also biased in that I know more learning can occur outside of school than in it.

The students at the HACTC that hunt have Respect. Respect for safety and also the animal they harvest.

I have seen that time and time again. In current students and also when they leave and become alumni.

What more could a principal ask for than that Respect?  Not much. Not much at all.

So, my awesome students at the HACTC. Hunt if you want to. Respectfully. Safely. And I will work with you in regards to the ‘rules.’

Just as I do with many other student interests that break the rules and create that lovely, welcomed tension in my job that I know causes you to grow and learn.

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#thisiswhatlearninglookslike #respect #engage #learn #work #serve #grow #missionstatement

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