More than 50 members of the business, faith and civic communities got a firsthand look at 21st century public education while shadowing principals at Chesterfield County schools earlier this week during the school division’s Principal for a Morning program.
“In the community, we have assumptions of what goes on, but just seeing the hands-on approach and going into different classrooms has been very eye opening for me,” said Josh Green, Vice President of Youth Development for the YMCA of Greater Richmond.
Community partners began their morning on bus duty or student drop off, greeting students and making sure things were running smoothly. Once students were inside, Principal for a Morning participants went on morning rounds to monitor the hallways and build positive relationships with both students and staff.
“Over the last 20 years, the role of a principal has changed tremendously,” Crenshaw Elementary Principal Brian Campos said. “We are less of a manager and more of an instructional leader. That involves getting into classes, looking at the activities that students are doing, listening to the language that the teachers are using, and watching how they are teaching their lessons to make sure they are going to get the most growth out of our students.”
KJ Julian, student pastor at The Chapel, enjoyed seeing the relationships students have with the school staff.
“We are really excited about building a better connection between us and the schools,” Julian said. “Working with students, I see that this generation needs positive influence, role models, teachers, and helpers to lead them. Teachers do that every day, and I want to be a bigger part of influencing this generation of students in a positive way, too.”
After morning rounds, each Principal for a Morning participant’s day went a different direction depending on the needs of the school. Experiences included mentoring at-risk students, assisting teachers with one-on-one or small group student instruction, participating in classroom activities, performing teacher observations, lending a hand during lunch duty, and joining leadership team meetings.
Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce President Danielle FitzHugh said the best part of the day was seeing students in their classrooms.
“My expectation was to see how the students are learning in today’s classroom and how it’s changed since I’ve been in the classroom,” Fitzhugh said. “The classes were surprising. Students were innovative, having great conversations, and group learning, which works well in the workforce.”
Bird High School Principal Adrienne Blanton added: “We love our partnerships; they give so much back to our kids and our community. Without them, we don’t get to experience all the different areas that our students can go in for future careers or have the extra resources for projects that our teachers want to do with our kids.”
Chesterfield County Public Schools’ partners said they understand that better schools build better communities and that better communities build better schools.
Said Green: “When our schools are better, everybody in the community rises to a higher level.”