I was fresh off my extended maternity leave, eight years at home with my kids, and I landed a job at my former stomping ground. The caveat–while I could teach with my former team for just 80% of the day, still being able to take my son to a late start first grade, I would be sharing classrooms. Yes, plural. Four classes, four rooms. I was an itinerant teacher. Homeless. I commandeered a library cart filled it with my classroom supplies and pushed it throughout the day. I even purchased a BBQ cover for the days it rained, to keep my books and papers dry.
Moving to four different classrooms meant teaching in four different teachers’ spaces. Each handled the invasion differently. One sat at her desk and simply ignored me and my class. Another would observe and offer advice to me as she felt necessary. One left me completely alone, disappearing daily even before I got to her room. The last, though, would work at her desk, while paying attention to the students. When she noticed a need, she would stop what she was doing and tend to the child, answering questions and giving feedback. At first I was completely annoyed by this. It threatened my pride. I had never been in any type of co-teaching model. I was supposed to handle MY OWN students.
Lately I’ve been thinking about this teacher and what she taught me. One day, after a particularly difficult class period, where she stepped in and lent a hand, teary eyed from the exhaustion of trying to make a lesson work while managing challenging behaviors, I emphatically thanked her. She simply responded, “All the kids at this school belong to all of us.”
These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “All means all.” I know it applies to so much in the social media world: equality for all people despite orientation or identity, all are welcome, all should be included. In education, all means all can refer to the understanding that our programs and our day to day practices include every student. We must not just educate the ones that fit the traditional student mold, but children with special needs, English learners and more. All.
As a new administrator, this is more evident to me than ever before. Every single student on my campus is entitled to equal access to curriculum and services. But as an assistant principal, who mostly deals with behavior, I am also learning the same lesson again from the teachers on my campus. Just the other day, I had a student who needed extra attention, just as the final bell rang. As I am sitting with the student, our woodshop teacher walks in, asking if he can help. He had heard on the radio that there was an issue. Without thought, he came to lend a hand.
I am so grateful now, as I was back in my homeless teacher days, for educators who understand that schools are a community of all types of learners. I am also thankful for educators who know we are all in this together. Every student belongs to all of us. All means all.