Friday, August 15, 2008

Living the Blue Orange

I have the best job in the world. I LOVE my school and the people I work with. Today was one of the most unlikely best days of my life. School starts on Monday. We've been doing staff in-service since last Wednesday. The leaders at our school have very clear priorities, and the way they communicate those priorities to the staff create the best school I could possibly imagine. At our school, we are not interested in nice things, fancy technology, or perfectly coordinated bulletin board borders. At most school districts, teachers are now fully engaged in decorating classrooms. At YES, we have been fully engaged in planning, building relationships, and learning how to be better teachers.

I started my teaching career in a warehouse. And it was AWESOME. We didn't need fancy things. Then I moved to Dallas where the school was REALLY fancy. (And incidentally... not very good.) So I've learned that you don't need things to give kids a good education. At YES, we have historically done a lot with a little.

Even though we don't value fancy things, God has blessed our school immeasurably as the word about YES has spread. YES was able to raise 5 million dollars for a brand new building to replace our 'portables' that were our only classrooms for the past two years. Coming into in-service, we knew that building was not going to be ready for us until today. (Remember, school starts Monday!) Last week we got our first glimpse of the new building. It is the most beautiful and amazing school I have ever seen. We are so lucky, and I am so grateful. Our kids deserve so much, and this building is more than I could have ever hoped for. I actually cried when I walked in. I talked to the construction foreman and told him how much the building meant to us. He assured us that he dreamed of the day when our students would sit in those classrooms. It was a sweet moment for hardworking teachers who have never taught in a "real" school.

Today, we all arrived at school ready (finally!) to move into our new building. First thing this morning, we were told that, due to inspection technicalities, the building would not be ready until Tuesday. (Remember, school starts Monday! 650 kids are coming... ready or not!) What happened next is what is so amazing.

No one complained. No one sighed and rolled eyes. No one freaked out or panicked. All 60 of our teachers asked, "What can we do?"

So we spent the entire day doing the following: Moving chairs and tables BACK into our portable buildings so we could accommodate kids on Monday, cleaning the entire administration building, beautifying the "great hall" common space, helping each other move boxes, moving furniture, organizing the library, and cleaning out closets. Here were 60 teachers working together as a team, not even worried about the fact that they hadn't seen or moved a THING into their personal classrooms. I was inspired and overwhelmed by watching the unselfish teamwork that took place and the positive attitude that every teacher showed. At our school, we call this "Living the Blue Orange". Our school colors are blue and orange, and we care so deeply about our mission that we strive to live out what our school stands for.

At the very end of the day, we found our that the amazing construction company who built our building (Linbeck) worked all day to get the inspector to come re-inspect. We were approved. Although we probably won't have class in the building on Monday, we'll be able to move our things in over the weekend.

We end weeks with "shout outs" where we recognize each other. Shout outs usually last 10 minutes. Today they lasted almost an hour. Everyone wanted to recognize everyone else for their unselfish acts of service. I get choked up just thinking about it. Most of us were brought to tears when we realized that the real reason we are here is for the kids and to work as a team to help them get to college. It was a powerful reminder that PEOPLE make a school, not things. I feel a deep gratitude to God for allowing me to come back to Houston so I can be a part of something I believe in and truly love with all my heart. What could have been a stressful, chaotic day turned into one of the most strangely enjoyable days of my life.


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