Every year at graduation, the principals and superintendent and several other important people fill the stage and smile for a couple of hours, cheerfully handing out diplomas, shaking hands, posing for cameras. They rarely get much attention—they are all dressed in the same black robes and the focus is on the hundreds of graduates crossing the stage, as it should be.
This year our graduation was held in the school’s auditorium. One student at a time was given five minutes and an audience of four family members. That one student crossed the stage, elbow bumped the principal, received her diploma from the superintendent, switched her tassel, and posed for pictures. All of it was recorded, including the commencement addresses and other pomp and circumstance that we will experience virtually later. The graduation ceremony took a week and many, many, many hours. The principal was still in the background, like always, as each graduate filed by.
As these new grads started posting pictures of their separate, private graduation ceremonies on Facebook, I started noticing something about our principal that I think needs to be brought to the forefront.
Because he is the principal, Mr. Glass hears about almost every problem in our school, and many are blamed on him, even if they are not his fault. We expect him to solve all these problems without creating more. On any given day, he must deal with disgruntled parents, exhausted teachers, troubled students, and a budget that does not come close to meeting all our school’s needs. He gets emails and phone calls that demand answers and add to his workload. If things go right at our school, students and teachers will get much of the credit. If things go wrong, he will take much of the blame.
Even with all of this, Mr. Glass, like any good principal, loves his job. He serves our faculty, staff, and students with genuine kindness and infectious positivity. I saw this in the background of picture after picture on Facebook. Mr. Glass was grinning in each picture with real pride. With real affection. With real joy. For several days, for several hours each day, for almost three hundred students, Mr. Glass greeted each graduate with excitement, with warmth, with love. The smile you see in these pictures is not the fake upturn of lips for a camera. This is the look of an educator who is dedicated not just to his profession but to his students.
I love this picture of Miranda. She has her diploma and has just switched her tassel. Mr. Glass is in the back, not posing for any picture. He looks on as Miranda’s family captures this moment. What I see in this picture is a principal understanding that his part in the commencement ceremony is something other than drudgery. What I see is an educator who delights in the successes of his students. I see a principal who knows Miranda is important, and so he does not have to pretend to be excited for her.
Graduation this year, like any other year, is not about the grown-ups—the teachers or principals or superintendents. It is and should be about our students. But I love that our principal has shown up in the background of so many pictures smiling.
Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.