So I’m hanging out at Childrens’ Hospital in Buffalo these days and even here I’m learning something that affects how I view G-Town. On Tuesday night, our 14 year old son was sparring and took a thrust kick to precisely the right spot to lacerate his spleen. For any parents who have experienced the agonizing wait of a helicopter, followed by the decision to send a pediatric stat unit to move him via ambulance, you know the “nothing else matters in this world but getting my child the care he needs to come home to us whole” panic. As it turns out, he has a grade three laceration which means total in hospital bed rest for at least three more days and tons of restrictions for the next several weeks, if not months. There goes wrestling, and hockey, and kickboxing, but that seems inconsequential, because our kid is going to be okay.
My coworkers have been outstanding and Tallon’s friends are texting him constantly. The communication link that’s helping to alleviate some boredom for my bed bound boy is worth any amount of money. And after going home last night for a Board meeting, I’ve made the decision to stay here (we’re about 45 minutes from home) for as long as he is here. I rushed home yesterday so that I could take care of my work responsibilities and then came back to spend the night. Did it matter that I attended that meeting? Absolutely didn’t seem to and it certainly added a tremendous amount of stress to an already stressful day. So what does this teach me as a principal? As a leader and a manager, my employees need to know that family ALWAYS comes first. At the end of the day, I’ll know I did right by my son and he’ll know I chose him over my career. In the long run, school will have functioned well without me and my kid will remember that his mom was there for him.
I’ve also thought about the amount of work we give kids to “make up” when out for an extended illness, particularly one of our students who’s out for more than my son’s week. Our teachers shouldn’t expect a child to do all of the work, every assignment given, during the absence. That’s definitely what I always did as a teacher. And I figured giving the student extra time was helpful. Instead, it’s so much harder because the student has to complete all of the work without the benefit of instruction, while coping with an illness, missing out on all the good parts of school, and while worrying about maintaining grades. I wish I could go back and do it again, because I’d say to those students “this is the learning that’s most important from your week or two hospital stay. Take care of these two assignments and I’ll help you with the rest.” Instead, I worried that every missing assignment in my gradebook was filled in. How ridiculous that was considering the magnitude of what the child and family may have been facing. Every now and then life seems to get in the way of our best laid plans. This is exactly when I’m going to pay attention to what life’s trying to teach me.