As a speaker, I run into many different kinds of audiences in my travels. Occasionally, I encounter a group that really stands out in my mind (this could be for good or bad reasons). This past week, it was my pleasure to present to the faculty of Marumsco Hills Elementary School in Prince William County, Virginia.
Talk about having the “deck stacked against you”…this school is one of the poorest schools in the entire county, has a student population that is 90% minority, and every year experiences an incredible amount of “churn” due to the transient nature of the neighborhood in which it is located.
Amazingly, despite these challenges and more, the teachers at this school continue to produce students that are fulfilling their potential, scoring well on their standardized tests, and the school continues to remain both accredited and make Annual Yearly Progress(AYP).
I am always intrigued when I meet a group that is consistently doing what others claim can not be done. What is it about them that causes them to succeed? What do they have that others don’t? How do they accomplish the “impossible”?
Well, this faculty spoke loud and clear to me…and they didn’t even have to use words.
At 8:00am that morning, as I headed out the door to the school, a snow storm burst on to the scene. In the short drive to the school, over 2 inches of snow had fallen and there was no sign of it letting up any time soon. School systems all around were shutting down. Flights were being canceled at the Washington, DC airports, and the streets were getting treacherous.
Joanne Alvey(standing with me), the principal of the school, looked out her window at the storm and said, “Well Dave…” I interrupted her as I finished her sentence saying, “…Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to reschedule.”
She looked at me with an expression that said “are you nuts” and finished her own sentence (without my help this time), “Well, Dave, we might have to start a few minutes late this morning due to the roads.”
I, of course being the all-knowing wise speaking consultant, thought the cold had simply numbed her brain and she was not thinking clearly…after all what crazy teacher would fight through this kind of weather to get to a school when the students already had the day off due to a planned teacher workday.
One by one, the parking lot began to fill up as teachers pulled in and made their way through the snow to get to the building. We started only 30 minutes late, with over 90% of the faculty present! And get this–the other 10% called in upset due to the fact that they had been turned away by the police a few blocks from school because the roads were unsafe (couldn’t get up a hill).
How do they accomplish so much with their students? I’ll tell you how…they have a passion for learning. Nothing was going to stop them in their search for personal growth and development. They wanted new strategies to help them be better people and teachers. And their attitudes were positive and upbeat.
You know, attitude is contagious. And the students in this school catch it from their teachers.
What a great lesson for all of us!