Monday, December 11, 2023
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Student Voice, Teacher Energy

by Dr. Lisa Herring

This headline says *almost* everything about our 2022 #APSDayOne in just four words. Atlanta Public Schools administrators visited all schools and clusters today to make sure our building leaders, staff, and especially our scholars were supported for their first day back to the core business of teaching and learning.

I had the honor and pleasure of launching into the new school year at our transportation depot. Our dedicated drivers and staff get moving before dawn to make sure scholars have a positive start and arrive to school on time. They show up for the APS family each day, so we wanted to show up for them today to express our deep gratitude for the essential jobs they do so well.

I then visited five schools: Hope Hill Elementary, The Kindezi School Old at Fourth Ward, King Middle, Midtown High, and Centennial Academy. (I’ll be visiting at least a dozen additional schools this week, so please follow me @DrLisaHerring on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the Week One Tour!)

The first and strongest impression I had today was through watching and experiencing the confidence of the elementary students walking into Day One with excitement. I saw siblings, big brothers and big sisters guiding their little brothers and little sisters, without parents. They were reassuring, and they weren’t afraid to use their voices. I couldn’t help feeling emotional and oh so proud.

I did make a new four-year-old friend, who was probably experiencing his first day. He said he was ready to go. I said, “Yes, you will… you’ll go home later today.” And he replied, “I’m ready to go home now!” and he was crying. But then he was able to tell me his favorite color, which was purple. I took out the purple crayon and drew him something to color, and then he stopped crying. If only I could have let him know that later on, I encountered some 9th graders who seemed a little overwhelmed, because the first day of high school can be a little overwhelming! (I have the sense they’re going to be more than alright as they settle in.)

I couldn’t help feeling emotional and oh so proud of these students, as well. The first day of a new year “lands” differently for each individual child, and everywhere I turned I saw caring and engaged teachers, counselors, and leaders meeting each child where they needed to be met.

I loved seeing the love that our educators were giving to our students. The excitement in our buildings is clearly the product of the adults working there, who meet our students with the energy they need. That is incredibly authentic and powerful. I’d even call it a tough-to-measure data point in the formula of student success. This love for school, and love for our scholars… I think that’s the core of what makes Atlanta Public Schools a family.

Another powerful impression from my visits today had to do with parent trust. I talked to several parents outside elementary and middle schools. Their children were inside, and the parents were processing the emotions of letting go. It was powerful to hear from them how much they trusted their schools and teachers.

And finally, I must recount an activity we shared with some students, where they were explaining the meanings behind their names. One young man commanded the attention of the entire room with his authentic and powerful expression of the meaning behind his name. Again, our scholars exude confidence, they are bold, and they’re using their voices to express their authentic narratives and shape the classroom experience into something meaningful and memorable.

When we join our students at this intersection where our energetic teaching meets their authentic voices, that is where the APS magic begins.

Have a wonderful Week One, everybody, and as always, please be well! – Dr. Herring

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