Our leadership coaches work with school and district leaders to affect change, solve problems, and impact staff and student performance. One of those coaches is Dr. Andy Parker. Andy is a career educator with over 35 years’ experience transforming classrooms and schools. He is an author and speaker and recently shared a poignant moment with us that we want to share with you.
"Since You Came"
It was a warm spring day about 4 years into my tenure as a high school principal. Like every other day, I was walking with a group of students as they moved from one class to another, walking on the right side of the hallway, feet continuously moving, being polite to their schoolmates, and making their way to their seats in their classrooms before the tardy bell rang.
As their almost 1200 feet shuffled purposefully to their next class, one student, Kyle, found himself walking next to me as I hurried students along, reminding them to “walk on the right side!” “Keep your feet moving!” “Be on time to class!”
Most of the crowd had cleared, and before Kyle turned to go into English wing, he said, “Dr. Parker, I’m really glad you are here; no one picks on me anymore since you came.” His comment stopped me cold in my tracks. I was speechless. I rebounded and asked, “Kyle, did people pick on you a lot before?” He said, “Yes, they picked on me almost every day." “Why? I asked.” “Peopled called me gay and told me I acted like a girl.” “Well,” I said, “I’m glad I’m here, too, and there’s nothing wrong with you or how girls act, for that matter. You let me know if anyone picks on you again.” “They won’t, Dr. Parker.” “Ok, then head out! You’re going to be late!” “Yes, sir!” and just like that, he was gone, and I found myself standing there reliving instances of my own high school experience where boys – mostly – had harassed me with some of the same homophobic slurs.
I’ve been fortunate to have been accepted, loved, and supported by nearly everyone in my career as a teacher and leader. I made the choice early in my 20s to live my life, both personally and professionally, in truth and transparency – even though that has been scary and difficult at times. I regret nothing about that choice. In fact, I’m grateful for the strength, tenacity, and love that choosing to live in the light gives me.
A while back, a former student of mine introduced me to Ayesha Siddiqi ‘s quote, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” I instantly thought about the conversation with Kyle, and I realized that her quote embodies how I’ve tried to operate as a teacher and school and district leader over the past 30 plus years. So, no matter how you identify or how different you think you may be, I see you; we see you. We know your struggles, and we have felt your fear and anxiety. We also know your strength, the gifts you bring to the table, and the impact you make on the lives of your students, their parents, and your colleagues. So, go and be who you needed for your schools! – Dr. Andy Parker, 2022
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