Guest post by Amber Schroering
After the recent Parkland shooting in Florida, I found myself sitting in church and couldn’t bring myself to sing. I just stood there, almost feeling numb, wondering how I could make a difference. I began to feel the same feelings creep in as I read and saw the extent to which our country is still divided over race and gender inequality. My hopelessness continued when a seventh-grade student came into my office because her dad had been arrested the night before after his inebriated girlfriend called the police and claimed domestic violence. The student said her father was punched in the nose, handcuffed, and arrested. And my feelings of despair hit rock bottom when Deputy Jake Pickett was shot and killed in the line of duty. His wife teaches at one of our elementary schools and he was a 2002 graduate of Brownsburg High School.
The school shootings are real; race and gender discrimination are real; domestic violence is real; police officers being shot and killed trying to protect us is real. There has been so much happening in our world, our country, and even here in my small community. And so much of this is real to our students. It is hard to understand, hard to know, what action to take to work toward solutions—and harder yet to figure out how to bring well-meaning people together to work toward a common good. What action can we educational leaders take to make a difference?
Though social media and blog posts can bring our attention to a lot of these issues, they may not be the best place to dig into complexities and find practical solutions that we can implement in our schools and communities. Sometimes it feels like the internet—social media, especially—divides us more than it brings us together. When we read something with which we disagree, if we comment at all, it rarely does anything to move us toward solutions. It seems more often that these comments just hurt feelings, embolden folks to feel more strongly about their original position (instead of changing or adapting), and sometimes drive distance between caring and passionate people who ultimately all want the same outcome—the best for our world, our country, our communities, and our children. At any rate, social media certainly doesn’t seem like a forum for positive, solutions-oriented, rigorous dialogue. So what is that forum?
To start, we can engage in authentic and rigorous dialogue. Maybe there is a way this can occur digitally; I’m open to ideas here. I know, though, it can occur in person. I am proud of the work our NPC18 Planning Committee has done and continues to do to make this year’s National Principals Conference in Chicago the best one yet. I’m excited to learn from our nation’s finest educational leaders. I’m honored and humbled to be able to share with a wider audience what I have learned about how we can begin to decriminalize misbehavior and end the pipeline to prison. But most of all I am hopeful that during these three days together in July, we can figure out some actionable ways to move our country, our communities, and our schools forward in the very best interest of the young people we serve. Together we can make a difference.
Join me and thousands of other school leaders in Chicago for the National Principals Conference on July 11–13, and let’s talk about and find solutions to these issues. Along the way, we will celebrate the amazing administrators and be inspired by the good they are doing in their schools and communities. For more information about NPC18, please visit www.principalsconference.org.
Amber Schroering is an assistant principal at Brownsburg East Middle School and was the 2016 Indiana Assistant Principal of the Year. She presents regularly at state conferences and hosts site visits to share processes and strategies that she has found successful in guiding young people toward the best versions of themselves. Follow her on Twitter @AmberSchroering.