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PNovember 6, 2015

My Principal For A Day Experience at Woodbridge School District’s Phillis Wheatley Elementary School

As “Principal For A Day,” my day started with a beautiful autumn day ride south to Bridgeville, Delaware. I proceeded to enter the building by the back door, which was my mistake, but it was also the beginning of a great day.

Unknown-1I was greeted at the back door by the Art teacher, Mrs. Sharon Wink, who asked who I was before she opened the door. She pleasantly escorted me to the main office. During our walk, I was able to see about one-third of the building. My immediate impression was how clean and organized the building was, even at the back entrance. The older section of the building is very well maintained.

Mrs. Wink brought me to the office where I met Mrs. Lynn Brown, the Principal, Administrative Assistants Donna Vanderwende and Jan James, and Assistant Principal Mrs. Laura Leach. It was a warm and friendly greeting and there was a mutual feeling of friendship and appreciation for the opportunity to meet for the Principal For A Day Program.

Lynn and I immediately went to work in an early morning planning session with the 3rd grade teachers. Their meeting was scheduled before the students arrived at the school. The meeting consisted of thirteen energized and focused teachers who were planning for the student evaluation process. This meeting was very interesting because I was able to observe how the teachers are working with the state and district evaluation processes. They were all totally connected.

The meeting ended because the students were arriving at the school in five minutes! Lynn and I went to the main lobby to greet the students. This was truly a memorable experience.

It was obvious that the students were used to seeing Principal Brown in the morning. Almost every child had a smile, said hello, good morning and even a few had hugs for the Principal. Lynn introduced me to several children and they were all very polite and said hello, shook my hand and tried to say “Mr. DiSabatino.”

KODAK Digital Still CameraThere was a very touching moment when a young 3rd grade boy came into the lobby by himself. They boy had difficulty walking because of his physical challenges but he was determined to get to class.

We greeted him and he spoke with us. He was happy to see Principal Brown. Lynn asked me to wait with him so she could call for his assistance but he wanted to do it himself. As he started down the hall, I could tell he was struggling, so I started to assist him, but just as I got to him, two of his classmates came down the hall with his special walker, ready to help their friend. It was obvious everyone loved the little boy.

Lynn and I moved down the hallway to visit the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms. We visited approximately ten classrooms in total. The students were happy, focused and participating in the lessons. The topics of discussion were the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Grand Canyon exploration, metric measurements, how to read a clock, and the power of persuasion via a discussion related to the current political debates. It was amazing to me that these children were receiving such a diverse course of education.

After that, I was able to sit in a meeting with Lynn and a new teacher for her first review (we had the teacher’s permission.) In the review, the connection between Lynn and the teacher was incredible. Lynn was truly concerned, honest and committed to the success of the teacher. The teacher was extremely well prepared and energized for her success and most importantly, the success of her students. It was an excellent review. The teacher is a true asset to the school. Lynn’s commitment and attention to all of her staff is 100%. She truly cares for them.

The next stop was the playground – my favorite “subject” when I was in school. Lynn and I discussed the children’s need to have fun and play at school. We walked the playground and watched the children having fun swinging, playing on the jungle gym, playing soccer, catching the ball and jumping rope. They all enjoyed the beautiful, sunny October day. This was a perfect end to my Principal For A Day participation.

As I said goodbye and thanked Lynn, I thought to myself that my visit was absolutely not rehearsed, planned or staged. I could tell the school was a caring and happy place and this was a normal day filled with learning, love and laughter!

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