Birthdays come once a year and it is the one day of the year to honor that person. As a young child growing up with two older brothers and an older sister traditions around birthdays were always a celebratory time. Birthdays in our family usually included a special family dinner at home, a homemade cake with ice cream, a few presents, and the infamous crown made out of aluminum foil. My mom especially made a big deal of the day and made sure we felt “extra special”.
As a mom, I always wanted this day to be extra special for my children. My son’s first birthday may have been the biggest bash my husband and I ever threw, with almost our whole family on both sides showing up. I remember a fun day and also the feeling of just being so relieved that we had kept our first born alive for a whole year and made it through that first whole year as new parents. Since then, birthdays have continued to be a big deal in our family. Birthdays are on my mind a lot at the beginning of the school year because we have three September birthdays in our immediate family of four and several more in our extended family. So along with the beginning of the school year being a big deal, to add to the time of year, our birthdays are too! And I think they should be a big deal… to everyone, and especially in schools.
As an associate principal, my first year in Ecuador I was trying to figure out how to form relationships with teachers quickly, for as I have learned trusting relationships are the heart of effective leadership. We had a little café named Trayana everyone went to often at lunch time. I thought it would be nice to take each of my teachers to lunch on their special day. And so the birthday lunch tradition began. After the first year I had made great relationships with people. It wasn’t me buying the lunch that meant the most either, in the end, I heard from many of my teachers tell me it was the time. It was the gift of time I went out of my way to learn about them as people not just educators, to celebrate them, and to honor them.
As principal, I will be continuing the lunch tradition at Winans with the educators here and we also will start a new tradition of celebrating each and every student by sending them to the Principal’s office. Gone are the days students are sent to the Principal office “only if they are in trouble”. I want my office to be a place of celebration. All children, including our students at Winans Elementary, are children that should feel a little extra special on their special day. Not all kids have family at home making them dinner, a cake, and a crown... and even for kids that do, if we truly want schools to feel like our students second home, we must take the time to learn about them as people, celebrate them, and honor them on their special day. I hope it is also the beginning of a culture of celebration, where our students and teachers begin to feel celebrated not just on their “special day”. My birthday is first up in our family, this Tuesday, and my birthday wish this year is that every child and every teacher at Winans this year will experience that “extra special” feeling on their special day and all year long. Celebrations matter… let's start with Birthdays!