Bernie Sanders and The Idea That Everyone Matters (And I Mean Everyone)

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Senator Bernie Sanders

On Friday, I came back from another CoCoLoco meeting in which someone suggested I become an administrator (for the umpteenth time) because I was asked to be a table leader even though I had no idea I was leading the table until my name was put at the top of a name chart at an 8th grade table … and proceeded to lead it well. Fair enough, but there’s no way I can be an administrator, even if I know how to get people re-focused on a task and actually come appropriately dressed for a professional development day.

After the meeting, I came home to the news that Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent socialist from Vermont, was in his 5th hour of speaking to a mostly empty chamber about the corrupt calamity that is Barack Obama and the GOP leaders’ tax plan “compromise,” which includes the extension of unemployment benefits but also includes the extension of the previous president’s affluent-appeasing tax cuts. I watched the grand spectacle of him reading letter after letter about the tax compromise, him wondering out loud how this should help our least fortunate Americans, him detailing the extreme economic inequalities, him dissecting case after case of families barely able to put food on their tables and leave lights on but having to pay more in taxes percentage-wise than the multi-millionaires and billionaires whose only worry includes whether they’ll be wearing a blue tie or a black tie to work the next day.

It’s through that lens that I view how a school runs. Irrespective of what people might think about the brick-and-mortar buildings that speckle any town’s landscape, everyone in the building matters, from the custodian who cleans up the leaves in front of the building in the morning to the principal whose vision and work keeps the school in line. Often, the talk in district offices (that trickles into school offices) is that these little things don’t matter. They focus far too much on the decor of instruction (I mean, does it look like kids are learning?) and the appearance of rigor and calm in a school instead of the relationships between students, teachers, parents, and everyone else involved that make a school efficiently.

For example, if I ever became an administrator, I couldn’t ever see myself as a closed-door principal. I’d welcome having parents and students, and frankly, they’d know my name by first week of school, if not before they even stepped into the building. I’d probably ask teachers to be mindful of hallways and protocol for sending kids to the dean’s office. I’d probably have my finger dipped in every critical situation within the school, from the parent getting loud with teachers to the teacher still reading the newspaper or their phone in the middle of class. I’d probably get up and help with some things myself if I wasn’t busy.

I mean, everyone matters, right? All the teachers everyone leaves alone, the assistant principals and deans who do the dirty work when others don’t want to, the person who programs schedules and the secretaries who address attendance, and the random people who, upon seeing a situation, handle it themselves even when they know it’s going to stir problems later on. The guidance counselor who pull a frustrated kid from a class and calm her down, the PTA president or coordinator who rallies parents around a central issue that matters to the school environment and the director of a floor that doesn’t have a license but was put there out of necessity all keep the ride smooth for the passenger, even when the principal’s holding the gas pedal at 100mph.

Schools don’t just run. Things rarely ever just get done.

People work behind the scenes to ensure that schools run. Just because we don’t see people working on something doesn’t mean they’re not. If it’s a good school, chances are, there’s something about what each person does that eventually contributes to the environment. Part of that is Bernie Sanders’ point: we need to work on infrastructure and the sorts of things that make the least and neediest of our people better. It’s not just a poverty of economics, but a poverty of ethics.

When schools take on that model, the poverty only expands.

Jose, who never has to say “I said it” anymore. People just know.