This is part of a series of blogs from Noble campus representatives to give a deeper look at campus life.
- Why did you choose to work for Noble at DRW?
I had the great fortune of being principal at Rowe Elementary for four years. Over my time there, we had dozens of our 8th graders graduate and go to Noble for high school. At Rowe, we championed college as an important benchmark for our scholars to lead choice-filled lives.
As I was looking for a new professional opportunity, Noble stood out because of the alignment with respect to the role of college in our scholars living choice-filled lives. Additionally, over the course of my time here in the Chicago education community, I’ve had a number of interactions with various Noble staff members and felt a sense of purpose, humility, ownership, and love for kids that is aligned with my views and perspectives as well. Lastly, when I visited DRW in January, it felt right. It felt like home. I was born here in Chicago and lived in N. Lawndale before my mom moved us to Maywood. My family has been on the West Side since the 1970s so having an opportunity to work with the families and students of N. Lawndale felt like this is exactly where I need to be.
2. What are some ways you have been able to keep DRW engaged during the pandemic?
I’m a firm believer in team, and so the lion’s share of the credit for keeping DRW engaged during the pandemic goes to the team – our staff certainly deserves tremendous credit. This has been hard work, for everyone, but our staff has demonstrated a commitment to our kids and families, and to the work itself, which has been critical. Phone calls, emails, inviting kids and parents up to the school for some one-off activities – we’re trying everything we can think of. Learning from our successes and learning from our failures has also been important. Obviously, the other part of that is our Cheetah cubs and families. Again, this has been hard, but our Cheetah cubs and families have embraced that adversity is a necessary part of life that we must learn to master to reach our full potential.
3. How has it been since you started as a principal at DRW during the pandemic?
So very different! I had a friend ask me recently what it was like to be a high school principal. I replied, in a sense, I don’t know yet. I’ve not yet had the chance to be in the hallways during a transition period, have an in-person parent meeting, attend a volleyball game or theater performance, sit in on a class. In that sense, I have no idea what it’s like to be a high school principal. In other ways, it feels so very familiar. I genuinely believe kids are kids. Though our Cheetah cubs are older than the elementary students I’ve worked with previously, students feeling successful or challenged by the academic rigor of school is familiar, reaching out to parents and having a phone conversation is familiar, having meetings with the staff about how to best support our Cheetah cubs is familiar. All of this under the umbrella of an ongoing pandemic continues to make me think about the purpose of school and how do we evolve what school is, does, and means as we experience these large shifts in our society and culture.
4. How do you plan to keep parents and students engaged during the pandemic?
It’s a work in progress. In full transparency, I don’t think we’ve done a great job with that. Over the past month or so we’ve definitely improved our outreach. Last week, for example, we made 300+ phone calls to parents which was up about 160% from the previous week. However, our outreach over the first couple of months of school was not good. That is a huge focus of ours heading into semester 2.
5. How do you plan to move forward with DRW during the rest of the school year?
During the pandemic, we’ve tried to live by the mantra of ‘keep it simple’. So in that vein, we’re focused on student learning, student engagement, and parent partnership. Those are the big hills we’re focused on for the remainder of this year. Simultaneously, we’re also lifting some big rocks for next year. Specifically, we’re focused on hiring for next school year and launching our school planning process that will define our vision for DRW for the next few years. Our parents and families will be an integral part of that, so stay tuned.
6. How are you feeling as a new principal at Noble?
Overall, I feel ok. I don’t feel great because I know we have students at DRW with some unfinished learning and we also have families who have a number of adversities to deal with. Some that are a regular part of life and others that are unique to 2020/2021 with Covid still being present. With all that going on it’s hard to feel great, and I do feel optimistic that as a school, DRW is on a path to greatness. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen on a straight line, but it will happen. I’m excited for our Cheetah cubs, our parents and families, and the North Lawndale community at large to experience and drive this journey with us.
7. Since you have not entered into your school building yet, how has working from home and virtually been since your start at DRW?
It depends on the day! I’m not gone lie, it’s nice to be in shorts and sweatpants for work. It’s also great to be able to spend more time with my children, but at the end of the day I’m a teacher and the school building is where I want to be. Being in the building gives me energy, gives me life and affirms my purpose, so as much as I like wearing sweatpants to work every day, I’ll gladly wear a full tuxedo – hat and cane and all – if it means I can be in the building and in community and relationship with our Cheetah cubs and staff
8. How are you keeping staff engaged during this pandemic, especially since you have not had a face-to-face interaction with them as a whole?
We’re doing our best to support folks to find success, growth, and meaning in the work even in these surreal times. For us, it’s critical to let staff know that we appreciate them and all they’re doing for our DRW community. We also recognize that everyone is facing challenges during this time, and that does not exclude our staff. With that in mind, we have to approach our work with a level of humanity and dignity that honors our staff, they are not robots, but they’re people with families and children and they are facing adversity outside of work. We have to always be aware of that as school leaders and approach the work accordingly.
9. What are you most looking forward to in this new normal?
I wouldn’t say there is anything specific I’m looking forward to. I believe we can learn something from every situation we experience that can make us better people. I hope that I’m able to continue to learn and grow during this time, and consistently express my appreciation and gratitude for the love, relationships, and privilege that define who I am, and who I am still striving to become.
Written by Brittany Miller, DRW College Prep
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