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  • Kristofer Swett

The One

Not too long ago, on a warm sunny day, I was at a local coffee shop chatting about the state of education and our kids with somebody who I deeply respect. They told me something that changed my entire view of education. That “something” was so simple but so profound that it completely changed my career and my life. It was a simple thing. They said, “ONE.” I’ll get back to you on what that means in a moment.

I’ve heard it said before that there should be a little data in everything you do, so here’s mine. The demographic I serve as principal of a Northern California high school is 100 percent Humans and 100 percent Kids. Most, if not all, are suffering in one way or another. All of them are amazing, and most of them have no clue what to do with their lives. As the great philosopher and American public education advocate, John Dewey, basically said, there is an additional and equally vital human need beyond food, shelter, and clothing -- 100 percent of all people need to feel important and valued.

Most importantly, 100 percent of children need at least ONE adult to believe in them. ONE adult to make them feel important and valuable. This was the ONE simple thing that was said to me in the coffee shop that warm sunny afternoon.

So I have an idea to help make our community a better place for everyone. I challenge all of us to be that ONE person for a student. What we do with children will impact the quality of life for them and our community. It is of the utmost importance that not a single one of our children leaves our school system without having made the connections and relationships they need to function in our society. To be productive, content, and successful individuals, not a single child can be forgotten.

Why is this important? Because I don’t think all of you know just how much of an impact you can have on a childʻs life. I’m talking to the entire community – lawyers, nurses, mechanics, truck drivers, retail clerks, business owners, warehouse workers, cooks, and servers! I’m talking about the support staff, the custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals, maintenance and ground crews, bus drivers, campus supervisors, and many more. All of you are the heroes of our community.

There is a simple thing we can do to help children: be that ONE caring adult. Form a relationship with a child who needs to be valued. We are the ONES. The impact you have on a child can save their life. Your attention might be the one thing they need. I know that may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true. You have the power to transform someone’s life. The one statement you make, the one hug, the one smile, the one handshake, that one time you sat down and asked a kid who seemed to be in pain, “How are you doing?”

We know through research that a sustained relationship with at least one caring adult can help children overcome the negative experiences that are rife in our world. We may not be able to change their previous experiences, but we can still change their lives. It’s not what you say but how you make them feel.

During this extraordinarily challenging time of remote learning, we are still moving forward with teaching students through their interests, connecting the subjects to their internships and projects. We are working to make sure our students can access the online resources necessary to move forward with their learning, and we offer social-emotional support through remote counseling.

I have come to know and love my students. Rough around the edges, my students are struggling to find a love for learning. We do all we can to help them find that passion, and we sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. But underneath it all, they are still 100 percent Humans and 100 percent Kids that need our connection. You can be the ONE.

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