Operation Head-On: a sobering reality check

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It’s a wonderful time of year and an awful time of year at the same time. With prom and seniors in high school celebrating their accomplishments and accolades in a public school system, we are also reminded of those who make poor choices and take celebration and merry making too far.

Last week, all juniors and seniors participated in  “Operation Head-On”.  The ideas was from a former student who now volunteers as an EMT in town.  The ideas was simple: stage a motor vehicle accident with students from the high school and show the process and people involved in a crash resulting from drunk driving.

Volunteer students donned make-up and scads fo stage blood, and positioned themselves as if they were ejected from a car.  The one car had the window cut out to show the importance.  Over a PA system, they played a faux transmission of how the call came in from 911 and had police, fire, and EMS dispatched.  To simulate real time, no emergency vehicles were on scene and took the actual time to respond.  The minutes appeared to be forever.  Students were sitting in silence.

The officer first responded and checked to see if there were any survivors; the driver survived, and wasn’t really hurt, so he was pulled to an area where he could take several sobriety tests.  Every student sat in silence as the drunk senior attempted to pass these tests.

While the testing was occurring, about 6 firetrucks arrived and one began to use the ‘jaws of life’ to break down the car and get the other survivors out of the car.  EMT’s also arrived (about 4 EMS trucks) were treating survivors and loading them onto ambulances.

At one point, EMS requested a helicopter to take a student to the nearest hospital.   We were fortunate enough to have secured a helicopter land on the high school field and join the other apparatuses on scene.

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Lastly, for effect, a hearse arrived on scene and bagged the deceased senior.  Again, silence.  Some tears.  Looks of horror from the crowd.  And I say good.

The Principal called all students to the gym and read an obituary of the senior.  Once again, silence.

What a fantastic program.  With prom this Friday, I hope the images of what was seen last week stay cemented in their heads for a very long time.

I wish every school would do something like this with seniors.  If you’re in a position of power to execute this, do it.

 

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The way Memorial Day should be celebrated. Welcome home.

This past week was every social studies educator’s dream.

I got to partake in two spectacular events as a Supervisor of Social Studies, and honestly, it was the reverse effect of field trips. Instead of students being the only ones energized from an experience, I was the one energized.

On Tuesday, I escorted 12 hungry, eager AP government students on an Amtrak train to Washington DC. Our trip was not sightseeing; our trip was work. We marched right over to the Longworth House Office Building and was immediately immersed in the culture of the Hill. Students got to interact with Legislative Aides, Research Assistants, Lobbyists, and even a Congressman or two. The highlight? Watching every student light up as we were able to sit in the gallery of the House during a vote. It WAS their Christmas morning – each student identifying various Congressman and sharing their accomplishments. It was as if they were on the red carpet seeing all of their favorite stars. Upon boarding the train, you would think all would pass out; the opposite again. Students were incredibly jovial and sharing their highlights on the ride home. In the end, it was a 14 hour day – and worth it from start to finish. The students learned more in one day then they ever could through any other teaching method, and I was reminded that students with a drive and passion can do ANYTHING. I’m still smiling.

The second night this week was, by far, one of the most amazing productions I have seen as an educator. A year ago, a dozen students were researching veterans that died on their birth date, and by chance, came across two soldiers that died during the Vietnam War. Upon further research, the students and their teacher found out that there was no monument or memorial dedicated to them in town. The idea was then formed; create a memorial for these two soldiers in the high school. Over the year, students raised over $15,000.00 to construct a beautiful memorial, complete with personal memorabilia, a waterfall, and even iBooks detailing their story. The monument was officially unveiled on Friday evening, but before, a ceremony took place. A ceremony that included relatives from Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Connecticut. A ceremony that included entertainment from the school’s chorus, marching bands, and color guard. A presentation that included a song written by a senior that was presented so eloquently it drew tears from the hundreds that filled the auditorium on the Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend. Be reminded that all of this was completely student driven, from start to finish. If that’s not pride, honor, and respect, I don’t know what is.

The memorial is the epitome of what every social studies educator wants their students to be: civic-minded, socially informed, and well-rounded.

If you aren’t pushing for this in classrooms everyday, what are you doing?

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Yes, Mom, I’m going to be a Superintendent.

I still don’t believe it, but the signed contract in front of me reminds me that it happened.

I, at age 34, have been unanimously appointed to be the next Chief School Administrator (CSA) of the Lower Alloways Creek School District.

I tried to keep this quiet, but the same time I had to tell family and scads of references. I had to take the plunge and call my Mom. All sons dread calling Mom, but this call was especially dreadful. No fooling her – she was a secretary in the special education department for around 25 years.

The gist of the call: “Hi Mom. What’s wrong? Nothing, I’m just calling to let you know that I was officially hired with a unanimous vote for a Superintendentcy.”

Then there was silence. Panicked silence.

“You did WHAT?!?”

That’s when it really hit me. Nothing like a good ol’ dose of fear from Mom.

What did I just get myself into? How did this even happen?

Before obtaining my current position as a K-12 Social Studies Supervisor in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District , I saw an advertisement for a Superintendency and figured, hey why not. After receiving a call for an interview, it started to sink in. I realized that after reviewing all of the goals, objectives, and demands that were being set forth, I could do this.

Fast forwarding to as a write this – a thousand thoughts are flying through my head. I’m jotting question after question down that I have to pose to the BOE, BA, and outgoing CSA. Naturally, the ‘what-if’s’ are flying through my mind at a mile a minute. What if I don’t understand the culture? What if I don’t embrace and utilize the proper nomenclature? What if everything I present makes no sense?

When the rush of thoughts come in, two things come to mind. One: I have a groundswelling of support from family, friends, and fellow administrators. Two: I have a PLN that is amazing. I’ve shared in the past that what was called a PLN was a joke. Now, thanks to Twitter, I have a PLN of hundreds of educators spanning across six continents. Whatever information I need, whenever I need it, I can get it through Twitter.

My transition will begin in a few weeks. I look forward to growing and learning in the process, and hope all of you will join me on the ride.