Is there anyone who does not know about the heroism of Captain Sullenberger who guided his disabled airplane and nearly 160 passengers into the Hudson River? Accolades have been pouring in to honor the man who kept his cool and exercised keen judgment through split second decisions to give his vessel and its inhabitants the best chance at survival. His leadership is inspiring to all, and most especially to those whose leadership includes the well being of others.
Leadership has its challenges, some we know about and others unforeseen. Our school, and indeed our district, is challenged to find ways to provide for the instructional needs of our students while facing fiscal realities. Those realities grow grimmer each day, and hopefully new leadership in Washington will turn things around. In the meantime, we must take measures that will bring us to a soft landing and save the integrity of our middle school mission.
What is our mission? Of course, in the Millburn tradition we offer a rigorous program of instruction. But a middle school that only offers an academic program without the other components that address what is called the “EQ,” or emotional quotient, would be missing a critical piece in pupil development. Middle school students need to have smaller teams and smaller class sizes than what we have in the current seventh grade. This seventh grade class is surely benefiting from the commitment, professionalism, and hard work of its teachers but the team caseload poses challenges to the connection that students as this age need to have with their teachers and the time available to know and be able to help individuals. We all knew this would be a hard year, but it would be a transitional one and we would make the best of it.
When I speak with my colleagues, both administrators and teachers, we often comment on the growth of students. They spend just three short years with us, and our job is to take elementary school kids and help them transition to young adulthood and ultimately prepare them for Millburn High School. Our programs teach them about tolerance and leadership, as well as values and service. In a world vastly changed by September 11th and other tragic events, we also see heightened anxiety in our students and parents. It is critical for us to know them and for them to feel known, understood, and a part of the community.