When I first got into site administration, I worked as an assistant principal at an inner city school. It was a notch up on the step-and-column (pay scale) from dean, and not burdened with much that principals have to contend with. Still, it got quite rough now and then. When I first took the job, one of the staff members told me to be careful because the school could get ‘wicked’. Great, I thought. Here we go.
The other assistant principal and I invented a forecasting ritual to help us brace for the kind of day we might have. We would stand on the yard and look at the sky for a minute or two before the first bell. Wind, rain, above normal heat, and fog, by our reckoning, all had causal links to shifts in student behavior. If rain threatened, my gut tightened.
It was about this time that I shifted from standing on the yard to waiting on the corner in front of our school. Since most of the students from the south side of the city came onto campus that way, it was a strategic place to start. One day, I stood there with the campus security officer, Mr. Williams, and told him about my weather forecasting system. “Weather” he told me, “comes from the inside at least as far as our kids are concerned. It doesn’t matter what the weatherman says.”
That moment stuck. Sure, wind and rain can throw everything out of balance. But now, I know my playground time each morning allows me to take stock of the little three-and-a-half foot cloud formations who arrive on buses, on foot, or by bike. Storm fronts and sunshine wear sneakers, hoodies, braids and knit caps. I can shake their hands, look them in the eyes, and find enough about that kind of weather to prepare, intervene, and adjust.
Of late, I have been running into people, young and old, who find clouds no matter how sunny the day. Nothing works I hear them say. Nothing is right. Complaints fall like rain. This foul weather can spread quickly. Clouds drift from one heart to another. Human-generated storm fronts rain on the thoughts, words, and deeds of others. As I meet with parents in the morning, or check in with kids playing four-square, I find I can get sucked into these weather systems and get carried far from where I want to be. Some days I bring clouds of my own!
What’s the balance then? My first impulse when I come face to face with a human cloud burst might be to run or to feign blinding sunshine as a defensive posture. But when I batten down in that way, I don’t receive or deliver an exchange that offers much. I find I need to get a bit wet in order to have something to offer.
It could be coming into another time where, in spite of the sunny days, we notice only clouds. When I overhear kids saying that their parents are fighting, that they’re going to lose their housing, or when I greet staff who drag in with little clouds over their heads, I see that stormy weather gets all the attention. True that plenty of cold drafts come under the door. But storms are only half the story and riding out rough weather is an essential skill that we are practiced at. I need to remember what sunshine feels like on an upturned face. Remembering the warmth might help me offer some light for others to share. Even with this much in mind, I know we can get through most anything.