Staples High School principal John Dodig is a passionate, compassionate and very involved educator.
He’s also a keen observer of teenagers – and a gifted writer.
Here is his “Principal’s Message” in the most recent PTA Newsletter. I can’t think of a better message to kick off the holiday season.
I was struggling to come up with a message that is appropriate for the November PTA Newsletter. I knew it should be related to Thanksgiving, but I could not think of something I had not said in the past.
This morning it came to me while standing in the foyer greeting kids as they entered school. It was right in front of my eyes all along, but I took it for granted and never shared it, so I will share it now.
Around 7:15 a.m. last month a senior, Charlie Greenwald, entered the building. He is one of dozens of kids who come up to me each morning and shake my hand or engage me about homework, the weather, a game won or a performance in the auditorium.
In the middle of our brief conversation, Charlie excused himself to walk to the des of Patty McQuone, our attendance secretary, to greet Alex, one of our special needs students.
Alex gave Charlie the broadest smile I have ever seen. He took Charlie’s hand, and the 2 of them talked to Patty for 3 minutes, all the while holding hands tightly.
I had the urge to take their picture with my iPhone and turn it into a poster, but did not. What a warm, positive way to begin the school day for the 2 of them, for Patty, and for me. That image remained in my mind for the entire day.
I learned later that day that under Mrs. McQuone’s advisorship, the Best Buddies Club has grown to become the largest club at Staples, with over 220 students. That means about 15% of the student population is in a club that exists solely to support and benefit special needs students. They provide individual help to each of our students, and once a year they organize and host a dance for special needs students from all over the state.
Over the last 7 years I have written about problems teenagers face. I’ve written about drinking, cheating, bullying, speeding and other issues that have always existed, and will continue to exist long after I leave Staples.
Some teenagers make poor decisions, but that is part of life. I talk about them; we as teachers and administrators deal with those matters, but that kind of behavior is seldom the primary focus of our attention.
What we focus on is the fact that our kids are fun to be with 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. They amaze us every day with something unexpected and positive that they say or do.
I looked at a list of the over 90 clubs here, and was astonished at the number of them devoted to helping young people somewhere in the world. Some are raising money to build a school in Guatemala, some are providing soccer balls for young kids in Iraq and Afghanistan, some are feeding the homeless, and a huge number are helping those who were born with a severe handicap and who attend Staples High School. What a wonderful job I have!
So here is what I am most thankful for, and will share with my family at the Thanksgiving table this year. I am thankful that I am the principal of Staples High School with students who, bottom line, are caring, respectful, involved, and willing to work hard to become well-educated, responsible human beings.
I am thankful that my mother taught me that individual people are important for one reason or another. Because I took her words to heart, I take time each day to get to know your sons and daughters, and to see first hand their warm and caring nature. Working with your children is a joy, and I am truly thankful for that.