I’m writing this as I sit near the back of a charter bus with many of our high school sophomores headed to Washington DC. This trip was scheduled for their 8th grade year, but COVID-19 managed to postpone it for two years. I’m very appreciative of those who plan the trip every year and the district’s support to make sure these students still receive this opportunity. I was a high school student myself the last time I visited our nation’s capital. Since that time, I became a social studies teacher and spent several years instructing Advanced Placement government and history. So, I’ll need to be careful not to be the “boring or obnoxious” chaperone who wants to ensure all of these students have a complete understanding of the historical and current significance of every place we visit. As I look down the aisle and upon all the faces of these students, it helps me to realize there are more important things to learn in life than just civics.
We all pick up life lessons and non-academic learning through our family and community experiences. Obviously, those experiences can be very different, but we usually agree on some universal behavior skills that should be developed. Recently, a representative group of teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and others from Kenton City Schools worked together to develop a list and description of key behaviors and results we would like to see from everyone in our district. We called this document our “Culture Playbook.”
We believe that our culture is the heartbeat of our school system. It’s what makes Kenton City Schools a special place to learn and live, and it gives us a unique advantage. We also believe that building and sustaining great culture within KCS requires intentional effort of everyone in the district. Our goal is to create an educational environment where everyone consistently engages in behaviors that produce exceptional results.
The first key behavior that was identified was embodied by the words “Show Up and Step Up.” Ultimately, we start with the belief that all of us should be accountable and responsible for our behavior/actions. Although we all quickly agree with that statement, it takes tremendous discipline to avoid taking the easy way out and blaming life events or others when times get tough. However, we build strength of character when we take responsibility and be accountable to others when it is difficult.
We also must be willing and recognize that everyone can be a leader. We begin teaching this to our pre-school children as we all have unique gifts and talents that should be valued and appreciated. Far too often, people believe they must earn a position of power to lead. Some of the very best leaders do not hold a title that society may deem as important. Yet, some of those people have the greatest positive impact on others. Trust is earned through behavior, not granted by position.
Now as much as I hope the students on this bus come away from this trip with a deeper understanding of United States history and government, it is just as important that they learn the importance of “Show Up and Step Up.”