The Top 5 Things I Want From a School

Jim Niedermeier, Principal

During the first couple of weeks of school, I’m a person divided. Not only am I a principal working to make sure that teachers and students have everything they need to be successful, I am also a dad who is worried about what my three kids are encountering in their new classrooms.  My thoughts about what I want from my own kids’ teachers and administrators informs what I try to do at TVHS. Here’s a top 5 list of what I want from the adults my kids encounter at school: 

  1. I want my kids to be safe. I want my kids’ schools to keep them as safe as they are at home. While keeping exterior doors locked and having carefully considered security practices is important, I also want my kids’ schools to show students how to be supportive and attentive of their classmates so that they don’t feel alone. Though recent events can be very frightening, keeping kids safe shouldn’t also keep them scared. It’s impossible to learn in an environment of fear. 
  2. I want my kids to be seen by the adults in their school. My fourth grade teacher was the first adult who really saw who I could become. Looking back, it is clear that she took an interest in all of her students, but at the time, I felt like my success was her primary importance. She took the time to get to know me and my family in a way that others didn’t, even visiting our home.  She saw the nuance in her students; we weren’t just good kids and troublemakers. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, people contain multitudes– you have to get past the surface to see who they really are.

  3. I want my kids to be loved and accepted for who they are.  My kids are pretty quirky–I want them to keep their quirks! Their weirdness is what I like about them.  Everytime my kids get in hot water at home because of something they’ve done and my wife and I impose some sort of consequence, the conversation always ends with us telling them that we love them. At school, I also tell kids who have crossed a line that their action doesn’t affect my feelings about them.  Making mistakes is an essential part of learning; I want kids to feel that they can depend upon me no matter what they’ve done. 

  4. I want my kids to be challenged to move outside their comfort zones. I saw a joke on Twitter recently: “My kids are so open to experiencing culture. They’ll try anything, from chicken tenders at a Mexican restaurant to chicken tenders at a Mediterranean restaurant.” Kids have to keep expanding their boundaries, or they’ll probably be pretty boring, unhappy adults.

  5. I want my kids to love learning. Last night, my kids were shouting over each other at the dinner table to tell me what they learned at school. While their manners could use a little work, their love of learning is solid. I hope that their teachers continue to engage their curiosity. I know that we will try to do just that here at TVHS.