I remember when we first started talking about what would eventually become the Leadership School EIR program. At that point, there were a lot of cool questions without answers, but there never seemed to be any doubt that sending TLS staff into schools around Maine was a really, really good idea. Three years later we still have questions, but our early conviction about the viability and necessity of such an endeavor remains stronger than ever.
There are a ton of great moments and initiatives that grew out of our conviction: an after school program for the little ones; “Kieve days” at several partnering schools; countless one-on-one conversations between EIRs and students, many of whom are “at-risk”; tutoring sessions in every subject area you can think of; efforts to integrate Kieve and traditional public school curricula; games and more games and insightful debriefs. We’re even working directly with English Language Learners (ELL) programs! How cool! When I hear about all of these wonderful things we’re doing in schools around the state, I can’t help but feel more hopeful about the future of education in Maine. And make no mistake—primary and secondary education in Maine, despite a truly massive effort on the part of some top-notch teachers, administrators, students and families, is suffering.
Have you ever read that neat little piece about what life would be like if every day were a Kieve day? I’ve always loved that thing, but have to admit that it sometimes makes me sad because for the great majority of people every day is NOT a Kieve day. Of all the things were doing to empower people and communities around Maine, a desire to bring the “Kieve Spirit” to every corner of the state is surely the most important. Don’t get me wrong—we’re not banging on the tables during lunch, there aren’t any Aqua Attacks raging during Blocks 3 and 4, and there’s no Kieve Song sung before the kiddos hop on the bus or get picked up at the end of the day. What I mean is that as EIRs we try to bring the same indelible kindness and respect to our students and schools that is, without a doubt, the hallmark and most enduring legacy of Kieve-Wavus. For us, each day is an opportunity to give a kid a Kieve Day.
To this end, I couldn’t have been paired with a better “site mentor”. Judy Cohen, the Searsport District Middle and High School social worker, is (I hope she won’t mind reading this!) small in stature but a giant among those advocating for the rights and health of children. She’s tireless in her effort to help kids feel safe, happy and confident in who they are, and has enabled me to make the most out of my two years serving the Searsport Middle and High school. With her help, I’ve worked with advisories, core classes, clubs and after-school programs. We’ve facilitated awareness initiatives for sophomores, helped seniors think about life after high school, and recently we even managed to get an Outdoor Club up and running—in just a week I’ll take more than a dozen students to the Camden Snow for a chile lunch and some tobogganing. Yes! I’ve been involved with PBL efforts, mentorships, GSTA and Civil Rights team meetings, and every day at lunch I play basketball with teams made up of middle and high schoolers.
Oddly enough, I most enjoy the simple conversations I have with students everyday. So many of them need the things we carry on about at TLS—kind words, encouragement, positive reinforcement, patience and compassion. Some of them, for different reasons, just need someone to sit with. You can’t really quantify the academic or intellectual benefit of a good conversation, but qualitatively the benefit is immediately obvious: kids are happier and are more likely to succeed when nice people talk to them and listen to them. Wouldn’t it be neat to see a TLS EIR in every Maine school? How many more goals would be met? How many students would feel a little bit better about who they are and where they come from? How many students would have those Kieve Days that have made so many of our lives meaningful and joyous?