Chocolate, Sugar Cookies, and Compliance


The holiday season is upon us, but as a school administrator, I receive lots of gifts from children, teachers, and parents throughout the school year. Many of these gifts come in the form of tiny notes of thank youís from teachers. This past year, other than the deep chocolate fudge that regularly filters into my office, Iíve had two melt-in-your-mouth jars of preservesóone of which was pear and the other was apple butter. These are best enjoyed with nothing but a spoon, as they are pure homemade goodness from the hearts of our employees.  Iíve had gifts of candles, some of which were laced with ribbon, filling the air of my office and leaving an imprint of scent upon my memory. Some gifts come in the form of invitations like the Saturday welcome to the home of one of our staff members whose front yard filled with sugarcane becomes the yearly gathering place for stirring up a batch of molasses. Then there are the invitations to go on fieldtrips, which become long hours of shared quality time with teachers and students. The grand finale, an invitation to go digging in the dirt for gems in the nearby mountains of North Carolina. For those of us who like rocks, this invitation is everything.

From my students Iíve received gifts of time through which I've shared their triumphs and watched their change. I've received pats on the back, reminders to have breakfast, threats to sue, told Iím cool, and endured countless loving struggles that encourage and ensure the growth of character in my students. If they have wronged, I send them off to their fate of three days of intensive character building in a one-room schoolhouse called ISSówhich they loathe. It is much too quiet and much too long a period of time for the typical teen to endure with any degree of comfort--for all they can do is read and study. And as I try to lure them into a more perfect childhood filled with following directions and doing the right thing, they comply and listen, which in my eyes, is truly a gift.

From parents Iíve received tins of cookies, brownies, and chocolates. In particular, I fondly remember one tin bearing extra large, thin and crisp, sugar cookies that oozed sweetness. Iíve had a multitude of handshakes, hugs, and warm phone calls from parents, some of whose children Iíve thrown out of school or off the bus for various infractions. We've got the village thing down pat. I help these parents raise their children and they are ever so grateful for my strength. They know Iíll do whatever it takes to make their children grow in the right direction. There isnít a dollar amount that can be placed on this one. Nor is it a negotiable.

Education is the challenge it is thought to be, and then some. But it is also a community unlike that found in high-tech offices, private industry, institutes of higher education, or corporate boardrooms. Our growth is not measurable in profits earned. And we cannot promise the delivery of a flawless product, for children are anything but perfect. Our lives evolve around hope, the education of our youth, and the creation of a better society. It is a daily battle during which we sometimes lose and sometimes fail. This year during Thanksgiving there will be much that I will be grateful for. As for my Christmas, it is a continuum of gifts that lasts all year long.

                                                                                                                      Bettina Ann Grahek 


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