This I Believe

James - Orefield, Pennsylvania
Entered on January 31, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I Believe Every Face Tells a Story Worth Reading

I believe every person’s face tells the story they carry on the inside and it is a story worth taking the time to read. As a principal in an elementary school I get to “read” the part of the story that has to do with attitude on the children’s faces every morning as they enter the lobby walking under our school motto, “Hard Work Pays Off!” Without words, the details in the children’s faces reveals who they are and what they have come to believe about themselves. “Hi, look at me I want your attention and recognition” or “Don’t bother, I am not worthy of gaining your approval.”

I know the story in a child’s face isn’t found in the kind of lines and wrinkles that I have earned over the last fifty plus years but it is revealed in less obvious details.

I believe that even when a child doesn’t tell me, they expect me to “read” their face. They have taught me to look for clues beyond their obvious expression. They anticipate I will see the confidence or doubt that reside behind their eyes. They hope I will observe the details in corners of their mouths and hear the questions they whisper to themselves. They want me to understand the mood indicated by the tilt of their head. Children instinctively know how to elicit questions and responses from me without uttering a word.

I have acquired this trust, this belief over my years working with children as a special education teacher, a school psychologist and most recently as a principal. I have many favorite “teachers” including ten year old Juan whose contagious smile has convinced me to feel joyous no matter what I am dealing with because he is an eternally joyful person. Brad’s downward gaze and lack of eye contact has taught me to restrain myself from expressing disappointment and to give him the encouragement he needs when he fails. He has taught me to always believe in possibilities even though he has given up on himself and in that moment his eyes beg me to convince him otherwise. Alyssa’s beaming face illuminates all that is around her as she disregards the poverty of her home life reflected in her same old attire. Strutting in with such confidence as if she owned this school Alyssa has taught me that a positive disposition is the best and most valuable thing to wear.

The public eyes focus on measuring our school’s achievement by looking at our assessment scores. That is important and I believe my students have taught me to add more to the rubric when measuring performance. I have learned to account for success by reading their faces and counting how many heads are proudly uplifted, how many eyes are confidently smiling ,how many mouths have corners that spell joy and how many faces exclaim, “ I can do this because I believe in me.”