Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nature's Paintbox: The Story of Phyllis Faust

Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with the teachers at my old school, Hewitt Trussville Middle, and yesterday I was reminded why the book Nature's Paintbox, by Patricia Thomas is on my "Top 10" list.
If you don't know the book, it's a must have for writers and artists and anyone who loves playing with language and dwelling in its beauty. But all of my reasons for loving this book reach far beyond its pages.

It was just an ordinary day in my classroom last year. I was sharing the amazing language in Nature's Paintbox with my sixth grade writers. And my instructional leader, Phyllis Faust, was there to listen in on the lesson.
There's a part in the book where author, Patricia Thomas, describes the colors of autumn in this way: "bluegray smoke, bluepurple haze.... curled, whirled, brushed in a rush of scarletorangebluegray...purplebrowntanyellow...sandtan....unending blendings....Autumn colors are never known to play alone."
As I read this part of the book aloud, one of my writers exclaimed, "Wow. I never knew that was possible.....to do that with words...what Patricia Thomas just did!"
And in the background as she watched closely and listened carefully, Phyllis said, "Anything is possible....when you're a writer."
I can guarantee you that she won't remember this moment, but I can guarantee you that I won't ever forget the power of those words.

Those three simple words spoke volumes to my students and to me. The idea of "anything is possible" coming from the mouth of your boss is empowering, and better yet, can transform school communities. You will notice that I didn't call Phyllis my principal, but rather my instructional leader. She made it her job to know her teachers, know her students, and support them in their learning journeys in every way imaginable. She opened the school building long before sunrise to prepare for us. She visited classrooms to learn alongside us. She sat in on parent conferences to support us. She questioned us, challenged us, pushed us, and expected the best of us. She believed that anything was possible because she trusted us to be the best teachers (and learners) for and with our students.

(Phyllis introducing her amazing custodial staff on the first day of school this year)

Even though I don't get to work at HTMS this year (marriage and a home in a new city sometimes make changes inevitable), I get to experience her leadership from time to time when I visit the school. I watched her in action yesterday as she facilitated staff development all morning with her sixth, seventh, and eighth grade teachers. I smiled when she pulled students aside in the hall to have conversations and simply to check in and ask how things were going. I watched her hug the custodians and laugh with the office staff, prepare for an evening parent meeting, and make time just to visit with me.

New school years are beginning all over the country, and there are many lucky teachers and students out there who will get to work under true leadership. I know this for a fact because I've worked for some of those great people in New York and in Alabama.
It would be my hope for ALL teachers, students, and staff members to live in a school, for a 180 days a year, with a leader like Phyllis Faust who believes (and lives) "anything is possible."

To the possibilities of this new day.... wonder where I got that line?? :)

1 comment:

  1. This is so very true and we are so luck to work with someone who gets it and acts upon it.