By RANDY TATANO
Special to Atmore News
Cheerleaders. A band. Dancing mascots.
Pep rally for a football game? Nope, just an innovative inspirational way for educators to start the school year.
Escambia County School Superintendent Michele McClung ditched the traditional first day back for educators, replacing the usual laundry list of Department of Education directives with a fun-filled 90 minutes designed to fire up the troops before the students arrive next week. Teachers, principals and support staff were treated to performances by high school bands and cheerleading squads, which turned out to be infectious, as groups of educators from each school broke out in spontaneous cheers.
McClung, starting her second year as superintendent, hosted her first institute since she was hired after the event had taken place last year. She stressed the value of teamwork and the new system’s slogan, “We are One.” She marked the start of the school year with an upbeat message. “Today, we celebrate the spirit and immense pride each of you have shown for your school and department individually and as valued members of our entire system.”
Motivational guest speaker Eric Sheninger, a former teacher and principal, built on the slogan. “When people are headed in one direction, they can accomplish great things. All kids have greatness inside them. It is the job of the educator to help them find it.” He also reminded teachers not to completely rely on technology. “Technology is not a silver bullet.” Sheninger, the author of several books on education, put the group through a few 60-second exercises, one of which asked those in attendance to simply turn to the person next to them and “brag about a colleague.”
McClung encouraged staffers to practice motivation throughout the year, using an analogy of why geese fly in a v-formation, how the lead goose creates a draft to help the those behind him, and why those in the rear are the ones honking.
“They do this to encourage the leader to keep up their speed and continue the journey ahead of them,” she said. “Remember, encouragement is motivating. So honk for your leaders, honk for your new teachers, honk to give encouragement, shoutouts, pats on the back, and most importantly, honk to lift up one another.”
[McClung’s comments are published on the Opinion page in this edition of Atmore News.]
Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.