LOOK, I DON’T WANT TO TELL YOU HOW TO READ THIS BOOK or anything, but if I were you, I’d skip to the chapter about how to train your administrator and read that first. Now, I’d normally never tell a teacher to do this. It’s deplorable and bizarre advice to be issued in the world of administration. How can an administrator suggest that they become trained by teachers?
But in this book, we have a unique situation because (a) Vickie was successful in training multiple administrators and (b) I was one of them so who better to tell you how she did it than me?
It’s strange to think that I’ve only known Vickie for about five years and was her administrator for only the first three. It genuinely feels like 20. Time has zipped by since we met at my first staff meeting in the cafeteria on that cold and foggy Monterey summer morning. I was an experienced middle school principal, and I had just moved to the area and accepted an assistant principal position to be closer to my aging parents. I remember seeing her moving quickly into the room with a polished look and obviously ready to get this meeting over with and get back to her classroom. Immediately following the morning meeting, she flew out of the crowd of teachers running toward me. Was she running? That may be an embellishment. From the first time I met Vickie, I knew she would challenge my leadership skills. She introduced herself and began explaining her chosen responsibilities on campus and what my responsibilities would be to support her. The point is, I was intrigued.
Throughout the day, I spent time getting to know everyone, and the straight facts from everyone were that Vickie Lucido was dedicated to the culture of the school and the students and teachers within its walls. She had been on campus longer than anyone and had built celebrated traditions that were admired district-wide. Teachers explained to me that one of their favorite traditions was the Singing Telegrams that Vickie sold as a fundraiser for her drama club, and how every year the drama students traveled around campus singing in offices and classrooms the day before spring break. What? A lost instructional day? What has the principal been thinking? It wasn’t until I witnessed the excitement of the day, and I saw the positive transformation of the culture on campus, that I began to see the value of what Vickie Lucido had created at this middle school.
Soon after spring break, I became the fifth principal of our school that year. Vickie and I had developed a strong relationship by this time, and she continued to prove to me her dedication and value to our school. When she made an appointment to meet with me, I was anticipating an update on the end-of-the-year events. Vickie talks briefly about this in the book, but I was astounded. She wanted to be excused from staff meetings and collaboration days so she could rehearse with her students for the school play. What? NO WAY! I really had to think this one through. Vickie had proven herself over and over again throughout the year, other staff knew the work she did, and the whole district raved about how professional her drama productions were. And, after all, I hadn’t seen one of her drama productions yet. I anticipated grumbling from the other teachers, but I agreed as long as she got notes from the meetings or met with me to get the information she missed. There were no teacher complaints and the drama production was INCREDIBLE!
Vickie Lucido has all of the qualities of a superstar. Every story she tells is a performance, and every time we parted after meeting about one of her requests, whether it ended in her favor or not, she gave me a big hug. She embodies passion and most importantly, genuineness.
Now that I’m thinking about it, you should probably read this book exactly the way Vickie wrote it, with the ending thoughts at the end. She really has provided novice teachers with some valuable and somewhat uncommon advice. Take in her personal stories. Learn about her background and drive. Read how she did the work, gained the trust and respect, had the courage to tell her truth, and then schooled her administrators in how they could best support her work that supported the culture they led.
This book isn’t just another teacher induction manual. It’s the work of a seasoned teacher who had the presence of mind, while teaching in the trenches, to take notes and write her own version of how to succeed.
It’s a drama plot come to life. After years of difficult, challenging, and just enough reward to keep her going, work, a teacher obsessed with trying her hardest to do a good job under sometimes inconceivable circumstances, gets the satisfaction of sharing her story and the lessons she has learned. Who doesn’t want to read that immediately?
Good teachers are driven, diligent, collaborative, and authentic. They inspire kids and other teachers. They spend hundreds of their own personal hours and dollars doing a better job than for what they are compensated, and they care. They care about their students, their teacher colleagues, their school staff, and even their administrators. They are passionate, dedicated to their school and the lives they impact, and they fight for what they believe. It’s noble work. And this book is about the lessons learned throughout a career dedicated to that work.
Retired Middle School Principal