Regency Place Elementary is one of my favorite schools to sub at. Not only are the kids over-the-top friendly, polite, hardworking, and fun, the teachers go out of their way to make you feel welcome. (I’ve visited many a teacher’s lounge where we invisible subs are rarely invited to the cool table. No jacket can combat that kind of chill.) Older students consciously serve as role models to younger ones – my class of 4th graders gently reminded kindergarten or 1st grade kids to be quiet in the hall, and set the example for them. When I have popped out into the hall from the office area, the line of students has stopped to allow me to pass. The one that consistently blows me away is that whenever the recess bell rings, or even a teacher blows a whistle, every single student on the playground freezes in place and silently awaits instruction. Wow!
The school has also been recognized for outstanding academic achievement. In November 2009, it was listed as one of 70 schools in the state, and one of only two in the district, to receive the Governor’s Achievement Award.
Are these kids perfect? No. True, the neighborhood is fairly affluent, but I don’t think it’s only a case of self-selection. I believe that the key lies in an exceptional school culture, led by principal Greg Oborny. “Mr. O” is loved by the kids, respected by the teachers, and has made Regency Place into a place where students excel year after year. The school motto is “Take Risks, Take Action, Take Pride” (in keeping with the lion mascot). When the teachers see a sign on the lounge refrigerator that says, “How do we treat each other at all time? Be kind – Be considerate – Be a team player,” it does not seem the least bit patronizing. Rather, it’s but one of a hundred reminders that leadership can bring about extraordinary results.
I’ve often reflected on the flip side of this reality. Students in a school, children in a family, kids in a youth group, players a sports team, a cabin of boys at summer camp, will rise no higher than the expectations placed on them. Further, I would propose that students will tend toward the modeled behavior of whichever adult has the lowest standards for them. That has lead to some bouts of soul searching throughout my years of working with young people. But a visit to a school like Regency Place is like a drink of cool water. Truly extraordinary environments can be created for kids to flourish, and it starts with you as the leader.