Lowell Oyster

Bonny Eagle Middle School
Buxton, Maine

Best Practices

1) Communication: One of the biggest differences that I noticed as we began to live through remote learning and COVID protocols was the many ways in which we can communicate. The amazing technology that allowed us to not just have to email or speak over the phone, but to still feel like we were all in a “room” together, either to have an important meeting or to simply socialize. These changes were eye-opening, I’d even say kind of The other side of this, is that being apart for so long has changed the way students, parents, and even educators communicate. The norms, the courtesies, the patience, I feel like some of that has dissipated and we need to re-learn it. All that is simply to say that I pride myself on my communication style with the community, with students and with staff members, and keeping it consistent over five very different years. This is not a robotic job, there needs to be a human element to it. People want to feel heard, not just listened too. I hear, I acknowledge, and I never judge or let emotions get ahead of a message or discussion. Elevated students respond to a calm, clear voice. Teachers appreciate a chance to vent in a safe environment. Parents have appreciated the non-judgmental, but brutal honesty of hearing, yeah, marijuana is legal, not here to judge that, but for Pete’s sake, make sure your kids can’t snag it and bring it to school! If I don’t have an answer, I won’t make one up. If I need more information, I’ll ask for it. If I find myself frustrated or flustered, I’ll tell a teacher that, tell a kid that, and give us both time to come to a better place. The things that are seen, heard, and dealt with daily in middle school are too crazy, hilarious, maddening, scary, delightful, engaging, and entertaining to explain. But if you are greeting all those emotions throughout the day the same way they are coming to you, anger back to anger, fear to fear, anxious to anxious, there can be no breakthroughs. I’ve learned to walk a graceful path of calmness and compassion, that people know is genuine, and it’s done wonders for my relationships in this job and paid off tenfold when things get sticky.

2) Leadership Style: There are numerous, diverse ways to help lead a school community forward, each with their own perks and qualities. I would struggle to define mine in one way or to explain it to someone in a nice, tight sentence or two. I am, however, very confident that an outsider could get a feel for my style if they followed me around for a My sleeves are rolled up (literally, I’ve never been able to wear my sleeves down) and ready to go every day. There is nothing in the building that I shouldn’t be willing to do. Some days it’s donning the gloves and hairnet and helping serve food when Gail needs help. Climbing a ladder to help roll the gate back up for Brandon. (Or holding the ladder while a student climbs it to get his spitballs off the bathroom ceiling, and then having the follow up conversation with the kid about everything Brandon and Dan do BEFORE, they start to clean up others’ messes.) Subbing in social studies when Josh gets an emergency call. Popping into Hossein’s 8th grade science class to review classroom expectations. Taking the impromptu phone calls and shaking the hands of the unexpected visitors who have concerns to discuss. Heading out to bus duty to support Joe and say goodbye to students. Moving out front to parent pickup and stopping a mother before she leaves to follow up on the situation from the football game (She was happy how we handled it, “sorry for yelling, I don’t need the police involved, I trust you guys.”) Making tough calls to parents (two calls, one to mom and one to dad, they don’t live together) when a kid’s snapchat shows them vaping after school during drama club. Finishing up Alexis’s observation notes (She’s doing great! We’ll meet tomorrow and go over feedback) before presenting our building goals at the board meeting. (Some interesting public comments, as usual.) Reading this back to myself and getting to the point you are at now, I fully acknowledge that any other AP could have written many of the same things. However, it is with genuine joy, and out of respect for our school and community that I do these things and lead by example. Students, staff and parents, can see and feel that I care, and it garners respect and admiration from all types of personalities and places. Bragging about oneself, in my humble opinion, is not a great trait for an AP to have, but I am genuinely proud of the ways that I can see my work influence the lives of others, students and staff alike. The conversations, the thank you’s, the emails, and the notes I get from our school community, are my measurements of how well I can lead and perform my duties.

This has been an incredible start to the 22/23 school year, one of my toughest yet, with a new principal, a new principal’s secretary, as well as front desk, and guidance being new. There have been challenges I couldn’t have predicted, but still somehow feel prepared for. But one of the most rewarding things, that I feel shows my leadership style the best, is having people come up to me, thank me for being here, letting me know that they appreciate what I do for BEMS staff, students, parents, and community, I make them feel calmer, and make them want to continue working here.