It isn't just nurses or doctors who have a healing touch. We all have the power to make someone feel better, and I was able to witness that firsthand on Wednesday at Indian Valley Middle School.
It was the first day of school and one that was filled with a myriad of emotions for students. Thankfully, the staff members at IVMS - like at all schools throughout the Juniata Valley - were prepared to offer a little TLC of their own to help kick off the 2008-2009 school year.
The staff there certainly knows how to put out the welcome mat. My daughter, Angelea, is starting sixth grade at IVMS. As I walked Angelea and her friend, Destiny, to the school's front doors, the girls were greeted by a very tall, smiling staff member. This teacher, dressed in a polished white polo shirt, seemed to know what he had to do - encourage two young, nervous girls through the doors.
With a confident voice and a winning smile, the teacher asked Destiny, "Are you in sixth grade?" A little voiced responded, "Yes." He instructed her to "go on in." Destiny entered the wide double doors and blended into the crowd.
Then it was Angelea's turn. "Sixth grader?" he asked, his eyes twinkling at a little girl who had applied light pink lip gloss for the first day. She nodded, "Yes." "Go on in," he instructed.
Before I even had a chance to snap a picture, there she went, my little girl, confidently walking through the door into a busy abyss. She gave not one look back.
"Good grief," I thought. In an instant, it had happened. Transition to middle school had begun, and like millions of other mothers and fathers, I felt the butterflies in my stomach suddenly ease.
The teacher who helped make that happen for my child is Brent Hartman, an industrial education teacher.
I was still standing there amazed at his tact, and then I recalled my "second assignment of the day," taking school photos for The Sentinel. I dangled the camera hanging on my arm in front of Hartman. "I'm here to take a few back-to-school pictures for The Sentinel," I said.
He escorted me to Mark Crosson, the principal, who was busy managing the traffic and answering multiple questions from every direction. He did it all with a smile. I had met Crosson before at the IVMS orientation, and I was impressed at that time with his genuine attitude and well-mannered approach. No doubt, his focus is the kids.
So it was no surprise when Crosson showed the same cordial attitude when I arrived with a camera. He already knew I was scheduled to be there, so he directed me to the school office for a visitor's pass. Despite how busy the office personnel were, I received my pass in an efficient, organized and kind manner, another bonus in this well-oiled system.
After I left the office, I observed my surroundings, trying to determine which way to begin. As I took pictures, my mind wandered back to the time I was managing editor for my high school newspaper.
Journalism obviously never left my system and, to this day, it impacts my work as a health care provider. As I walked through the halls snapping photos of students at lockers and in their homerooms, I thought of my high school journalism teacher and my nursing mentor. It's been interesting how these two facets have blended into a successful career.
I began to think to think about the teachers who will be influential in my child's life. I was impressed by the cooperation of the teachers and students who made "my job" a little easier. One homeroom after the other, I observed teachers who were focused on the work at hand. Like all good teachers, they made expectations clear.
I snapped photos of happy faces, busy faces, excited faces, anxious faces and cooperative faces. Students and teachers helped me by writing down some of the students' names, since I was a bit anxious starting my day.
Then, I thought about all kids across America who are anxious about starting school this week or next. I thought about how anxiety can affect your work and what you remember, and I was grateful to the IVMS staff for making my child's first day a happy one.
Preparing to leave, I saw a teacher in the hallway. I asked if I could take her picture with notebooks and papers in hand. She requested students be included, too, because she said, "Students are the focus."
True to her word, she entered one of the homerooms and politely explained my role to the class. She asked the children to stand, smoothly raising her hands like a conductor directing an orchestra. The students stood in unison, quietly and respectfully. She gathered all the smiling students around her, and I fit as many as I could into the photo.
After the picture, I asked her to tell me who she was. She said, "The assistant principal."
Her name is Christina Short, and she guided me to a nearby area where we chatted a bit.
I realized there is a common thread between the health care industry and the educational system, and in schools like IVMS. Professionals in these fields all have the ability to make someone more comfortable, to become better, to grow stronger in who we are mentally and physically.
It's also good to know that we can build on the past contributions of those teachers who have given our children the gift of wings and the confidence to move forward to the next grade. IVMS proved that we all have the power to make someone feel better.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by Mount Nittany Medical Center and West Virginia University Medical Center.