Experience the Power of Positive Words

Tom TenBrink, Jenison Public Schools

During each of my twelve years as Superintendent of Jenison Public Schools, I have established a district theme. The purpose behind it is to focus everyone’s attention on a specific area within our large district. I learned long ago that when we target something in our district that needs to be improved upon we are able to get it done if everyone is working together toward the identified cause.

This year, our district theme is “Experience the Power of Positive Words” and it is intended to help our staff keep a positive focus when dealing with all students, but especially those who are under resourced.

Every student deserves to hear positive words spoken to them from the significant adults in their lives.  To help implement the theme, all staff were provided with a list of hundreds of positive words that they were challenged to find a way to integrate in their daily conversations with their students. Staff was also challenged to share this theme with their students and teach them different kinds of positive words that could become a part of their everyday vocabulary.

Having a district theme challenges the JPS staff to reach higher than they thought possible and to make a commitment to making a difference in student’s lives by purposely acting on the reason behind the theme. They are primarily focused on how the adults can better meet the physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs of the children entrusted to our care every single day of the school year.

Past themes for the district have included “The Art of Possibility”, “Together We Are Jenison”, “Find Your Cliff”, “Each one, Reach One” and “Exploring New Horizons”.   In and of themselves the words of these themes seem pretty non-descript, but the power lies in all that happens in sharing this theme with our staff.

During the Opening Day events for teachers, a significant amount of time is set aside to educate staff on the area or topic that is represented by the theme. For example, “Find your Cliff” was a reminder to teachers and staff members to be observant of those students who seem to be alone, friendless, unhappy all the time, and not finding success at school.  The district challenge was for each person to find one student to come alongside of who needed a significant adult in their life who would help them to develop self worth and put a smile on their face.

To keep the theme present and active in each building, posters are created which features the theme. They are presented to all staff members to be displayed prominently in their area of work in the district (i.e. administrative offices, classrooms, lunch rooms, etc.).  In addition, most years I provide monthly reminders that feature quotes that build upon the theme that we are focused on for the year.

This year has been much different than past years. Our district wide emphasis is on the under resourced student. We have done my training with our staff to help them understand what teaching strategies are necessary to help our under resourced students be successful at school. [This is where the poverty simulation at the beginning of the year came into play.]

Every year the JPS staff members appear to be truly excited about the theme that has been chosen for the year.  I know that many of them have made this a point of emphasis in their interaction with their students and are encouraging their students to do the same. Many classrooms are actually building their own list of positive words they want to use.

As we cross the midway point of the school year, it is my hope to finish what we started, STRONG!  And that by the end of the year we will see a change in behavior that will include much more positive communication from adults to students and from students to students.

Thank you to all administrators, teachers and support staff who encourage our students every day with positive words!

Spring Break Means…

…no agenda

laughter in the morning

lazy afternoons

dinner on the patio

evening walks

late bedtimes


Whatever it means to you, we at Jenison Public Schools wishes you safety and wonderful memories in abundance!

See you next week!

~ * ~

Question for the community: What’s your favorite spring break memory or your favorite thing to do on break?

A Navigational Note…

As with many things in life, we are asked to sort through the news we encounter each day, mentally applying the labels of urgent, important, and interesting. And though I’d like to think that everything shared on this blog is newsworthy and important, the fact remains that some things deserve to be highlighted and called out from the crowd; elevated, if you will.

One of the great attributes of this blog is my ability to give special attention to certain stories by placing them in the photo “feature” section on the home page. The stories placed in the feature area can be accessed by clicking on the pictures, but will not mingle with the blog entries found here.

So if you’re new to this site or returning to snoop around, I hope you’ll find all you’re looking for!  Please help to make this a place for community conversation by leaving a comment below.

Better Technology = Better Communication

In this world of instant and constant and everything-at-your-fingertips, it’s become obvious that a monthly newsletter simply does not adequately provide our community with the information needed or desired.

That’s why, after a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to start this blog. With new technology abounding and more ways than ever to access information, this “home base” will serve as a dinner table of sorts: a place to gather ’round and walk through the school year together.

My hope is that this blog will become:

  • a place to access news about JPS
  • a venue for sharing our accomplishments
  • an exhibition hall of our bond-related construction progress
  • a community of sharing and learning together

I humbly ask that it not become:

  • a sounding board for your frustrations
  • a place to speak disrespectfully or unkindly

As with any community, we must extend grace and do our best to listen well.

Please use the subscribe button to the right or add me to your reader, and check back often for updates and photos. I’m excited to join you in the blogosphere!