Matanzas principal on listening to students, and the ‘magic’ of making a difference
Jeff Reaves, principal at Matanzas High School, was walking on campus one day in February when a student stopped him.
“Mr. Reaves, I’ll be at the track meet on March 3. Can you be there to watch me run?”
He sees interactions like this as a sign that students on his campus feel that their voice is being heard.
“Whatever events are going on in the world, they need to feel like they can come and talk,” he said. “I treat them like they’re my own. ... We clear the schedule, and we sit down and talk. If they know you’re there in the small things, they know you’re there in the big things.”
Reaves and his staff also had a meeting in February to discuss the results of a survey that asked open-ended questions about 1) student life, 2) school sports and 3) academics, to gauge whether students feel connected and supported on campus. From the survey, Reaves now knows that students feel their classes are challenging, but they also know that tutoring is available. Students would also like to see more activities where students and teachers interact more.
“We’re constantly talking to our students about ways to get them involved,” Reaves said. He added, “The greater they’re connected and feel like their voice counts, the more engaged they’ll be not just in class, but in campus life and the community.”
He said his students aren’t necessarily afraid after the Parkland shooting, but he does assure them that “things are going to be OK.”
And one way he does that is to take time away from his own personal life and drive to a track meet, just because one student asked him.
“I feel honored, I really do, when students want to include you in their lives,” he said. “I think that’s pretty magical, when you know you’re making a difference in a person’s life. Teachers do a marvelous job of that every day.”