I used to call it the Pepsi Guy Test, but then we switched soft drink providers. Here's how the test works:
- The Coke Guy shows up to stock the pop machines, check the money boxes, and leave a supply of pop for the Booster Club's concession stand.
- He does this at lunch time, when the lunch room is filled with talkative, active, at-their-most-relaxed-and-natural-state teenagers.
- This means he inevitably has to move through small pockets of students with his cart, has to leave the money bag lying on the floor while he fumbles with his large key ring, has to find a way to keep the main door propped open while he trucks in dozens of pop bottles.
Will he drop off the invoice, mutter a brief "thanks" and scuttle out the door, as if he's trying to get out before anything worse happens? Or, will he take a minute to let the secretary know how friendly the kids were, and how they visited with him while he was in the lunch room and offered to hold the door for him?
I thought about this test recently, sitting with a team of teachers who were helping interview candidates for a teaching vacancy at our school. Toward the end of the interview, one candidate began asking questions of the teachers, questions like, "What do you want students to have learned when they graduate?" and, "What do you enjoy most about working at N-K?"
This was it: a variation on the Coke Guy Test. What would my teachers say to this person about our school? Would they be honest, while I was in the same room with them? Should I leave so they could fully disclose their true feelings?
When someone from the outside world experiences what life is like in our school, it gives principals a chance to see--through a fresh set of eyes--how things are going. Are our kids as friendly as I think they are? Are our staff as helpful and cooperative as they seem to me? Does our school shine with as much optimism and achievement as I think it does?
And then it came. The teachers answered, truthfully. "We're blessed with good kids. The parents in the community, and the community as a whole, support our school. They want to help. Most of our staff have been here a long time--they raise their families here. We support and look out for one another, and want what's best for our students. We are encouraged to try new things, to take risks if it helps learning."
It was affirming when I heard what they had to say. No day is perfect, but most of them come pretty close, if one maintains the right attitude. Cooperatively, daily, we are working together to get the highest grade possible on The Test, because doing so means that we are successfully maintaining an environment in which good character and right treatment of one another is the norm.
So when I heard what these teachers had to say, I smiled. Isn't that what everyone does when they look at the test they just got back and see an "A" at the top?