What We Learned from Mrs. Landry
Our schools have persevered through one of the most challenging school years. We have worked together to teach our students in person, virtually, or even both at the same time. We have covered grade level content standards while also working to grow each child, regardless of where they started the school year. This all culminated in the publication of our simulated school scores for the 2020-2021 school year, and we saw what we have always known – the more time students have with a teacher, the better they perform. As we begin this new calendar year, we have the opportunity to improve our student achievement like never before.
Throughout our careers, educators have administered standardized assessments. While these have informed us about some of the progress our students are making, there are many things that these assessments simply cannot capture. Our teachers have a tremendous impact on the futures of our students by also teaching invaluable lessons. One of those exemplary teachers who taught her students more than could ever be assessed was my high school band director, Mrs. Claudia Landry.
Even though I graduated from Walker High School twenty-five years ago, the respect all of her students have for Mrs. Landry prevents us from calling her by any other name. She embodied so much that was right in education and is still located in our great state. Below are some of the lessons that I learned from Mrs. Landry and while they cannot be found on any assessment, mastering them made them who I am.
Be smooth through rough times.
The reason a marching band has a steady sound and doesn’t make music that jumps with every step is because of the way they are taught to walk. The musicians “roll heel to toe” with each step to even out their movement. During one practice Mrs. Landry told us over her bullhorn that, just like the field we were practicing on, life would not always be perfectly smooth. It is how we respond that matters. Paul Landry, Mrs. Landry’s husband, recently told me that nothing really ruffled her feathers. If it did, it never showed and was just temporary.
With that attitude, you are right.
One morning Mrs. Landry asked me if I was going to try out for an honor band, and I replied, “No, I probably wouldn’t make it anyway.” Her response has resonated with me ever since: “Well, with that attitude you won’t make it. You have already decided if you are going to make it or not; it’s always been up to you.” How profound is that? When we decide that something can be done and we will not stop for any reason, we find a way to make it happen. Whether it is through personal or professional goals, we often decide our own success before we begin. Can I really reach that student or lead a school to grow all of the students – yes, I can, because I have already decided.
Do it right.
As we froze during 6am practice or melted during after school rehearsal, our best was expected at all times. If it was worth being there in those conditions, it was worth doing it right. Mrs. Landry would inform us when something was not to her expectations. I can’t say we always appreciated that feedback, but we would do it again, over and over, until we were out of time or we met her expectations. That constant work is what our educators do across our state. We give our best to our students and colleagues, reflect on how it went (usually a bit too overcritical of ourselves), and then come back for more the next day. The magic that happens in education is not by accident, it is the result of our focus to get it right.
Leave things better than you found them.
Each of us will leave a legacy with people and places. Our interactions with students, coworkers, and colleagues shape everyone involved. As educators and people who care about other people, our responsibility is to leave things better than we found it. We work together to lift up our kids, coworkers, and community. No matter where we go or how long we are there, we are impacting the lives of those around us, especially in education. What an amazing privilege it is to be in this profession.
We lost Mrs. Landry on October 2, 2021. When I made it to the front of the line at her funeral, I wanted to tell her husband that his wife meant the world to me, that my life would be less if I had never met her, that I learned so much from her, and that she was the educator I strived to be. But all I could get out was that I was a former student. Mr. Landry gratefully pat me on the back and said that many students had come by, and she would have been so happy to be with us. In truth, she has been with us and will forever be as we carry out the lessons she taught us.
Dr. Jeremy Muse
2022 Louisiana Middle School Principal of the Year
Lake Elementary School, Ascension Parish