On Tuesday I was “Principal for a Day” at Socastee Middle School, and had a blast! It was my first time participating in this event, and I am very glad that I did. Seeing all of the work that goes into educating students from a different perspective was inspiring. I remember my middle school days as a student long, long ago. Two of my three children have been through middle school, so I have also experienced these educational years as a parent. This was my first time seeing a middle school through the eyes of a teacher or administrator, and I have a new respect for those who work in our schools.
My day started just after sunrise, arriving at school before all of the students. I met Socastee Middle School Principal Lisa Melchione in the front office and we briefly went to her office so she could drop off her bag. Mrs. Melchione apologized for her office being messy, but it was not noticed, since we spent hardly any time in the office. Most of our day together was spent on our feet, walking through the school, visiting classes, and attending a couple of meetings.
Principal Melchione loves her community and it shows. She grew up in Socastee and graduated from Socastee High School. She spent ten years teaching at St. James Middle School before becoming assistant principal and instructional coach at Forestbrook Middle School. She was also Assistant Principal at Socastee Elementary before becoming Principal for the Middle School three years ago. Principal Melchione has guided the transition to the new Middle School building, which was just opened to students in August 2018.
As students arrived, bus riders through one door and car riders through another, Mrs. Melchione showed off her brand new school. This was my first time in one of Horry County’s new schools, and it is very impressive! The school is a clean, modern building with lots of open space and glass walls. It gives the feeling of a place where people want to be. The staff enjoys working there, and the students enjoy learning there. The center of the building is a large open space with round and rectangular tables of different sizes and comfortable booths. Students gather here before and after school. This is also where breakfast and lunch are served. I can’t really call it a cafeteria, because it is not a stand alone room. After lunch it was quickly cleaned with no evidence left behind that hundreds of middle schoolers were just eating there.
The library is also an area which is not really its own room. It is an open area with work tables, desks and book shelves. On one side of this open area are the 8th grade classes, and on the other side 7th grade. The classrooms have glass walls which face the library, adding the the open feel of the school. While working on projects, students can sometimes filter out of the classroom and quietly use the library tables in front of their rooms. Just like the open area in the center part of the school, the library has tall two story ceilings, whereby you can see the 6th grade classrooms upstairs.
Mrs. Melchione and I started our day by visiting classrooms. I was immediately impressed with the student ambassadors. Every single time we entered a classroom a student got up as we entered, came toward us, introduced themselves and told us what the class was learning. This allowed the teacher to continue the lesson without interruption, and other students hardly noticed us. I never once felt like we were intruding, or bothering a teacher.
At one point in the day there was an incident. Mrs. Melchione wore a two way radio with an ear piece to communicate with others in the school. While we were walking down the hall, she got a worried look on her face and started running down the hall. Not knowing what was going on, I ran after her. She had received notice of a medical emergency in her earpiece and was one of several people to respond. The student ended up being ok, and was helped to the nurse’s office. As the day was winding down, Mrs. Melchione told me that I was there for a calm day and almost everything went as scheduled, but for her, that is a rare day.
The day was not all walking around. There were meetings with teachers of each grade, going over their curriculum and planning for the future, an organizational meeting for the sports award banquet, and a teacher evaluation. In addition, I was also interviewed by the television broadcasting class, and am excited to be a part of one of their newscasts!
Toward the end of the day I was amazed at how organized the bus loop and car pick up areas were. After dismissal, I attended archery practice where I was given a lesson! We talked with the actors getting ready for The Wizard of Oz play rehearsal, and many students stayed behind for extra tutoring. I left about an hour after school was dismissed, but Principal Melchione said she would stay until after the play rehearsal had ended, which wouldn’t be until 7:30pm or so… a very long, but extremely rewarding day!