Lectionary Year A
April 28, 2002
Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.
Knowing Their Names
When Hector Lopez told his wife he had been appointed as principal of an elementary school, she was as surprised as he was. He had been one of the few male elementary teachers in the district and was recognized as one of the best. But he had no experience in administration, and going directly from the classroom to principal was a step for which he wasn't quite prepared.
"Maybe they chose you because nobody else would take the job," his wife joked as they discussed the matter. "You are going to accept the job, aren't you?" she continued.
"Of course, I'm going to accept it," Hector responded, "and I'm not really concerned why they offered it to me. I think it's an honor, and I'm eager to get on with it."
His wife gave him a warm hug and said, "I'm proud too that you have been selected, and I know you'll do a great job."
But not everyone thought so. Not because of Hector, but because of the school. Located in a seedy area of the city, the school was loaded with problems. Teacher morale was low, discipline was a major problem, and many of the fifth and sixth graders already had a history of trouble making. Hector's first task was relatively easy - learning the name of his teachers and support staff, plus additional information about each of them that he thought would be helpful in his work with them.
His second task was much more formidable. He announced to his teachers and staf that he wanted to learn the names of all the students in his school. "A lot of good that will do," some of the teachers grumbled privately. "It's going to take more than learning the names of the kids to get this school into shape." Even Hector's secretary had her doubts. "Mr. Lopez, there are over 600 students in this school,"she reminded him.
"I know," Hector replied. "But that's one of them most important things I intend to do - I want to know these kids. Part of the problem might be that they live in a big anonymous society where nobody knows them. In any case, I want the list of all the students by their classes so I can familiarize myself with them."
After the fall term started Hector stood at one of the exits each day - with one teacher at a time, having the teacher him in attaching faces to the names he had been studying. "Who's that little guy, looks like an Asian?" Hector would ask. "And help me again with those twins - I always get them mixed up."
And so it went, day after day. It was a tedious process, but after a while as the students heard Hector greet them by name, he would be rewarded with a big appreciative smile, or a quick wave of the hand and "'Bye Mr. Lopez, see you tomorrow." By Thanksgiving he knew more than half the students' names, and was beginning to make believers of his teachers.
On the final day of classes before Christmas vacation, Hector stood at the main exit waiting for the rush of departing students. But instead of piling out headlong into the streets, students had formed a long impatient line at the door. Hector was greeting them all by name, giving them high-fives, and wishing them a Merry Christmas in as many as four languages.
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