A day in the life: "Principal for a day" at Benson High School
So this past week, I was invited to participate in "Principal for a day," an annual event that provides community leaders with an opportunity to shadow a principal to learn more about the opportunities that exist in schools throughout Multnomah County. It happened to work out perfectly that the event was on a day that I had off. I took it not only as an opportunity to revisit my old high school, but to take a step into the world of Hoang Pham (brother, teacher of the year, teach for america participant for 3+ years, education policy changer hopeful). So get comfortable, grab some popcorn and brace yourselves for a long post - while I share my day as a principal with you in these next paragraphs through anecdotes and pictures.
My day started off with a conversation in Principal Wilson's office. I was accompanied by Kregg Arnston of PGE. We were briefed on what our day was looking like, and had the opportunity to ask questions before the day started. It was a busy day at Benson, with a scheduled earthquake drill and portland's first Youth Disaster Academy.
Students volunteered to participate in the Disaster Youth Academy, where they were taught how to put out fires with fire extinguishers, and learned about medical triage and how to prioritize victims. I thought it was awesome that they got the opportunity to participate in this event! These were 16 year olds learning how to use a fire extinguisher, I'm well over 17 and still have never used one...
We got a tour of the school, and learned about the changes that have been implemented since I graduated in 2006. We got a chance to visit with a few of the teachers and got to see Benson's unique curriculum first hand. Respecting Principal Wilson's wishes of not taking pictures that identifies students, I tried my best to get good pictures showcasing the awesomeness that makes this high school have such a passionate alumni.
Currently, their PE classes are integrating something new that not only includes physical but also mental health. During our visit we were able to catch students practicing Tai Chi to begin their day. Shortly after we left, they began to run the physical aspect of it, circuit training in the other gym.
We got a chance to explore all of the tech majors, and while I could not take a lot of pictures due to students actively working, it was awesome to see students working with their hands in classes like construction, computer engineering, automotive, manufacturing, photography and graphic/web design.
I was very happy to be able to visit the Health Occupations program, which was the route I chose when I went to Benson High school. I may have been an average student during my time here. Possibly even a below average student :). But the exposure I had to science, the health field, and the teachers along the way laid a strong foundation for me to survive college and dental school, and at the same time balance dancing at the same time.
I was very happy to have run into one of my favorite teachers of all time. She was one of those teachers that you just knew cared about you. This is what makes Benson so awesome - You spend so much time in your "major" that you really get to know your teacher, and vice versa. It was great running into you Ms. Nidermeyer and I'm glad I was able to catch you before your retirement. Enjoy it and thank you for being so awesome!
It was a significant experience for me because I have always believed that Benson's unique curriculum helped me survive the path I took after HS graduation. Having conversations with Principal Wilson gave me a deeper understanding and clearer perspective on education that I would have never had. Thank you to Thuy Phan for inviting me to participate and Principal Wilson for taking the time out of your busy day to entertain us.
- Hieu Pham, DMD
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For more information about "Principal for a day" check out http://allhandsraised.org
To participate in next year's "Principal for a day" contact Thuy Phan - firstname.lastname@example.org