As I was dealing with a difficult student today, I thought of Mr. Kornder.
Mr. Kornder was our elementary school principal. He was also one of my three grade six teachers. I’m pretty sure he taught us Science and Phys. Ed. We were not an easy group to teach. I’m sure there were a few cases of undiagnosed ADHD (it hadn’t been discovered yet), there were students with learning difficulties, some of the boys were difficult and some of us girls loved drama…
Mr. Kornder had previously taught junior high and every year he took his junior high students on a five day field trip to Jasper. The year he taught us grade six was no different. A group of teachers and parents (all of whom I am sure are still recovering), set off with a group of around 45 pre-adolescent kids for five days of fun and learning! The two times I remember “learning” on the trip were when Mrs. Stefura marched up and down the isle of the bus telling us to complete pages in our handouts about the history of Jasper and when she reminded us that Mrs. Adair insisted we complete our daily journal entries. I also remember the canoe trip on Pyramid Lake, Capture the Flag at the hostel, Mr. Kornder pulling a classmate out of crevice at the ice fields (true story), stopping at a roadside waterfall spring and finally, the bus breaking down on our way home making us three hours late. This trip was one of my most memorable moments of school. We loved Mr. Kornder! He was high energy, he was fun and we knew he cared about each of us. The next year, we transfered to a junior high school, leaving Mr. Kornder behind.
The summer we were moving into grade 10, Mr. Kornder was transfered to our high school. The next three years would pass in a blur. But, Mr. Kornder was always a constant. Mr. Kornder knew each of us. He took the time to establish relationships. He coached the boys football and he chatted with the girls in the hallways. He attended sporting events, band concerts and school plays. He was tough in that he had high expectations for each one of us. If we made a mistake or a poor choice, we knew we would have to face his disappointment. Once, after I got caught for skipping a few classes (I can’t say how many, I don’t ever want my children to find out:)), I was worried about my parent’s reaction, but they had to love me no matter what! I remember feeling terrible about disappointing Mr. Kornder with my poor judgement.
Back to the difficult student…and why I thought of Mr. Kornder…
We were at a school dance, just hanging around outside the gym, not dancing :) when a boy from another high school and his friends tried to get into the dance. They had obviously been partaking in some beverages before coming to the school and Mr. Kornder was denying them access to the dance. We stood by and watched the exchange (high school girls also love drama). Mr. Kornder remained calm, repeatedly asking them to leave. One of the boys became quite upset and punched Mr. Kornder in the face knocking him into the ground.
A few weeks later, that same boy, the one who punched our principal in the face, was permitted to enrol in our high school, by the man whom he punched. Mr. Kornder did not have to allow him to attend our school, but he did. He could of said, “Nope, not in my school…” and moved on, but he didn’t. Mr. Kornder’s actions spoke loudly to the students in our school.
Mr. Kornder taught me so much more than I can even begin to write about. His lesson in forgiveness and second chances I will never forget. Kids are kids. Students deserve second chances, do-overs and re-dos. Not only on their school work, but in their choices.
When I deal with a difficult or challenging student, I remind myself of Mr. Kornder’s example. I hope to encourage students to make better choices, to learn from their mistakes. How can I help and support a student to be the best possible person they can be? I could be wrong, but I believe this is how Mr. Kornder lived out his career.
I have often thought about writing Mr. Kornder to thank him for what he taught me and how he influenced me. It just never happened, until now… Thank you Mr. Kornder for being a true inspiration! Your dedication and passion for kids inspired me to become a teacher and later an administrator. I aspire to live up to your example! I hope you know you have made an incredible difference!