Be A Pedro

Who makes the greatest impact on the culture of a school?

Whoever is determined to! Regardless of title or position.

You do not need a title to be a leader, a positive force in your school.

Anyone can make a difference for kids.

It is all too easy to waste time being frustrated over decisions we cannot make, those decisions that affect us, that we allow to consume us.  

  • The principal did not let me know about the upcoming assembly.  
  • They are making us use this new reading program.
  • My prep was cut short today because of a PD session that ran over.
  • The copy machine is broken….again.

It is easy to let things we cannot control upset us. The mistakes, or perceived mistakes, of others can destroy our day. It’s a challenge to focus our efforts on the decisions we do get to make. We can choose to say hello to colleagues and students with a smile, even if we have not had that first cup of coffee.  We can choose to accept the mistakes of others and the tricks the universe plays on us.

We can choose to get angry when things do not go the way we envisioned them or we can embrace the fact that we get to experience spontaneity.   

We can choose to look at things through our personal lense or be humble and reflect on sonder and come to the realization that decisions others make, 99.9% of the time, have nothing to do with us. We can face that fact that we are just not all that important and stop taking things so personal.  

We can choose to be positive.

We can choose to improve the day of those we come in contact with.  

We can choose to be “that person”  who comes to mind when their school is mentioned.  The type of person who defines a school.

We can choose to define our school as a welcoming, friendly, kind place.  One where students feel safe, parents feel welcome, and staff members feel happy.  

We can choose to be a Pedro.

What is a Pedro?

I first met Pedro when he was working as a substitute custodial worker in our central office.  

Pedro came up to me in the hallway and, with his infectious smile, shook my hand and told me how much he liked my office.  He went on to explain that he put extra care in cleaning it because he noticed I had been staying late and spending a lot of time in there. He wanted it to be nice and clean since I spent so much time in the office.

He also told me how much he liked my office, how nice I had decorated it, how the plants and pictures made it feel professional and welcoming at the same time.  

His compliment was timely.  I had just been scolded by my cranky friend and our business official at the time for putting too many holes in the walls hanging pictures. He must have caught me on the wrong day because I went back at him, passionately explaining all the reasons why I wanted my office to feel like home.

He was a bit taken aback because I never had challenged him like that before.  He just smirked and, in his thick Boston accent, explained “Nobody is going to congratulate ya for having a nice aaffice.”

I couldn’t wait to tell him, “Guess what? Pedro appreciates my office!”

He wasn’t going to let me have my victory that easily. “Who the hell is Pedro?”

When I explained, he assured me the compliment was an attempt to get the inside track at a full time position.  

It seemed like Jim had the last word and he was right in this instance as he is in most.  

Except, this time he wasn’t…

I saw Pedro around the District over the next few months. He always made a point to say hello, to smile. He always seemed to be working and working while whistling a tune.    

But as life goes, I forgot about Pedro until I ran into him, or, more accurately, he ran into me. I was taking one of my 10 trips of the day to the bathroom, head buried in my phone when I noticed an object coming at me with startling speed.

I looked up to see a man charging at me, arms out flailing.  I quickly wondered who I had pissed off and if my back would hold up after the inevitable throw down with this guy.

As soon as his arms wrapped around me in a giant bear hug, I realized who it was. Pedro had tears in his eyes and explained that he had been hired permanently. His pride was apparent.  He promised he would be the best cleaner in the entire country and would not let us down.

The thing is sometimes people lose enthusiasm; they lose that appreciation that they once felt. Dream jobs becomes work, making a difference becomes a burden.  I have been told that if you live with a beautiful view of the ocean for long enough it starts to blend into the background.

I assumed this would happen with Pedro.

Yet, with Pedro it hasn’t. A week rarely goes by without someone telling me a Pedro story or me getting a hug from Pedro.

It is a great place to work when the Assistant Superintendent is greeted not with a handshake, not with a high five, but with a bone crushing hug each time he sees a custodian.  How can that not bring a little joy to your day, how can you not smile when you see how happy this man is to come to work each day? How can that not make me want to be better?

Pedro has been known to match his shirts with his shoes, something the kids at his elementary school look forward to spotting each day.  The more outrageous the color, the better. Yet, that is not the only costume he has donned this year.

I was in shock when I realized a rather large child dressed as a penguin in the Halloween parade. It turned out to be the one and only Pedro. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t Pedro’s shift; he just wanted to be part of the special day for the students.  

As a teacher and principal you receive some of the most touching and heartfelt gifts from students and staff members. Those gifts dry up when you become the “they” from central office.  That is what made the ties that Pedro hand delivered to me this holiday season even more special. The ties he picked out where not just any old ties; they were ones he thought I would like based on the type of shirts and suits I wear.  He was right; I love them and wear them proudly!

It was no surprise when Pedro decorated his custodial closet for the school’s door decorating contest. He was visibly upset when his decorations were damaged. When his students, and yes he sees them as his students, found out Pedro was upset, they not only fixed the door, they went one step further by giving him individualized valentines cards.  

When someone is as friendly, kind, and positive as Pedro our cynicism kicks in.  We wonder if it is a show.

It was confirmed for me that in this case it was, in fact, not a show.  I was reviewing security footage involving an incident I was investigating. While looking at the footage, I couldn’t help but notice Pedro. Did I find Pedro goofing off in the video?  Nope, what I saw was Pedro greeting students, giving high fives, smiles and hugs. It didn’t matter that his shift was over.

Anyone can make a difference in a school, in a classroom, in a home, pretty much anywhere, and it is not about what position you hold.  

I have come to realize that attitude and outlook are so much more important than title. Those special people like Pedro can make things better just by being the positive, grateful people they are.  

I want to be a Pedro everyday when I come to work. I want to be a force, a phenomenon that brings light to a dark day, that brings joy to the mundane, that makes people smile.  

Unfortunately, I am not there yet. But, the good news is I have Pedro and many other “Pedros” in my District serving as examples of what it takes to make a true difference.

Be a Pedro

Be generous with hugs and smiles
Always see the glass as half full
Get involved, even if it is not your thing
Be thankful for what you have, upset about what you don’t
Dress up
Take pride in what you do
Be unforgettable
Make the most out of each day
Be proud of your school
Remember it is always, always about the kids
Try to make everyone else’s day a little better because they met you


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