Schutz speaks to the young students about personal responsibility and the school climate. He says he's still acclimating to the new school.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Vice Principal Jacob Schutz welcomed the class of 2024 to the middle-high school on Wednesday, even as the Mount Greylock community continued to welcome Schutz back to the United States.
Schutz addressed the 120-member class of seventh-graders in a midday meeting in the school's gymnasium, on his third day back after serving a year in the National Guard.
"I've been at Mount Greylock for five or six years," he told the 12- and 13-year-olds by way of introduction. "I was gone last year. I was deployed to Afghanistan with a NATO mission. I worked with guys from Britain, Australia, Romania, Czechoslovakia. It was a great experience.
"But it's even better to be back."
In their own way, the middle schoolers helped Schutz get back into the swing of things. Nobody asked him to talk more about his experiences overseas; they were more interested in asking about the school's policy for handling suspensions from school bus access or how Schutz could help handle congestion in a particular stairwell in the new three-story academic wing.
After the meeting, Schutz said he is just getting used to the renovations and additions at the new Mount Greylock himself.
"It was weird on a couple of fronts," he said of his feelings on returning to the school on Monday. "On the building front, it was very unfamiliar. I got here a little early, and when I get here, there's not many people here. I had stopped by the night before to drop off a couple of boxes, but I didn't really get to explore the building. It's still unfamiliar.
"But as soon as the staff started rolling in and the kids got here, that's familiar. And that's nice. That's normal."
Schutz said he is taking a crawl-walk-run approach to the first couple of weeks back on the job.
"The first two days was walking around, saying hi, seeing where people are, learning the building," he said. "And then the next phase I'm going to start tomorrow, the walk phase, dealing with more of the things that I normally do: student issues, bus issues. And then the next week, the week after, I'll get back into the run phase and be familiar with everything.
"I left myself good notes, an old job description with a checklist for everything I do: homelessness coordinator, court liaison, everything."
One item that usually gets checked off about three months sooner each year is a meeting like Wednesday's when Schutz talked about the concepts of personal responsibility and school climate.
"It's constant reinforcement," he said. "As you can see, they have tons of energy, so, like anything, you want to keep driving home the points. And we do it with the older kids, too.
"But the more we drive home 'The Greylock Way,' eventually, by their high school career, they get it and they start living it, and they're the role models."
Schutz is having class meetings this week with all six grades.
With the school's youngest class, he talked about the transition from elementary school and the freedom that comes along with it.
"We talk about respect for yourself and respect for others," he told the seventh-graders. "You guys get a lot of privileges because we think you can handle it. We think you can handle changing for class on your own and staying on the right side [of the hall], for example. We think you can handle using your cell phone between classes.
"As you progress from middle school to high school, you'll get more of those privileges. But you have to handle them responsibly. If you don't, that's where I step in."
One of his many roles at the school is that of the disciplinarian. And Schutz agreed that his military service, most recently with NATO's Operation Resolute Support helping train the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, probably helps him fill that role.
"I think it gives me a perspective of the strict side," he said. "But my background is in special education, so I think I have the complete opposite perspective as well -- realizing that everyone's unique. … Sometimes you do need to be strict, and other times you don't, you need to be more lenient.
"What I think I told them in there is what I try to do is be as consistent as possible, knowing that everybody's different. There are certain things that we don't have zero tolerance for, per se, but we don't tolerate, and there are certain consequences that match certain behaviors. But there's always a gray area. That's the art of it, being able to figure out what's best for the kid in that situation and what tone it's going to set with the rest of the students and the school community.
"So I think I have perspective on both sides, which helps me kind of meet in the middle."
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