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Listening and learning: a recap of Tennison’s first year

Mr.+Tennison+in+Japan+with+Lane+students+and+Ichiro+Ozawa%2C+Japan%E2%80%99s+current+President+of+the+Liberal+Party.+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Arturo+Tapia%29.
Mr. Tennison in Japan with Lane students and Ichiro Ozawa, Japan’s current President of the Liberal Party. (Photo Courtesy of Arturo Tapia).

Mr. Tennison in Japan with Lane students and Ichiro Ozawa, Japan’s current President of the Liberal Party. (Photo Courtesy of Arturo Tapia).

Mr. Tennison in Japan with Lane students and Ichiro Ozawa, Japan’s current President of the Liberal Party. (Photo Courtesy of Arturo Tapia).

By Morgan Alexander

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“What’s my biggest accomplishment?” Mr. Tennison said. “Well I’m still here and not going to another job.”

Thus ends the streak of Lane principals leaving for Deerfield.

Tennison started his first year as Lane’s principal late August after being selected by the Local School Council (LSC). Before coming to Lane, Tennison worked at Whitney Young, Von Steuben, and Taft High Schools.

To transition into a new school environment, Tennison tried to experience all aspects of Lane.

“I’ve tried to get around to see classroom instruction,” Tennison said. “I’ve tried to meet students. I’ve tried to go to as many athletic events and music events and art shows and theater productions.”

Tennison also recently traveled to Japan with a group of Lane students in an international field trip.

Keeping this in mind, in his first year as principal, he stressed the idea of listening and learning.

“Because I came in right before the school year started, my goal was really to come into the building and watch and listen,” Tennison said. “Figure out what was going really well. Figure out what could be improved.”

The importance he has stressed on listening has been recognized by LSC Student Representative Colman Adams, Div. 778.

“I think Mr. Tennison has really been doing a good job,” Adams said. “He’s been listening to students, teachers, parents, and community members.”

Tennison wanted to hold off on making any large changes until he fully understood the atmosphere of Lane. One thing he immediately noticed was Lane’s school spirit.

“There’s a whole lot of pride here,” Tennison said. “Probably even more than I have experienced at any other school.”

He credited Lane students with having their school pride stem from within, rather than most schools who are prideful when in competition with other schools.

“There is a culture of kind of participating in that circle of pride,” Tennison said. “You know, I’ve always experienced kids from schools and they would react to other schools. We have that but there’s also just the pride of being in the building.”

Tennison said he plans on using this summer as his time to analyze what he’s witnessed at Lane. Some topics that are on the table are the roles of assistant principals and what they oversee, the continuation of transitioning to the SAT, and new class ideas, especially in the computer science department.

“We’re starting an incubation class in the computer science department,” Tennison said. “Product development.”

Adams added that he believes Tennison makes his decisions as team decisions. He wants to focus on this teamwork and implement it into the classroom.

“I think he’s a big believer in making sure the staff have the resources to teach and to learn and to become better teachers, so he really wants to focus on staff training,” Adams said.

The main place Tennison sees the need for improvement is how Lane handles the big, deeper discussions.

“I think we as a school can deepen our conversations with each other, in terms of how we treat each other,” Tennison said.

He decided it was necessary to not put this observation on hold until the following year. He began improvements on this subject this year by creating the Student Relations Committee. The job of this committee is to make sure everyone in the school community feels accepted by tackling social issues inside the school.

Another idea Tennison decided to implement this year was making no homework over breaks a Lane rule.

“I think the thing that I was really proud of in terms of a community was taking a homework holiday,” Tennison said. “I thought that was a really good thing because if we don’t take breaks, I don’t know how to allow our brains to continue to churn out work.”

Tennison’s goal when making decisions for next year is “for students not to experience any kind of sense that there’s cuts.” The budget cuts were immense this year and he struggles with the fact he wishes to give Lane more than he realistically can.

“I thought for the School of Champions to not have working scoreboards is kind of a big deal. So, we have new scoreboards,” Tennison said. “That flexibility is going to be taken away from me… I think that’s the hardest thing; knowing that something should be done but not having the money to do it and you should have the money to do it. It’s hard because how do you explain that.”

Looking back at his first year, Tennison is still in awe to have the opportunity to be at Lane.

“I still have to wake myself sometimes,” Tennison said. “I can’t believe when I’m driving up to this school, I’m the principal here. It’s not just a big school, it’s a great school.”

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Listening and learning: a recap of Tennison’s first year