From the desk of Dr. Tuin, THS Principal

September 17, 2021

In the shortened week, anticipation built looking forward to the Homecoming and 100 Year festivities. Today will be an outdoor assembly, tonight the football game (with pregame and halftime ceremonies to honor former and current Tillers), tomorrow the Centennial Picnic and finally the dance tomorrow night. During the week, students and adults dressed according to the themes assigned for each day. There were also several cases of students asking other students to the homecoming dance. The heat didn’t seem to oppress the spirit of the week a bit.

Along with that reality, I also saw signs of some students struggling. We sometimes forget we are coming off of one of the most challenging periods in our country's history. Anxiety, stress and even depression gained a grip on some over the long separation, and being back at school is just emotionally difficult for some. We acknowledge that reality as well, and are working to find ways to support our students emotionally and academically. We have work to do.

We knew coming into this year, we would have some special work ahead of us. We intentionally picked three areas of focus which we believe will go a long way in both closing the academic gap which grew over COVID and supporting our students emotionally in their return to school. Supporting our EL students, maximizing our interventions and implementing restorative practices were identified as our target, important for supporting our students and helping to get them established, connected and learning.

We held a monthly faculty PD session on Wednesday morning before students arrived. All three areas mentioned above were part of the agenda. It was during that meeting I tried to point out strengths as a community, and also areas to grow. Some of what I shared came directly from students, as I believe listening to our students provides important insight on how we are doing in our efforts to grow and support them.

I try to listen to adults and students each week, and considering the topics at our faculty meeting, I received some student input that was particularly encouraging. One conversation occurred passing from one period to the next. I found myself walking next to a young man about my height. When I asked him his grade, I was surprised to hear he was a senior. This is only because I didn’t remember seeing him in past years. It turned out he transferred from another school. I learned that at his other school, he didn’t feel connected or even accepted. Although speaking didn’t seem to be something he was completely comfortable with, especially with the principal, we raved about his Tustin High School experience. He talked about how he joined his first club and people have been so accepting and understanding.

Just the next day, I met two sisters who recently transferred to Tustin High School. They both shared a similar experience of meeting new people, making friends and feeling a sense of belonging. That is exactly what we hope for with our students. It was great to receive some genuine feedback from students revealing their growth as a result of becoming a Tiller.

Those two conversations were incredibly encouraging, but didn’t even prepare me for an email I received from a teacher passing on some written thoughts from his students. It was obvious from reading their words that gaining complete command of the English language was still needed. However, in their awkward English, yet genuine English, they expressed some powerful messages of connection and acceptance. I often say I am proud to be a Tiller, but never more than reading these thoughts from some of our most vulnerable students. I thought it would be good to share a few quotes as we approach not only a week of celebration, but also one of remembrance as well. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. This terrible event showed the dangers of a disconnected world. It was also a time when our country became hyper focused on being connected to family, friends and community. Some very brave people died protecting others. It was a tragic event that brought out the best in people. As you read some of these quotes, think about the impact our community is having on our students. What a great reminder of how important our work is. We still have much to learn and ways to grow. However, this is also a special place because of special people, our adults and students.

“It (Tustin HS) makes me feel comfortable because I got so much people here I know and love. And I feel connected here by people I know for so long and feels like home to me.”

“At school there is many students, many activities and events to be involved in. Many things you say to your friends. Never lonely, always people around. Always school spirit and things you can see at assemblies. Talented people like the dance team and great athletes like the football and basketball team. People laughing in the hallways with their friends. Always people helping one another.”

“A place I feel at home is school everyday, is like going home. you expect everything. we attend for 12 years. knowing the struggles, just like being lost in the ocean as the waves crash into us.”

“Teachers, classmates and people at my school make me feel connected to my school. What I mean by connected to my school. Teachers teach me with understanding by not laughing at me when I am speaking, due to the fact that I am learning English. Classmates are people that gives confidence, I can talk with them about anything and they will understand me. Activities in my school also makes me belong to it. . . What I mean I can be me is that I don’t have to hide something, I can be free, by showing where I come from about my culture, thoughts, and emotions”

I look forward to celebrating this weekend, honoring our former Tillers and highlighting our current ones. It is a special week, and great to be a Tiller.

Go Tillers!

Dr. Jon Tuin

Tustin High School Principal

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