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National Principals Month - PVC
As we continue to celebrate National Principals Month, PVC Principal Michael Plotkin tells us about why he's an educator, what he enjoys doing outside of school, and why being at PVC is his dream job.
Q. When did you decide that you wanted to be an educator?
I decided to become an educator in 1993 when I was called to be long term substitute in social studies at Madison HS in Brooklyn NY. After a week, I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved helping students navigate the challenges of live--academic and personal.
Q. Did you have a favorite subject when you were a student?
I liked English, history and the sciences but, for me, it was mostly about the teacher. A teacher with high energy and one that valued relationships with students was the one from whom I learned the most. And I was fortunate to have had many great teachers! But, it is important to recognize that a lot of learning occurs outside of school, too. My Boy Scout summer camp experience taught me to rely on myself and not be afraid to take risks. The most important and resounding lesson for me was that strength was a mindset and not just a physical attribute.
Q. Middle school is widely considered 'the toughest phase' for students. What makes you enjoy your role?
Have you spent anytime with PVC's students? They are warm, respectful and curious. They take people for who they are and what they invest into the relationships with them. They do not care for pretensions and are looking for answers that can only be found in true engagement with other human beings. I was a high school teacher and thought I had found my dream job until I came to PVC. When you help a child and their family navigate through one of the most turbulent times of a young person's life, you know that you have made a contribution to the world.
Q. Do you have a philosophy that resonates with you and helps guide how you approach your job?
The philosophical underpinnings that drive me are very much part of a holistic philosophy of life. Do not waste a moment of life worrying or being idle. Live life to the fullest however you can. Strive to have a mindset that finds joy in misery (if you can) and spread kindness and love wherever you possibly can. This has served me well, as I am at a stage of life that I have become resilient to setbacks and adversity. If I struggle with something, I regard it is a growth experience that I will ultimately relish and appreciate.
Q. How have you and your family managed through the past several months?
I have four children and consider myself ‘a parent under construction.’ I recognize my faults and explain to my kids that we all have them and need to work on them. I allow my children to struggle with the normal stuff of life because I know in the end it will make them stronger, resilient and successful and humble. Our family has been pretty upbeat during the pandemic because we talk about it and have open discussions about feelings of frustration and disappointment. We also reflect on what life was like prior to the pandemic and how there have been benefits to being together more and not taking small stuff (health and laughter) for granted. We also go on many hikes together and discuss politics, religion and all the other topics you are not supposed to in public!
Q. Do you have one escape that helps you relax and take time for yourself?
I am an avid angler; I love to fish and be outside. Anytime I am in the woods alone is a time to reflect, slow down and enjoy the moment. After many of my jaunts into the woods I will write poetry about my experiences, recollections and the special moments. I also open water swim in lakes by my house and do not let the cold deter me – I got a swim in just a week ago.
Q. Do you have a message for your colleagues during this challenging time?
I appreciate the hard work that all of the educators are putting in these days. I understand my role as a servant to a community that trusts me with their children and the teachers and staff who need to know they are supported. I understand that times are tough but I am undeterred, as I know how limited time is and I want to be the best principal and human being I can. I also think about what future educators will say about the generation of educators that cared for students during this pandemic. I think they will take notice of our resolve and our relentless support of the children under our charge and I believe that our children will emerge from this crisis unafraid, stronger and more determined to live a full life.