As many of you know, I have been the school resource officer for the Portage Township middle schools for about a year now.
In that year, I have gained a new appreciation for the hard work that our school teachers, administrators and all other school staff members do to keep things running smoothly. What a task they have!
For me, the switch from working patrol to being the SRO has been quite an adjustment and I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who have helped me along the way.
As I tell many of the students I speak with, when working patrol, we as police officers tend to see folks when they are at their worst. I mean, let’s face it, people don’t end up having to call the police because they are happy and having a good day. My point is, we deal with a whole lot of negativity and we see an abundance of people who are mistreating each other in a variety of ways.
This is especially true on the midnight shift, when many of the issues people are having are due to alcohol or drugs. That negativity can be contagious and it can lead to somewhat of a negative outlook on society.
These are some of the things they can’t teach you in the police academy. They can tell you all about them, but until you experience this out on patrol, you have no idea. Regardless, we press on and continue to do our jobs, because that’s what we signed on for.
Now comes the switch.
From my first walk through the hallways at Willowcreek and Fegely middle schools during a passing period, I have been bombarded with smiles and laughter from students going from class to class. Then there’s the random high-fives I get from some or the “Hey, Officer Coleman!” from another. There’s the walks through the cafeteria at lunchtime when I get a chance to sit and talk with a group of students that calls me over to ask questions about me and my job or to just talk about whatever is on their minds.
I really can’t explain how good it makes me feel to develop these kinds of bonds with the kids. I see that the more I interact with them the more comfortable they seem to be with talking to me and that is, to me, the most important thing.
I recently spent a day in a seventh-grade health class talking to the kids about gang and drug awareness and conflict resolution. It’s this time I spend in the classroom that I am able to pull from my experiences in patrol and let the kids know how very serious these topics really are.
As I mentioned earlier, this environment and this role as SRO are still very new to me, but I look forward to being able to improve on what I have done so far.
I also talked earlier about how negativity can be contagious. Well, I have found that happiness and smiles are even more contagious than the negativity. To see what I have seen thus far in the Portage middle schools has made me realize that there is still much good in this world.
The ones I have to thank for that are our children and our future, the students at Willowcreek and Fegely middle schools. Thanks, kids, you’ve taught me as much if not more than I’ve taught you and I look forward to more opportunities to learn from each other.