I love the start of a new school year. Although it is sad to see the slower pace of summer fade away; watching the energy and excitement of students and staff coming back after months away inspires me to be a better principal. Working in education provides a unique opportunity that few other professionals get a chance to experience. Yearly, educators get an opportunity to pack up what they have done, reflect on the hard work of the school year, design new plans, and make it better for the next year. These new beginnings are one of my favorite things about the educational profession.
While new beginnings are exciting, they are also usually accompanied with change. Change has been on my mind often this summer. My oldest son is starting middle school, my youngest is starting in kindergarten, my wife is teaching a new dual credit high school biology course for the first time, and I am moving to a new building to take on a new principal role. All these new roles and opportunities have caused me to reflect a great deal on how our approach to change can make a huge difference in our mindsets. So much so, that I decided to make a large part of my first staff meeting on opening day to discuss the topic. It is an awesome responsibility to address an entire staff on opening day. I know my choice of topic can set the tone for the entire school year, and possible the entire tenure in a particular role. Change is never easy, but as we find with most things in our life, how we handle change depends more on our perspective, and less on the circumstances that are changing. Even in tough times, I try to always keep my perspective on the opportunities that each change can provide.
This notion of embracing change is something I learned from my father. My father grew up in southern Indiana in extreme poverty. He came from a home that did not have many things, but was full of love. Although my father grew up with very little, he has given my brother and me everything. His passions and desires were learned from his father. My grandfather, in the depression era, was sent to work in 8th grade. He did not receive a traditional education but he had a great work ethic and great pride in all that he was asked to do. He was a World War II Veteran and throughout his adult life worked any job available to provide for his family. Although he was not always able to provide monetarily for his family, he was able to instill his work ethic and sense of pride in his three sons. Over time, (3 generations and counting) these character traits would go on to become more valuable than anything money could buy. My father, Sherman, took these character traits and used them to better his life. He left for college in 1968 with everything he owned in one bag. My father did not just embrace change, he saw it as an opportunity to better his circumstances. I sometimes think about how scary these times of change must have been for each of these extraordinary men – (my grandfather) fighting in WWII, going to bed hungry so his kids could eat, valuing education although he did not have one himself, and (my father) being the first family member to go to college and choosing to pursue a career in education, the list goes on and on. The changes most of us face in our daily lives are nothing compared to what these men faced.
So, how do you view change? Do you jump off the cliff and develop wings on the way down, or do you withdraw and play it safe? I hope you jump! Playing it safe has never helped any of us to get better. Playing it safe helps us get safe, often predictable, results. And for the record, I am not remotely interested in safe results. Our kids deserve better! Each and every one of our students deserve a school that will prepare them for a lifetime of success. It is my goal, and hopefully our goal as a school, to embrace change, see it as an opportunity, and make our school an amazing place of growth for everyone who walks through the doors each day.
BE THE CHANGE this school year!