Blog #4: Some Words of Encouragement: Keeping our Life-Giving Focus
Some Words of Encouragement: Keeping our Life-Giving Focus
A couple of months ago, I put this reflective question on the whiteboard in our administrative large conference room: “Are you putting your focus in the right place all the time, every day?” The neat thing about this quote on the board is not only that it has yet to be erased, but the administrators and teachers who walk into that room have taken turns pointing it out and challenging one another with it. We have pointed to it when we have a tough decision to make or when we are feeling down about COVID or sad when we hear the story of a struggling student. In this quote, the “every day” part is key. What I have found is that this commitment to a right focus is one that is renewed daily. And it must be renewed regardless of circumstances. We let it shape us; it is not the other way around.
What does this “focus” mean? For me and for my team, it means always coming back to our vision and mission. Rooted in a “students-first” philosophy and charge, we are willing to do whatever it takes to help each and every student become “life ready” for that day after graduation. And being life ready is about far more than just academics, although that is a large part of it. It means they are life ready as the WHOLE student--in areas of social, emotional, and physical wellness, and they have the cognitive and non-cognitive skills to be successful in whatever career they choose. It means they understand our pillars of kindness, being present, being positive, and being grateful. It means learning servant leadership.
And if that is what we want for our students, then we as leaders MUST set the example. So we commit to the focus every day. We support our teachers and support staff so they are at their best for our students, we listen to the ideas and concerns of our students because much of the time--they are the voices of truth and inspiration.
However, as I sat with my team around the table over the last couple of weeks to continually renew our focus, we had to admit--this season is a tough one. It’s tough for us all. We are fighting the cold, we are sick of the gray skies, we had hoped COVID would be a memory by now, and we don’t feel fully whole. When we look into the eyes of our students and staff, we can only see half of their face. And much of the time we look at tired eyes, eyes of weariness. Yet in times of challenge and when we don’t feel whole, I am so certain that we MUST press on. We MUST overcome. We MUST keep going and we MUST daily place our focus. If we do not, we miss out on all of the incredible moments that continue to happen everywhere around us. And we miss out on being the best version of ourselves.
Too many times a feeling of wariness and lack of wholeness brings us to a place of isolation instead of the life that community, colleagues, friends, and family can breathe into us. Too many times it leads to an inward focus instead of an outward one. We must support one another, encourage each other to look past the mask to see the smiles, to connect in different ways but not stop connecting. What do I do when I need a burst of life? I walk into a classroom to see the creativity and innovation alive and well in our students and staff. I watch our students play a sport they love or give a performance they have poured their hearts and souls into. I celebrate with the OVERCOMERS. And when I see that another’s light might be waning that day or maybe that month, I hand them my flashlight. And when mine is waning, I trust that someone around me will hand me theirs. While fake positivity can sometimes be harmful, authentic positivity should be alive and well. Authentic positivity is believing the good, celebrating our successes, and preserving a spirit of gratitude even when we might not feel particularly happy with our circumstances.
While this season has brought different degrees of loss for each individual and we may not feel fully whole, I still believe we must commit to seeing the positive in our present and store up the lessons we learned to strengthen our character and our resolve for the future. For “this too shall pass,” but what will we take with us from this season? This will be part of my story, and I hope to use my story and my experiences to help and inspire others. Will you join me?