Faith in a world of “Prove It”

Faith in a world of “Prove It”

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” – Saint Augustine

We always want evidence. We pride ourselves in data and analytics. We strive to prove “this works and this didn’t.” It is our world – the world of “prove it.”

I ask you, are there things you simply believe about your work? Are there aspects of education that, in your inner core, you know to be true? Do these things supersede the data? If so, what are they?

I have faith in some aspects of how I lead. I don’t have data to tell me that building relationships is essential in leadership. I don’t have statistics to tell me that leaders with character are more effective. I don’t have a spreadsheet or research to inform me that consistency in behavior is important in building trust. Really . . . If someone has done research in these areas they have wasted their time. I have faith – I know these things to be true without reading a book or a research study.

Where is your faith? What do you simply know – in your heart of hearts and soul of souls – to be true about your profession? About your life? There are some things that simply don’t need statistical support – live them.

We are United

“What unites us is much greater than what divides us.” – Pope John 23rd

We spend a great deal of time together. We work together, laugh together, and learn together.

Our students potentially spend more waking hours with us than they do with anyone else. Our parents, if their children remain in our schools, spend over a decade in partnership with us. We educate over 16,000 students on a daily basis – and we are growing.

We speak over 40 languages; some of us were born in Hilliard and others come from countries far away. We have different faiths, different customs, and various beliefs. We are young and old; we are innovative yet steeped in tradition.

One thing is certain – our goals for our schools are more similar than different. We want what is best for our children. We want to prepare young people for success in the future. At the end of the day, with all of our similarities and differences, we spend way too much time debating minor details. We permit petty differences to distract us from our main purpose.

As you conduct your business today – as you interact and build relationships – let’s commit ourselves to work from common ground. Let’s start our conversations with what unites us; it’s a much better place to start.

Leave worthy evidence

“Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passing.” – Pope John 23rd

The times in which we live are our narrative. These are our times; we are writing our story.

We have the opportunity to leave a legacy – a legacy that will outlast us and change the future.

We are blessed with skills and talents. Our God-given abilities come with responsibility – the responsibility to develop ourselves into instruments worthy of our purpose. Simply living – simply going through the motions on autopilot isn’t worthy of our abilities. We must dedicate ourselves to more; we must dedicate ourselves to leave evidence of our work.
Each student we reach, each relationship we build, and each decision we make has the potential to influence the future. We lead, teach, and learn every single day. The events we experience, and our response to each event, are part of our narrative. No moment is too small, no relationship is so inconsequential that it requires less than our focus and skill.

As you would walk through your day – as you walk through our time – be present in every decision, be skilled and intentional in your response to events, and be aware of your focus. Make each day worthy of your skills; leave a legacy that is worthy of your passage.

Magic makes the difference

Magic makes the difference

“There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Magic . . . . It’s supernatural or unexplainable. One of my favorite places in the entire world is The Magic Kingdom . . . The happiest place on earth. It’s magic when this superintendent is transformed into a child again. When the worries, challenges, and stress of the job are transformed into blissful joy and happiness – that’s magic.

Enthusiasm is magical . . . It can transform a room and change the entire course of a meeting. Enthusiasm is contagious – it can magically change moods and attitudes. A potentially hopeless situation becomes full of hope with the enthusiasm of an idea. Possibilities seem endless with the enthusiastic support of a leader. The impossible becomes possible with a new idea that breaks from autopilot and enthusiastically heads in a new direction.

Enthusiasm is energy . . . It embodies optimism with hope. It is a spark that ignites passion in others. As a leader, you can literally bring the magic to your team. You must summon your inner energy, you must dig deep when you a tired, and you must overcome fears to enthusiastically lead your team. You are the magic maker . . . It’s the difference between accepting the mediocre and celebrate the exceptional. It is entirely up to you.

An excuse is worse than a lie

“An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.” – Pope John Paul II

When you make an excuse, when you knowingly do something less than what is your best, you are purposefully lying to yourself and others. Think about that for a moment . . .

When you create an excuse you are lying to yourself- you are using your self-talk to convince yourself that it is OK to take the easy way out. Our work is incredibly difficult and there are panoply of available excuses for us. We deal with parents, poverty, state mandates, under appreciation, lack of resources, large classes, lack of planning time, and the list goes on and on. Our challenges are innumerable, but they can’t become excuses.

Yes, be realists. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about choices and tough decisions. It’s perfectly acceptable to identify barriers. We must collaborate to solve problems and continue to seek every opportunity to do business better. We can’t – and we won’t – make excuses. We can’t – and we won’t – try to make ourselves feel better when we are unable to reach a goal.

Our relentless pursuit of excellence – our willingness to embrace the productive discomfort of our work – will take us to new places. We will experience failure; we will learn and grow from failure. We will not lie about our progress and we will not make excuses.

Freedom to do the Difficult Work

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” – Pope John Paul II

There are parts of my job that I love to do. I love . . . I mean my heart races and my passion takes over . . . when I get to talk in front of large groups about the incredible work done in our schools. I love sitting in informal groups with you – my peers – dreaming about the future of education. I love challenging the status quo, turning off autopilot, and creating new, intentional paths for our district.

There are parts of my job that well . . . maybe I don’t like so much. I am a relationship builder by nature. I engage in active conversation; I am eager to hear different opinions. I enjoy heated discussions. Nevertheless, I must force myself to have courageous conversations when necessary. My freedom . . . my freedom to build relationships and lead a talented team . . . is predicated on my being able to do what is necessary and required of me. My freedom to lead is possible only through my ability to be skilled, consistent, and connected.

My job is a blessing; the ability to lead and serve this community, with this talented team, is a gift. My freedom is centered on serving from my heart, building relationships, to inspire excellence, and in creating a culture based on high expectations. Character matters – doing what we ought to do is important.

I Believe in Miracles

“I am a bit embarrassed to tell you that I believe in miracles.” – Corazon Aquino

I believe miracles happen every day; I believe angles are among us. I believe that we are sent to be angles for each other.

Each and every day miracles take place in our midst. Miracle is derived from the Latin miraculum, “object of wonder”. Miracles amaze us; we marvel and we are astonished.

I am astonished each time I walk into one of our buildings. Our teachers are angels, angles performing miracles, with the young people served in our classrooms. From the miracles taking place at Horizon Elementary to the astonishment of high school students reaching new heights in our classrooms, theaters, fields, and laboratories . . . I have faith that our better angels are winning the battle. I have faith that we make miracles happen – that together we are changing the future.

We change the trajectory of lives; we set children on the path to be successful adults. We overcome obstacles. We teach, inspire, nurture, feed, encourage, and discipline young people consistently throughout our days. You have the opportunity to be an angel today. Go make miracles happen . . . I believe in you!

Inspire Greatness

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes you tick? What inspires you to dream?

You are a leader. You are responsible for your 20 square feet. What makes you want to be the best you can be for your students? What inspires you?

Take a moment right now . . . Just stop for 30 seconds . . . What inspires you to dig deeper? What makes you want to give more? What drives you to get above the line, to break from autopilot?

Now, once you’ve thought about what inspires you, be that for others today. Be a leader today – inspire greatness in others.

Embrace Complex Optimism

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” – Walt Disney

Being an optimist doesn’t mean everything is always sunshine and snowflakes. Being an optimist doesn’t mean we fail to see obstacles and work through fears. Being an optimist doesn’t mean we only work with happy people and that we are always in a good mood.

I am an optimist. I truly believe we can move mountains together. In my unchangeable core I believe we are shaping the future. The work we do – our vision for the future – is simple. The path we follow, our journey together, is incredibly complex.

We are working with individuals. We strive to personalize education for over 16,000 young people on a daily basis. Simple goal . . . Complex matter.

Being an optimist is essential in our work; it drives our commitment. We are also realistic in the work we do; we embrace the complexity of our work. We solve problems, overcome obstacles, and blaze new paths. We do so knowing that we are creating a better tomorrow. That is the true optimist in each of us.

Doers Make Mistakes

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

We work in an environment that rewards us for playing it safe. For decades educators have simply followed the playbook that was provided to us. Schedules and calendars have hardly changed over the years. Our structure has remained largely the same. We have followed prescribed curriculum and been trained by traditional university programs.

We are on the cusp of an era that rewards innovation. We are pushing the door open. With innovation and creativity – with our passion for growth – comes mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of doing.

Sure, it is safe to follow directions and do what you are told. It is safe to read from the script; it gives you cover in the event you make a mistake. It takes courage and commitment to be a doer. It takes a willingness to learn and grow.

Be purposeful and intentional . . . Get off autopilot . . . Be a doer.