Recalibrating Public Discussions

We are living and leading in turbulent times. The Covid pandemic has disrupted our lives in incalculable ways. Schools will be working to close the learning gaps created from the virus for a decade; this generation of students will be forever changed because of Covid. In addition, the political and racial angst in our country have sparked divisions in our communities that are unparalleled in recent times. Even in our schools, we experience fear, hate, vitriol, and extremism. 

It’s time for us to recalibrate how we engage in public discussions. The people who email dozens of times per week are part of the problem, not part of the solution. No real problem will be solved in a Facebook group; the common ground isn’t located on a cable news station. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. There are few absolutes in the most intense topics today – there is much room for conversation and discussion. Absolutists – those who want to win at any cost – are the loud minority on both fringes of any debate. Those who fan the flames of hate or who live with paralyzing fear aren’t the peacemakers.

We will recalibrate the discussion by listening to all positions, seeking opportunities for common ground, and creating a safe space for the majority in the middle to communicate. We can’t lead school districts from a place of fear or with a scarcity mentality. We must be intentional in our response to each event, and we must be skilled and focused on our mission.

Writing as Cultivation of Beliefs

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write simply for the sake of writing. For years, dating back to 2016, this Life in Focus blog has provided an outlet to share ideas and beliefs. I first started writing messages to encourage building principals to maintain an instructional focus between Thanksgiving and Winter Break. For some time, I was writing and posting every day. Later, the cadence of the posts settled into once a week. In 2020, over nineteen thousand visitors took the time to read Life in Focus with twenty-six thousand views. 

Like many school leaders across the country, Covid and other politically charged issues have monopolized both my time and energy. Whenever we put our ideas out in public, someone is quick to criticize or attack us with hate. I stopped writing; I was reacting rather than growing. As a public servant, I appreciate the diversity of opinions, and I enjoy smart people who push our team to be better. The climate today seems different – it’s unhealthy and bad for our communities. We must actively build the society we want for our children.

With all of this in mind, we must be undeterred in sharing who we are as leaders. While the Life in Focus blog is a personal journey, it is impossible to separate me from my role as Dublin’s Superintendent. As a leader, writing allows the sharing thoughts, ideas, and values, and creates the time and space to cultivate thinking. Writing is cathartic. 

I am humbled you have taken the time to read this post. I hope you will check in each week, knowing that I don’t profess to have answers or global solutions. My personal and professional goal is to be better today than I was yesterday and to be better tomorrow than I am today. My friend Tim Kight defines ELITE as being the best version of you. If we begin a “journey to elite” by committing to growing and learning every day, we will make a positive difference for others.