Monday, January 9, 2017

What’s In Your Wallet?

I carry these words in my wallet. 

They have served me well during my entire teaching career. They serve as a reminder on my darkest days to never, never, never give up—the professional path we chose is never easy, but it can be so worth it  - for us, our students and our colleagues.
The words give me perspective on this January 9th, 2017. As we launch into the second half of another school season of our professional lives, there are two realities we face as educators.

One overriding reality is that life is short. 

Where does the time, energy, and effort of ending one school year in June and starting another one in August go? Pretty soon, all those school years become a blur of sorts. Your career becomes this connected series of school-year segments as thousands of students roll through the kaleidoscope of your work.

And, those students we have this year, pass through just this once. We do not get a 2nd shot at them.

And another reality we know from experience—life is uncertain. The single adjective that best describes future events is unexpected. There will be unexpected stuff—illnesses, accomplishments, transfers, promotions, surgeries, triumphs, and tragedies. The events sure to follow in the rest of this school season are indeed uncertain, will drain your energy, and often only be fully understood in reflection once the season ends.

As I write this blog, my wife and I are being slammed by some unexpected and difficult life events. Life indeed is uncertain. How will we respond? It is a measure of our character.

You and I, as we face these winter and sometimes darker days, build the story of how we will be remembered this coming year, every day, one brick at a time—by the way we choose to respond to the stuff of our life.

Here are the words in my wallet:
We need to develop a resilient, indomitable morale that enables us to face the reality of [our work] and still strive for every ounce of energy to prevail. Every important battle will need to be fought and re-fought. We have to believe in ourselves, but we mustn’t suppose the path will be easy. It’s tough and rain falls on the just.

It is the last line that hits me the hardest. The hardest. 

“Rain falls on the just”. 

We are in a flood as I am writing this. It is raining. And there most likely will be some rain in your professional life the rest of this school year too. It happens.

It is why I wrote HEART! I want us to connect to our work in a way that helps us to survive the rain. To understand the heartprint and the impact we leave on students and colleagues alike even during the dreariest of months for our work – the middle of the season doldrums that can set in upon us during January and February.

The author of the words in my wallet is former presidential advisor, educational author and leader John Gardner.He summed up the goal of our journey by reminding us there is a certain toughness required to do the difficult and deliberate work of our profession. I never met Dr. Gardner, but his words have had a profound impact on my life as an educator, and my choices each day. 

It can be a long second half to this school season. But we will look back in May and realize it was short. This school season is over. Did we choose to prevail? 

We will also look to the next few months and realize they are uncertain. Unexpected events will happen to us – with a student, with a colleague, with family.  The path may not be easy. 

What’s in your wallet, this school season?

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