Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Everything Looks Like a Failure in the Middle"

            I always struggled with the halfway point of the school year. It seemed like we were in that place where the early gains on our goals for the years happened so long ago and that the true fruits of our collective labor would never arrive. I knew as a school leader that was the time where we needed to re-energize our collective commitment and find the passion that reignited our work for the next months of the school year. Rosabeth Moss Kanter coined a Law about this and she phrased it thusly: “Everything looks like a failure in the middle”.

            It’s a great reminder for us that we need to celebrate the growth we have achieved and recall why we embarked on the work we have chosen. Although the temptation to return to the past (not so) glory days is strong, it’s important to remember why we moved forward and re-defined our WHY. A recent article that came across my Twitter feed was a fabulous piece on the importance of what we do, and especially so at this time of the year. The author spoke about a school in Union City, NJ (you can access the complete article at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/the-secret-to-fixing-bad-schools.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0) that has clarified their purpose. From the outset the WHY is clear: “everything is tied to a single theme — pride and respect in “our house” — that resonates with the community culture of family, unity and respect.” Schools, like this example, that thrive do so because they don’t lose sight of the end goal nor do they lose their enthusiasm and energy for getting there. They remember that the journey can also be enjoyable.

            Schools and educators sometimes lose sight of where they’ve been on the road to becoming what they can be. It may seem easier to turn back rather than continuing to navigate the unknown and uncharted road to success. If everything else remained unchanged there might be some rationale to pursuing that route. However, we all know that the only constant in the life of an educator is change. It’s today’s students that we need to educate, with all of today’s challenges and all of today’s advantages. In the end educators will always need to address the needs of the kids they have and not the ones they used to have or wished they had.

            I always appreciated the analogy that you can’t leap across a great chasm in two jumps. It takes commitment, and a firm belief that, not only can you make it, but that the leap is worth the effort. Mid-jump is not the time to have any doubts but instead it’s the time to hold your form and prepare for an excellent landing. See you on the other side!

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