Here we go… into the spring semester! I find the day before the return to school after two weeks to rejuvenate and refresh is a great time for reflection. I’ve been doing a little research on how tragedies affect communities over time. What brought me to this research was the “out of breath feeling” I have not been able to get ahold of this school year. This feeling of not being enough personally, but also of not being able to lead a school that is ENOUGH for our community and students’ needs at this time.
It is now officially 16 months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the lives, homes, and school of our students and their families. Research shows when a crisis affects the every day operations of families and threatens the security of basic needs, food, water, and shelter recovery and healing takes a significant amount of time and happens in stages. “Normal” was ripped from our children and the realization that things are and will be different is hard and makes life incredibly unpredictable. Their parents are grieving the loss of the lives they worked tirelessly to build. The psychological stress of our children has led to need for more mental health training for our staff. Readying the minds of disillusioned students for learning when they begin to realize they life they once knew will not return again requires a whole different skill set than teachers receive in their pre-service training. Many of our families live in a state of worry and panic over how to provide and support their children when rebuilding seems to be a never-ending process. They are tired. Very tired. And when people are tired, hope is hard to find, relationships suffer, reactive becomes the operating norm, and emotions run on high all the time. How do we become the “ENOUGH” they need? How do we provide hope in the continued sorrow? How do we create a schoolhouse that brings back the light they lost? How do we protect our spirit so we have the energy and desire to keep trying?
It’s no secret that what students and communities need from schools has changed dramatically and it has long been my goal to lead a school that is the “hub” of its community. To be the “hub” to me means ALL feel welcome and desire to be a part of the team. Campus leaders are responsible for the “spirit” of their organizations, the feeling people get when they walk in, the feeling that makes them want to come back to learn, grow, work, or volunteer. With the new and diverse needs of our students and community, demands of campus staff increase, the pace and urgency quickens amidst the exhaustion, gratitude is not readily expressed, progress is not celebrated as often as needed, and you simply feel not enough. This is the perfect formula for a broken spirit.
Here comes one of my greatest leadership lessons thus far- Be the Keeper of Your Spirit. If we believe the human spirit is what can keep us going beyond our time, doesn’t it make sense to recognize that we have an obligation to protect and guard our spirit with all our might? When we allow the “not enough” feeling to seep in day after day, we fall farther and farther from our purpose. We lose sight of our WHY, our moral imperative, our reason for being.
My challenge, in the face of heart breaking stories, children in crisis, and families in despair, is to CHOOSE love. I was reminded in a CharacterStrong training that love is a choice. When we choose to offer love consistently, we are not only protecting our spirit, but are breaking down the walls that prevent relationships necessary for real learning and real growth to occur.
The honest truth is teaching is hard. Choosing to love when you would rather walk away and say, “Maybe its not me whose supposed to be the change for this family or this student” is dang hard. But if we as campus leaders don’t accept this challenge, how can we expect our teachers to do the same on the toughest of days? You see, I am not convinced that our schools have to follow the norms of society, I’m convinced we can shape the norms of society. We choose love even when its really hard. And this daily choice will make us ENOUGH. Be the Keeper of Your Spirit.