Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kicking off the year with our staff: Idealism, Absurdity, Football

All staff members of the Spring Lake Park Schools had the opportunity to gather on Tuesday morning to kick-off the start of the new school year. It was a great start to the year! Our two teachers of the year, Pam Dugas and Lori Thompson, each shared poignant messages with their colleagues, we watched a video that captured why we are proud of the Spring Lake Park Schools, and we looked to the future.

There were two short videos that we watched - one a clip of a 1972 speech by Viktor Frankl, and the other an extremely touching story of a small high school football team. I think anyone who works with young people, or has children of their own, will find these videos worth watching. I've provided just a few of the comments I shared with staff around the videos to provide some context.

Victor Frankl was a world-renowned psychiatrist and professor who spent three years in a Nazi concentration camps during World War II. During this time he lost his entire immediate family – mother, father, brother, and wife - with the exception of one sister. Among the thirty-nine books he authored was a book that is known in English as Man’s Search for Meaning, translated directly as, saying yes to life in spite of everything. In this book he detailed his experience in the concentration camps, and shared his philosophy around the importance of meaning and hope.

We are going to watch a clip of a speech he gave in 1972. The clip starts with him just beginning to share the results of a survey of United States teenagers.

In this video Viktor Frankl talked about the importance of being an idealist, or what he called the real realist. As he shared, “If we take a man as he is, we make him worse, but if we take man as he should be we make him capable of becoming what he can be."

That’s what our work in the Spring Lake Park Schools is all about.

Not all of our students see the hope in themselves. We are the hope for our students each and every day. We provide the expectations, a model of excellence, and a vision of their future they may not see in themselves. We need to help students experience success in the short-term, so they have hope in the long-term.

Albert Einstein said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

There is a great story I’d like to share with you about a coach who had an absurd idea. He had an absurd idea for one of those little hills, an idea for just one night, that brought hope and appreciation to a group of kids and a community. It is an idea that many thought was initially absurd.

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This coach, through a simple action made a difference for fourteen young people who really didn’t feel like there were many people who cared or would give them another chance.

Whatever role it is you hold, you need to be a difference for kids every day. Whether we realize it or not, our students are watching – do not underestimate the power of your influence. What you model, promote, permit, and emphasize in each conversation and interaction with students – or colleagues – sends a message about what is important to you, and what is important in our schools.

We can each be the hope for our students this year. We can each be the difference for our students this year. In the end, that’s what is really important to the kids – they want to be valued, have a sense of belonging when they come to school, and to have an adult who holds nothing but the highest expectations for them.

I hope you enjoyed the videos. I also hope that you strive to make a difference for the kids of our community, of your community if you are a reader from another district, at every opportunity. Have a great school year!

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