Welcome back to school everyone! Last year, Grant School celebrated its 130th birthday and I am so proud of the great things that this district has done over that long rich history. As we launch this school year, I believe that Grant School will continue to do great things. When I met with my staff in our welcome back meetings in August, I talked about great things and what it takes to make great things happen for our school. As part of my presentation I shared these words from a famous speech by President Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I love these words and I believe that there is a lot of truth to them. As you read this I want you to think about the great things that have happened in your life. As you reflect back on those moments I hope you feel Roosevelt’s words resonate and I hope you see now the great risks that you were taking in that moment. I hope you feel grateful that you took that risk and I hope you feel encouraged to take more risks when life gives you the opportunity to do so.
That’s the thing that I have learned recently about making great things happen. There is a fear that must be overcome in order to make great things happen. Many of us at Grant have been reading a book titled Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and in that book (and an incredible TED talk!) she talks about the power of vulnerability in attempting to live lives that matter. That risk that we feel right before something great happens to us is the vulnerability that she is talking about. We love, knowing the risk of heartbreak. We succeed, knowing that failure may be one bad move away. We trust wholeheartedly, knowing that people are sometimes not trustworthy. We do these things…these great things, and they happen because we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. In fact, our vulnerability unlocks the potential for great things to happen in our lives. No vulnerability=no great things. The two are inseparably packaged into a life-changing bundle.
So why is Grant School having these discussions? Because we want to do great things and we need to know the science behind it so that we can unlock it in our classrooms, in our conversations, and in our students. In those meetings in August with my staff we talked about what it means to dare greatly. As I see it, that is one of the essential things that differentiates Grant School from other places. Every day my staff jump into the arena with “great enthusiasms and great devotions” to make magic and learning happen. Every day the parents of our students jump into the arena and “strive valiantly” to put the needs of their kids above their own, to engage with their kids to learn about their lives and their hearts, and do everything they can to raise confident, competent, and compassionate kids.
Does it work every time we step into the arena? No. That’s where vulnerability comes in. In order to make great things happen, we need to take risks and “dare greatly”. There will always be someone saying that it cannot be done or we should have done it better. I don’t know about you, but for me so many times, the critical voice is my own self-doubt. Maybe it’s the internal Cubs fan script running in my head that always looks for how it is not going to work and tries to constantly remind me that we’ll just find another way to lose. I am done listening to that voice and any voice that criticizes my efforts to make great things happen. I will go even further to say that I will do everything that I can to not be that voice to my staff as they strive to take risks and make great things happen for their students.
That is my message to the Grant School community because we cannot do it alone. Our theme this year is “Better Together” for a reason. That theme sends the message loud and clear that we need you to continue to support us as we take risks. We need you to take risks. We need our students to take risks. Our cause is worthy and we need you to be our partners. Our aim is lofty and I am so excited about the great things that will happen at Grant School this year. Let’s do this…GO COUGARS!
P.S…If you need a great book to read, swing by my office.