One of the first things I did as the calendar moved from December to January was awake early so that I could prep for a half marathon just outside Houston. I was desperate to toe the line and give it my best – especially on this first day of the year we seemed to collectively & desperately long to finally arrive. I can’t adequately discuss everything over the previous 12 months; rather I find myself focused on how to react to what has happened. As i laced up and stretched, I found myself grateful to be healthy and prepared to run with two friends; my mind focused on trying to set a new personal record. This private moment of satisfaction was a small step toward measuring how I will value my 2021 #OneWord – RESPONSE.
I have written before on the work my school was able to do with Dr. Brene Brown a couple years ago, and a piece that has always resonated with me is her discussion of empathy. Specifically she talks about our habit of “silver-lining” something as we try to respond to what someone else is sharing. And she goes on to say that “rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is a connection.” Thus I am going to strive to focus more on what is being shared and less on trying to solve the situation.
As a school leader, there are often moments where my office can become a sort of confessional. Whether it is a struggle, a mistake, a triumph, a hurdle, or a blunder, it is not uncommon for someone to become emotional. Often they reach for a Kleenex and then offer an apology (my standard answer is that the tissues are there for a reason and I have lots of them). So the other element of my #OneWord – RESPONSE – that resonates with me is that in order to best serve the intent of the word, I must pay attention. I have to commit to invest myself in the moment. By focusing on the human connection, and freeing myself from a self-diagnosed need to react and fix and solve, I will be more able to actively listen.
Dr. Brown uses the phrase, “the story I’m telling myself in my head” to help us try to reach a point where we can truly listen. It’s not easy to trust that the other person is always coming from a good place. And that’s fair, however they are coming from a place that is very relative to them and the situation. Embarking on a RESPONSE with that understanding is what gives us a chance for real connection. The other day, a teacher on our campus, saddened by the 85-90% of our students who remain virtual, stated that he was “done with distance. I want my kids safely back with me so that I can (metaphorically) get my arms around them and connect.” We all miss being #together and the connection that is inherent inside our classrooms. And when our setting returns to some form of familiarity, our RESPONSE, each and every day, will be taxing and challenging and rewarding and exhausting and emotional. The better prepared we are then the stronger we can be for each other and for ourselves. How has finding & developing your #OneWord been pushed this year?