It has been two weeks since I wrote and posted my first blog – “A Renewed Sense of Purpose.” Like many other school leaders who have found a connection through social media, specifically twitter, I was inspired and then encouraged by members of my PLN who had created their own blogs as a way to share their work with other educators. This included my associate principal Matt Degner (@mwdegner), my former colleague and current principal Jason Markey (@jmarkeyAP), and two exceptionally talented gentleman George Couros (@gcouros) and Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin). All of these men were gracious enough to share their time, ideas, and expertise in order to help me expand my work and provide an avenue for sharing and for greater understanding and learning about a profession I am extremely passionate about. The only thing left was what name I should give to my blog. It might seem non-important or even trivial to some that I would get hung up on a name, but I wanted to make sure if other educators were going to visit my site, I wanted the title to represent not only words, but my actions. Moreover, I wanted my colleagues to be proud of me.
A few nights ago, I had a chance to follow up on some work done previously by George Couros. It didn’t take long before I found myself engrossed in a blog he wrote where he talked about his parents and the influence they had on him growing up. The more I read the more I found myself connecting with his story (The Key to Education – March 2010). What resonated with me the most was how similar his parents’ story was to mine. The lack of success in their own schooling, the value they placed on their children pursuing an education, their incredible work ethic, and their years spent successfully running a family restaurant based on the premise of establishing purposeful relationships with their customers and treating them as though they were the most important people in the world. George could have easily been describing my parents in his story.
Two years ago, my oldest child graduated from high school. It was an incredibly emotional day for me as I read my son’s name – Alexio Julian Casas (Aj) and watched him walk across the stage in front of me. As I looked over to my left, I could see my parents sitting in the audience, beaming with pride, smiling and clapping as they watched their first grandchild graduate from high school. This was a dream come true for a couple who sacrificed their own education and who left their home at a young age to work in the fields so they could provide a better opportunity for their own children. Now they were watching their grandchild reap the same rewards. Just a few minutes prior to reading his name, I had shared with our graduates that I had grown up in a Spanish speaking household; a Mexican-American born of Mexican –American parents, who worked throughout their young adult lives as migrant workers, laborers to many, so that their children would have the opportunity to have a better quality of life for their children. I told them I was extremely proud of my parents. Proud that they instilled in me a passion and the value of a strong work ethic, a sense of pride and confidence to be the best at whatever I chose to do, and grateful for a mother who modeled to me a spirit that encouraged me to give of myself to others. As I read George’s blog, I couldn’t help but think that our parents were cut from the same cloth. There is a reason why we do what we do today and much of that can be attributed to our parents.
As part of our exiting message to graduates, my administrative team and I have included the following message below on the back of the graduation programs for the last eight years. It is an excerpt from a previous speech that I had written during my 2nd year as principal with the help of my other colleague Joy Kelly as a reminder to our students to never be satisfied with the status quo. It is not an accident that the themes parallel much of how we as educators live our lives and/or the manner in which many of us were raised by our parents/guardians. It is a mantra that myself and my team all believe in and are very proud of because we believe it defines us as a school and as a community, so much that our school board adopted it as part of our district’s vision statement four years ago.
Passion… Purpose… Spirit… Pride…
These four words are the mantra for a school district and a community that strives to be the best in everything it does. As a community, we have high expectations of you and quite frankly, of ourselves, our programs, and our schools. It is this tradition of excellence and a desire to never be satisfied with the status quo that inspires us to want to be better, do better, for you and those that will come after you. The challenge is and always will be for all of us to stay true to our convictions with quiet confidence and humility in order to help others understand, respect, and appreciate our success as a school and as a community.
1. Passion – pursue a career you love to do. Work will fill such a large part of your lives. Figure out what your passion is and then go for it! If you want to be truly satisfied in your work then do what you believe is meaningful work. And the only way to achieve that is to be passionate about what you do. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s okay. Keep searching. You will eventually figure it out and when you do, you’ll know it.
2. Purpose – be purposeful in your relationships with others. Personal relationships are the foundation for securing the interests and individual needs of our community. It is these relationships that will change and inspire you to be successful. The challenge for you will be to continue to build and maintain the relationships in your lives in meaningful ways. Tending to these meaningful and personal relationships cannot occur in an instant. It will require your personal time and your personal attention. In other words, it must be your priority. Remember, the value of your days on this earth will be measured by the significance and impact you have on others during your lifetime.
3. Spirit – be kind in your intentions and you will find joy in your journey. Whatever your passion, whatever your purpose, the way you treat others is an essential component to your own personal happiness. You will learn that it is truly in giving that you receive and that your contributions of time, talent and treasures will reap more personal benefits than you realize today. Take time to help ease the burden of others, lift the spirits of a stranger or loved one. On any given day, at any given moment, for any given cause, you can make a difference. Be generous to others. It will take you further than any degree you will ever earn.
4. Pride – remember that the work ethic and attitude that you develop over time are essential components that will help you persevere through difficult times. Infuse a sense of pride in everything you do. Make a commitment to get better, be better. Don’t wait for it to happen. Start now and make it happen. If you don’t like the results, change your approach and go back at it again. Don’t fall victim to placing blame on others. Rise above and stay the course. Respect and appreciate those individuals that have the courage to remind you that “life isn’t always going to be fair,” and that positive and healthy change begins with self-responsibility. Remember that pride is an attitude that is fostered over time.
To my colleagues, fellow educators and PLN who all provide guidance to our students on a daily basis, know that I am proud of you and admire your fortitude. Your world, like mine, revolves around the personal and academic endeavors of your students. Navigating it successfully requires a sincerity of character and a belief that all kids are capable of reaching their potential. So, to George, Patrick, Jason and Matt, I honor you by naming my blog and encouraging you and others to continue to lead with a sense of passion, purpose, spirit and pride.
“Don’t forget to water the spirit in order to keep that equilibrium vibrant.”