I recently met with a retirement representative about some things I was trying to do, and we ventured off to talking about my life. He and I always have conversations about church and different interactions we have with others, and honestly, I don’t even know how we started talking about me. I told him about my childhood and the things I’ve had to overcome to be successful, the highs and the lows and everything in between. When we came to the end of our conversation, he asked, “Have you told your story to your students?” I told him that I hadn’t and that only a few people knew where I’d come from and what life had presented me. He said, “You should find a way to share that because you’ve truly made lemonade out of these lemons you were given.” I thought about that for a while. Lemonade out of lemons…wow. That was a good way to put it.
I woke up this morning around 3:30 to do some work because I’m starting to realize that I do my best work when everyone else is sleeping. I get a chance to read my Bible, where I’m working through an inductive study of Matthew, catch up on those emails (which you know I’ve been working to manage if you’ve read my previous posts), and reflect on my encounters with other people. That’s been awesome for me over the past week or two because I get a chance to actually process what’s happened to me and find the purpose in what happens around me. All isn’t the greatest, and in fact, a lot of the time I have lemons thrown at me, but what I’ve been able to start seeing is that people are watching me to see if the taste will overtake me or if I’ll be able to sweeten things up a bit. When you’re presented with a challenging situation, that’s when the true person, the one that you try to disguise, arrives. And over the past six months, I’ve grown in patience, understanding, love, and a lot of other things that I had before. They’ve been maximized. And balancing those things with structure, processes, and vision can become overwhelming and confusing…but in the end, what’s meant to be always prevails. I’ve learned that.
I won’t go into my story of how I got where I am because I’ve made a choice to write my first book about it, a memoir, or something of the like, that highlights how all the lemons have made me who I am today. It’s hard finding a good place to stop because my daily routine involves adding some sugar here and there along with an abundance of prayers for strength and wisdom. I made a post on my Facebook page last week about some of the things that I encounter as a principal, and I had more than 100 interactions on the post. The words that people posted were encouraging, and people revealed things like, “I always knew you’d do great things,” and “You are the person to lead the way.” I was taken aback by all of those things because to be honest, I’m not worthy of any of the comments or stuff that was said. I give the glory where it’s due, and believe me…it’s not due to me. I am a human being, and if it was up to me, things wouldn’t go so smoothly. So I stay focused on what matters most, but I am also appreciative and encouraged based on what others said. It means a lot to me. As I was at central office for my mid-year conference, one of the secretaries said, “I was out in the city last week, and people are saying great things about what you all are doing over there. I don’t know what you all are doing, but keep pushing through.” It’s funny how you get messages right when you need them. Those kinds of things can make you or break you, so when you have something great to share with someone, be certain that you tell them. Give people they’re flowers while they’re still here on Earth because those things have a huge impact.
But anyhow, I am up early writing this post because we’ve reached the point in the year where people start deciding if they will return to shell out another year at the school. My communication is always for people to do what’s best for them professionally and personally, and my communication is also that everyone put forth their best effort for the remainder of the year. In essence, some of the lemons start to sprout. They come from people saying negative things to other teachers. They come from parents and students and other stakeholders that are rarely in the school. Those lemons come from Facebook posts that are shared and liked because people don’t get their way. They come from those closest to you. The lemons come from everywhere. As semester one has passed us, I clearly see the lemons that we’ve been given at our school, and honestly, I struggle to see how to sweeten up some of the situations. I meditated on this on my ride home a few weeks ago, and it started to become clear to me. We started out the year with our focus, which was accountability, and that’s what I’ve started to strive to get back to. In a culture of accountability, some will be uneasy, some will be happy, and some people will be in between the two. The difference between being the principal and being an assistant principal is that I have to make sure that accountability permeates our school building, trickling down from the top to the very bottom. It’s become a bit more work, but focusing on the mission and vision that we have has provided clarity. From day one, it’s always been about these kids, and it continues to drive what I want for Kennedy Road Middle School.
Truly, our mission and vision encompass the process of making the lemonade which I continue to speak of. It is and will not be easy, and in fact has become a bit more difficult, but I will be the one to continue to “sharpen the saw” so that we can give the lemons a clean cut and get on to the work that lies ahead of us. I’m moving forward in the spirit of expectation. There’s no other way.
Be blessed. Be great. Be accountable.