About two weeks ago, my family and I buried my uncle. I almost didn’t go to the funeral because funerals are one of the three things that I hate in life. Don’t ask me what the other two things are because they’re irrelevant. But perhaps it’s the way funerals are structured. Perhaps it’s the grief, anxiety, and heartbreak I get when I am part of them. I haven’t figured it out yet, and in actuality, I don’t think I ever will. But it was amazing to witness people get up and speak during what I call the “Let’s reminisce” portion. Normally these are supposed to be two to three minutes, but I have yet to frequent a homegoing celebration where everyone kept their comments aligned to the suggested time. But during my uncle’s reflection time, the consistent message that I recalled was everyone stating that my uncle always told people that he loved them, and that comment made a difference in the people’s lives. I’m not certain if he knew that, but his words made a huge impact!
Although I don’t ponder on what will happen when my time is up here on earth, it made me wonder…what will people say when I leave here? If my time was up tomorrow, could I honestly say that I’d lived out my purpose and worked to my full potential in all that I have been entrusted to do? Would people miss me? Would my purpose have been accomplished? Would I have made a positive impact on everyone that I’ve come into contact with? The honest answer for all of these things was “no.” That bothered me, and right now I’m doing some “self work” to make sure I live every day giving 110%. That’s a difficult way to live because everyone that you come into contact with won’t necessarily appreciate what you do. And that’s difficult to accept. I thought I was okay with accepting it, but I realized that I wasn’t until I experienced this Sunday’s sermon at church, which the preacher told us was centered around “Loving Difficult People.” Wow. How is one expected to do such a thing?
I hadn’t even planned on taking any notes, but I sped through random papers in my Bible to find something I could write on to gather the key points. There were about 10 different colored pens in my case, but I had the hardest time finding a blank piece of paper. After 60 seconds, which seemed like an eternity, I was able to find an old bulletin that didn’t have anything on the back of it. I was ready now! During the message, there was something that stuck with me. The preacher said, “Before God send someone’s soul to hell, He exhausts ALL possible resources…but we will write someone off and get rid of them if they don’t do things the way we want them to do it the first time. Is that being representative of what you say you stand for?” Ouch! I shook my head from side to side and said a quick prayer. The preacher was already stepping on my toes!
You see, the position I have within my school sends me into consistent prayer and reflection. I know my position is to support teachers, but there are times when I feel like everyone doesn’t give 100%, and that upsets me, and I don’t necessarily address it correctly every time. The way I address it sometimes is much better than the way that I normally think of addressing it, but that just means that I have more progress to pursue. As leaders, communication is important, and so my focus this week and for the next few weeks is to ensure that people know what I expect of them and to allocate the appropriate attention and resources to help them get where they need to be. This goes both for my teachers and my students. I had a conversation with one of my 8th grade students, and I finally said, “I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Do you know how much that hurts me?” Tears rolled down the student’s eyes. I didn’t know what to say. I just shook my head, and when the student left, my prayer was for God to do some miracle work in our school building. Miracle work…not ordinary stuff…but miracles! I have some awesome people in the building who do some awesome work with kids, and sometimes the students take those things for granted. I’ve discovered the power in a personal conversation. I’ve discovered the power in letting them know how broke our family was from my kindergarten years until I graduated. I’ve discovered that the faculty and staff have stories of their own that students need to hear and identify with so they can be encouraged to keep going an not turn back. I don’t want readers to be mistaken into thinking that EVERY life will be changed for the better because that’s not necessarily true, but every one can be impacted in some way.
So here I am in year two of my principalship, and if I were to be honest, I’d have to admit that year two has been tougher than year one. It’s not tougher because I don’t know what to do, but it’s tougher because I see how important it is to focus on every kid every day. That’s impossible to do without the work of great teachers and staff, and they have to commit to changing lives if students come from humble beginnings. That requires tiresome sacrifice; the kind that makes you fall asleep with the computer in your lap trying to get things done; the kind of sacrifice that makes you want to not go to work but you do anyway because you know the kids will be looking for you; the kind of sacrifice that makes you cry sometimes because you’re so tired; the kind of sacrifice that makes a kid write you a thank you note to tell you that you’re an awesome person…just when you were thinking it was time to throw in the towel.
To my fellow educators, I don’t know what people will say about you when you leave this earth. I also don’t know what they will say about me. There will be some that focus on the negative, but remember that there will be at last one student somewhere that will be sad and heartbroken because of something that you’ve done for them. There will be a kid that will smile and say, “Man, I remember when he/she made me…..and that changed my life.” Be the difference. Work through the tough times with the greatest level of humility and love that you can. Carry that cross on your back and know that it’s for a greater purpose. Keep striving. Keep achieving, and stay focused on excellence. Don’t waver from it. Know that you are writing your final words everyday and making a difference with every lesson, every hug, every sacrifice, and every high expectation.
Be great. Be accountable.