As part of our opening meetings, I challenged the staff to create a poster centered upon an inspirational passage that they will use to remind themselves of what is important in their teaching. I hope you will come see them in the lobby, they are wonderful! However, what I forgot to consider in assigning this project, was that I too would have to create a poster. Art is hard for me. My abilities are limited. And so there I sat in the Music Room with the rest of the staff, my poster paper and my glitter pens and my markers staring back at me. I was not comfortable. It was time for me to stretch.
All of us have strength and weaknesses. This year, at Beechwood, we are asking our entire community to look for areas where they are weak and to seek improvement in those areas. We are calling this “stretch work”. If we continually avoid working on our weaker areas, or even worse, deny that we even have weaknesses, we can never reach our full potential as parents, students, teachers or administrators.
The first key is to create an environment where stretch work is honored and appreciated. I think about that art project and one of the things that gave me confidence to continue was Mrs. Langford’s mantra : “there are no mistakes in art”. I knew that I was going to be allowed to work on my project without fear of humiliation or ridicule.
This is not to say that we should do our stretch work in an atmosphere free of criticism. Quite the contrary: we should seek it. “Can you give me some advice on how I can make this better?” “Would you look at this and tell me your honest opinion?” Those questions and others in the same vein, when asked in an environment of mutual respect, will help us to stretch and turn our weaknesses into strengths.
We also need to know where our resources are as we do our stretch work. For instance, I need to get better at speaking Spanish. As I think about that challenge, I can identify a variety of options. Senor Barsch is a resource, as are our families. Classes are available locally or online. I could purchase a software program or even open up a boring old textbook!
Once the environment has been created and the resources have been identified, it’s time to start stretching. In other words, “practice, practice, practice”. Mistakes will be made but it is all for a greater good. If we are patient with ourselves, we will witness changes that result in us “taking it to the next level”.
I finished my art project. It’s a little crooked but it’s hanging in the lobby with the others and it says, “We Can Do Hard Things”. I hope you will look at it and I also hope you will look at yourself and see where you would like to stretch in this coming school year.