Folks who know me well, know that I love college football. I love the traditions, the stories, and the ways that they are able to connect others through, pageantry, common rivalries, and sometimes really kooky behaviors, traditions and even food. Over the holiday break, I spent a lot of time watching college football bowl games and building excitement for the National Championship game. But what does college football have to do with the Pelham Public Schools? Watching these athletes and coaches work together toward a common goal is remarkably similar to what our students and staff strive toward on a daily basis. The effort doesn’t always culminate in a win, but the results can always offer compelling lessons for all of us. The truth is that it is more important than ever that we draw upon our commonalities and work together as people to make conditions better for all.
As I was watching the college football playoffs on New Year’s Eve, I thought about some of the qualities that I wish for our students, faculty, and staff, frankly even myself, as we close out a cacophonous year and begin anew. Social Media is a serious, but fun enterprise for me. Outside of emergency communications, I use my twitter feed to communicate what I think is important, have fun and connect with our Pelican Nation. I recently tweeted some of this wisdom to our Pelicans and on reflection, the message seems applicable to all of us.
Be Persistent in work
It is important to push through work- especially those things that we don’t love doing. We have a very talented student body, and they are ready for most anything we throw at them. Some of it they won’t like, some of it may be boring to them, some of it really challenging. By instilling a sense of grit and persistence, we ready them for life beyond public school when bosses, partners, and families expect that all things will be executed with precision. Failure is a vital component of learning. As long as we learn from it, make the necessary adjustments, and refuse to let failure define us, we emerge stronger, smarter, and prepared to take on challenges.
Be Thoughtful in Action
If I could have something more than anything else, it might be time. I, like many of you, feel like I never have enough time in my day to achieve all that I want. Though, is having more time really the answer? In fact, when I focus on being more aware of my surroundings, my stressors, my feelings and my thoughts, I typically find that I am more productive. While it’s sometimes challenging, this is an emerging skill of proficiency for me! I encourage everyone to take time to find time for increased mindfulness in our days. We’re working on tackling these strategies with our students in grades K-8 through our partnership with The School Yoga Project. You will be hearing much more on this in the second half of the year.
Be Discriminant in Choice
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the staccato of life. We are often forced to move from one task to another and it is easy to cut corners. Each day we are presented with a series of decisions. Our choices have distinct consequences and we can choose to be reflective or careless in any given moment. I challenge you to be more reflective, to understand how and why we make our choices, to replicate the positive stuff, and most importantly, to learn from the negative. Easier said than done, but worth the effort nonetheless!
Be Hopeful in Spirit
In our schools we establish a set of goals over the summer and then work towards making them a reality over the course of the year. Invariably, we hit stumbling blocks and have to find our way around them. We often ask our students about their “yet” statement which requires them to be critical about things, tasks, competencies, and/or ideas that they are working towards feeling less vulnerable about. It requires a level of self-reflection and awareness that is shaped by hope and persistence for what is possible.
Be Kind in Action
Let’s commit to treat others in the ways that we wish to be treated. Every day I see students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members do wonderful things to support other Pelhamites. It is truly awesome. That said, I also see opportunities for us to engage with others who don’t always feel as connected as they could, those that march to the beat of their own drum. It is vitally important that we seek to understand one another. That we honor, value, and appreciate the diversity in every possible aspect and capitalize on the good qualities that unite us. I challenge each and every one of us to find a way to engage in at least on act of kindness each day. Imagine the impact that alone can have on our community?
Be Your Best YOU
Our motto here in Pelham is “Inspiring a Standard of Excellence for All Students.” Excellence is one of those relative terms and means something different for everyone. This is a good thing because it forces us to be flexible in our approach to how we solve problems, how we define our own success and how we define the success of others. It also enables us to engage in a process of self-reflection that encourages cycles of continuous improvement.
My very favorite song is, “Imagine,” by John Lennon. The lyrics have always moved me as they evoke simple, yet complicated themes and hopes of peace and the possibilities that exist for humanity during what was a very complex period of time in our nation’s history. As a father, partner, son, leader and educator, I understand how complicated life can become. But as we begin this new year, it is important to remember that we have much to be hopeful for in 2017.
Happy New Year!
Peter Giarrizzo, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools