It’s been almost two months since my last post, which is too long of a time period. Between a family vacation and getting ready to open campus for the new year, time seemed to have slipped away. The closer it got to September, the more it felt like the best time to renew my postings was now. “Why?” you might ask. The answer is easy, but the story and reflection is more difficult. Today, I both remember the past and celebrate a new beginning. This morning, I watched as my my oldest daughter, scared and frightened, got on her first school bus and rode away to kindergarten. My wife, hid her tears behind her sunglasses. I hid mine deeper, not because I was afraid to show them. No. I hid them because I wanted to be happy for her. She has been excited for months to start kindergarten, even asking if she could quit preschool to start back in the spring.
Now, as I take a break from working at home for the day, I wait anxiously for her to come home to hear all about her first day. I wonder if she is excited, or frightened. I wonder who she met and if she has a new friend. I simply wonder. I wonder because she is no longer here. I can’t decide to work from home and have her come out to me and say, “Hey Daddy! Look at this!” That excitement now belongs to the teachers and her friends in school. I must become accustomed to change. I must be just as excited to hear, “Hey Daddy! Guess what I did today?” Today, my life changes just as hers does.
I started this post by writing that this is a good time to restart regular postings. I say that because just like my daughter beginning something new, so are our students in college. For some, it is a brand new experience as entering first-year students or transfers. For others, it is beginning the culmination of a long road that ends with graduation. Today, we all have opportunity to decide what comes next. That goes for parents, students, administrators, etc. Are you happy with the experiences you have had so far? If you are a student, the time nears when you will enter the workforce. For some, that time will come even quicker. Have you participated in the activities you wanted? Did you attend the lectures and speakers you thought would be interesting? Did you take “that class” because you thought you might enjoy it and learn something? If not, now is the time, for if you keep putting it off, time will eventually pass you by. Don’t end your college career with an “I wish I would have….”
For administrators, the beginning of the new academic year always serves as a renewal of ideas and energy. What new or innovative idea did you have over the summer that you just ran out of time to try out or investigate? Take some time now to give it a shot! It may take a few hours to get it up and running, but the payoff may be a feeling of pride or seeing your staff or students engaged or learning something new.
It’s a new year. Some people say that in the field of education, we have three new years each year: the calendar year, the academic year, and a birth year. I suppose we could also add in a religious year and a fiscal year as well. My point is not the actual number of years we can identify; rather, we have multiple opportunities each year to start anew. Start this new year by making a list of what you will do differently to make yourself, your students, and/or your family better. Make it mean something. Don’t just pull out an old New Year’s resolution. We all know how well those tend to work out! Make a new list, a meaningful one. Put things you care about in it and keep it by your desk or computer. Try not to make it a checklist. Checklists don’t lead to staying power. They do lead to yellow sticky notes cluttering your workspace or kitchen with words crossed off as though they were accomplishments when in fact they were more likely tasks from a to-do list (or, a hope to-do list).
For five-and-a-half years, I had my oldest daughter at home, or at least in a daycare home that allowed a lot of flexibility to be with her when needed. My time with her is now more structured. I need to make the most of it. So, in the spirit of asking you to make a list, here is mine.
- To be a better father. I have three beautiful daughters and my time with them is limited. I want to spend more quality time with them, to laugh more often with them, to continue to hug them everyday and tell them I love them everyday. I want them to know that they are a blessing to me and this world, that without them, my life is not complete.
- To supervise my professional staff with more intentionality. I want to discover what their passions are, what their career goals are, and work to help them move along their path development.
- To talk with more students. I want to engage more students in conversation. This could be face-to-face or even over Twitter, Facebook, or blogs. However, I want to learn about and from them. I want to know what their interests are and what how they feel about their experiences. I want them to know that I can be a support for them and help them to succeed.
- To be a better husband. My wife has a hard job teaching fifth graders and taking care of our children. She gets out of work ninety minutes before I do. By the time I get home, she has accomplished a lot with them and it is almost time for dinner, then baths and bedtime. I want her to know I appreciate all that she does for our family.
That is my list. It is only four bullets long, but they carry a lot of weight. None of them is an item I can simply cross-off when it is accomplished. I don’t check-off my family, students, and staff as something I did that day. These are about how I go about my day, how I do my work, and how I interact with those closest to me.
Today, my life changed. My little girl became a big girl, more independent (although she promises to live with me forever, which she can believe for as long as she wants!). Your life has changed, too. Have you reflected on how it has changed recently? Have you made a list of how you will respond to those changes?