Denny Smith
Leadership and Development Trainer

“Once commitment is made, providence moves too, and all sorts of things begin to occur that otherwise never would have occurred.” –Scottish Himalayan Expedition

While visiting with many of you since the MASA Spring Conference, something has become evident – your commitment to kids. Much of the time the public views administration as the fiscal and public relations arm of education without recognizing your deep desire to create the best possible educational experience for your students. One superintendent talked about taking the reins of a district that was struggling financially in the days before all day kindergarten was fully funded. He led his board and the community to make all day kindergarten a reality for every student, regardless of socio-economic status. Their kids have access to free lunches during the summer, accompanied with fun learning experiences that enhance their social and academic skills. His commitment to kids and his leadership paved the way for community support. I know of countless districts that have made that same commitment. Before programs were fully funded, they convinced their communities to provide educational opportunities for all, demonstrating that serving kids is their driving motivational force. Keep the drive alive. Here’s how.

Commit to Personal Growth. Build a Better You

Everything I talk about can be summed up in one sentence. “YOU make the difference.” You make a difference in your district. You make a difference in your community. In fact, you make a difference in the world. Maybe that concept is summed up in this little poem.

The task, to build a better world, but I said “How?’ The world is such a big place, so complicated now. And I so small and helpless, there’s nothing I can do. But God in all his wisdom said, “Just build a better you.”

It’s exciting to realize that all you have to do to make the world a better place to live is to spend a few minutes every day making you a better you. The world strives for love and joy and peace and prosperity one person at a time, so that makes you pretty important in the scheme of things. It makes you especially important because you and educator, and the job you do impacts hundreds or thousands of people, especially our young people. So it’s important to set aside some time every day doing something to help yourself grow both personally and professionally. Take time to stay on the leading edge of your profession. Hone your emotional intelligence and leadership capabilities through involvement with MASA and other professional organizations. Do something every day to put positive ideas into your precious mind. Most importantly, take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Spend time in quiet reflection or meditation daily to keep everything in perspective.

Author Hiam Ginott reminds us that as an educational leader, you are the decisive element. Your daily mood creates the climate. Your personal approach makes the weather. The way you handle problems will determine whether crises will be escalated or de-escalated, and the people around you motivated or de-motivated. The way you handle yourself in all situations impacts the outcomes immensely. The moral of the story: keep yourself positive, keep yourself motivated and keep yourself growing both personally and professionally. Your students and the people around you will benefit, but you will be the greatest beneficiary.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

The kind of _________ you become is determined by the kind of person you become. Fill in the blank with anything you want. The kind of leader you become is determined by the kind of person you become. If you want to be a positive and patient leader, be a positive and patient person. If you want to be an effective and cooperative committee member, be an effective and cooperative person. If you want to be a kind and loving parent, be a kind and loving person. In fact, that’s where I stole the idea. I was reading an article by a parent trainer who said many times people would ask him, “I wonder what kind of a parent I am?” He would reply, “Don’t ask yourself what kind of parent you are, ask yourself what kind of a person you are when you’re dealing with your kids.” If you want to be a patient parent, become a patient person. The idea is simple but not easy.

Most importantly, take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Spend time in quiet reflection or meditation daily to keep everything in perspective. Self-mastery takes time, but the rewards are huge. People that strive for self-improvement and ongoing growth seem to have found the fountain of youth. They also have a lot more fun.

Welcome Back

A couple of years ago, we concluded the spring version of our Leaders Forum with the four words for educators love to hear, “Have a great summer.” At a retirement party last spring I shared the quote with a teacher who will be returning this fall for his 42nd year of teaching, all at the same school, and one of the best teachers I have ever known. He said, “I kind of like ‘Welcome Back’.”

When the August nights cool off and fall is in the air, educators feel a sense of excitement that only we can understand as we anticipate the beginning of another school year. We look forward to hearing the school song at the first game, and we still get goosebumps when we hear it. We marvel as we watch those wonderful little human beings we call our students grow through their stages of life, and know that we are a part of that growth. We share their hopes and fears and joys and dreams and hope to be a positive influence on their lives. We are grateful to have made our choice to become educators. We reflect on the special opportunity we are given every day to help mold the lives of the precious young people entrusted to us.

What a wonderful and rewarding profession, this thing we call education. How lucky can we be? “Welcome Back.”9

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