Jeff Elstad
Owatonna Public Schools
MASA President

It is my pleasure and honor to be serving as your MASA President for the 2020-2021 school year. I look forward to working with all of you to tackle the challenges we have in front of us.

All of you are doing important work to make tomorrow a better day. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Minnesota in March, schools were closed, businesses were shuttered and everyone had to very quickly adapt to a series of changes in their lifestyles and daily routines.

Nearly five months later, we are all still adapting and adjusting. For me, this has been a summer like no other. All of us have been hard at work developing plans for the various possible scenarios for school this fall. In addition, all of us have been working to communicate the clarity of our processes and procedures in a world that expects certainty.

In this world of expected certainty, it is apparent to me that fear and anxiety reign supreme. I am sure you have received many opinions and thoughts from your constituents. Taking in all of this “feedback” can certainly take its toll on leaders. Finding a support network and keeping perspective can become difficult. A book I read this summer has helped me keep perspective in this world of craziness: Dare To Lead, by Brene’ Brown. In the book, Brown discusses surrounding yourself with other leaders who have “been there and done that” and recaptures the infamous “Man in the Arena” speech by President Theodore Roosevelt:

If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their lives but who will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those who dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in what you have to say. 

It is incumbent upon us as colleagues to provide each other with support. I encourage all of you to reach out to colleagues near or far to check in with them and find a way to support one another. Sometimes that support comes in the form of a listening ear, a venting partner or someone who lifts your spirits with humor. It is more important than ever that we connect just to talk about what life has been like the past five months in an effort to center ourselves.

In the weeks and months to come, stay connected, centered and take care of yourself and your colleagues.

Keep the faith!

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