5 ‘Be’s’ to embracing a new beginning

Today, I officially start as Superintendent for Oakwood Schools. With an emphasis on the “whole child,” we have a vision for social-emotional learning that states:

We are committed to creating an environment for all students, staff, and families that is safe, kind, collaborative, respectful, and engaging. We envision a school district that promotes self-awareness, positive and supportive relationships, compassion and empathy for others, and responsible decision-making with the goal of preparing and empowering our students to become resilient, reflective learners who positively contribute to their classrooms and society.

Oakwood Schools SEL Vision

Our Social-Emotional Team plans to implement monthly District-wide themes we hope will unify the District regarding common language, classroom lessons, advisory focus, SEL newsletters, PD opportunities, etc. While the SEL team was already moving in this direction, feedback from focus groups revealed a desire for themes to intentionally build SEL practices. For the month of August, the focus is on “Beginning.”

As I begin my 25th year in education with a new role in a new district, I believe I have entered a powerful opportunity with this new beginning. Yet, regardless of our role, our title, or our years of experience, the month of August for school staff members is always an occasion to approach our mission anew. Here are 5 Be’s to Embrace a New Beginning:

Be #1: Be Expectant for Connection. While it may be easy to begin creating action plans and seeking steps to accomplish goals, don’t forget the chances you may encounter or create to build positive connections. Regardless of our title or role, we are constantly building relationships – one way or another. Be careful in being so preoccupied in the work you are creating you miss opportunities to involve others in the journey, to lift someone up who may be struggling, or invite someone who may feel alone. Reflection Question #1: Who are you bringing along in your journey?

Every moment is a fresh beginning.

– T.S. Elliott

Be #2: Be Ready for Change – internally as well as externally. It’s funny we sometimes anticipate some changes to take place when we are in a new beginning, but then we get flustered when we find

unexpected changes around the corner. While we cannot anticipate everything, we can be in a state of readiness. It may be safe and predictable to stay in a current spot, but moving out of our comfort zone can not only create new and better outcomes externally, but they can also develop our own hearts and skills. Reflection Question #2: How are you allowing for flexibility and reflecting on how you are changing as a person for the better?

This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

– Taylor Swift

Be #3: Be Prepared to Take Risks. With any new beginning, a certain level of risk may be involved. You are moving out of your comfort zone, so it’s natural to be uncomfortable. While the risks you take may be dependent on many circumstances, they should be intertwined in the missional work of doing what’s right for kids. Take a risk to do something new that might bring a bigger impact than what may have occurred in the past. Reflection Question #3: What is something you plan to do this year that makes you nervous but may benefit our students?

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

– Zig Ziglar

Be #4: Be On the Lookout to Strengthen/Affirm Your Values. With a new beginning, there’s always a core value or belief attached to the work. Before beginning anything, it’s important to keep your “why” at the center. Too often, I’ve seen people try new ideas for the sake of trying something new. Or, they do something because someone else did it. Yet, it’s important to first determine your own values. Then, it’s important to work from a standpoint of deepening or moving more toward your values as you initiate a move. Keep your eyes up and keep scanning whether it is affirming your values. If it isn’t, abandon or change your work immediately! Reflection Question #4: How are you building reflection checkpoints to compare your work against your values?

A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery.

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

Be #5: Be Cautious of Forgetting the Past. Just because you are pursuing a new beginning does not make you have to forget the past. There’s so much rich learning and insight you’ve gleaned from your previous experiences! While you may feel you are in unchartered territory, there are some footholds of previous

experience you may be able to use to secure your footing. Reflection Question #5: What new activities might have similar situations you could learn from to help guide your work in the future?

Moving forward…

I look forward to the 2023-2024 school year and work ahead.