Friday Focus – 02-07-2020

Dear Team,

As parents, as educators, we want our children to be as smart as they can be. To always have the right answer. Equally, I feel we should help them in being as kind as they can be. Anyone can be right. Most of us are, on any number of things we do, decisions we make, statements we claim throughout the day. It’s really not a huge accomplishment. But to be kind, to be warm, to be sincere, now that takes a different kind of effort.

If we are not kind, if we decimate relationships, hurt or ostracize others, does it really matter if we’re right? I always try to remember the great words of Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” How do you make others feel? Better yet, how would others say you make them feel?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly in the politically polarized environment of our nation right now. Unfortunately, that mood isn’t confined to Washington, D.C. It spreads like a virus across the country, trickling down to how state and local governments behave, and even how we as individuals interact with each other and express our points of view.

This week, I came across an article by Ryan Holiday, one of my favorite authors titled: It’s Not Enough to Be Right — You Also Have to Be Kind. It brilliantly (and a little brashly) lays out the case that being right doesn’t give you a license to be rude to others. And, by the way, being rude is hardly the way to convince anyone of your point of view. Holiday writes:

As we’ve become more polarized and more algorithmically sorted, we care a lot less about the people who think differently than us and put little effort into persuading them. That’s because persuasion is no longer the goal—it’s signaling. And with signaling, it’s vehemence that matters, not quality. The constraints of social media also reduce the space for any nuance or qualification you might be inclined to offer; 140 characters or even 240 does not leave much room for humility or kindness. And the desire for viral sharing heightens the need for aggressive, simplistic arguments.

As educators, I know we are showing our students that kindness matters. That expertise and knowledge matter. That a well-reasoned and researched argument, one that leaves room for empathy and understanding is far more valuable and 100% more effective than vitriol and rancor. I hope, no matter our role or position, we are all setting that example for our students. As Superintendent, I work with our elected Board of Trustees to make decisions in the best interest of all 51,000 students and 7,000 staff members of Round Rock ISD, as well as our entire community. There is virtually no decision that will make everyone happy, but I hope as we meet, listen to our community, and deliberate that we are doing so with empathy and kindness, as well as sound logic and reasoning. Perhaps local governments can be an example to our national leaders that it’s time for a change.

Ryan Holiday ends his article:

If you can’t be kind, if you won’t empathize, then you’re not on the team. That team is Team Humanity, where we are all in this thing together. Where we are all flawed and imperfect. Where we treat other people’s point of view as charitably as we treat our own. Where we are civilized and respectful and, above all, kind to each other—particularly the less fortunate, the mistaken, and the afraid.

I’m on Team Humanity! And I see examples of my teammates all around Round Rock ISD. Speaking of my teammates, I want to give a big shoutout to all of our counselors around the District who do such a phenomenal job taking care of our students day in and day out, displaying kindness and empathy. This week is National School Counseling Week, so, if you haven’t already, thank a counselor today! Our counselors are the best in Texas!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and look for an opportunity to practice kindness, focus on what binds us together rather than what sets us apart. Being right is easy. Building bridges may be more difficult, but in the end, it allows us to get to the other side.

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Be smart, but more importantly be kind. Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.


Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools