Friday Focus – 02-14-2020

Dear Team,

Every child deserves a chance to shine on a stage. For that matter, so does every adult. Fortunately, in Round Rock ISD we all get a chance to shine (more on this later)!

First things first, Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have someone special to celebrate in your life today — whether it’s a spouse, partner, best friend, parent, sibling or child. In my opinion, Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about romance, it’s really a celebration of love, and all of us benefit from love in our life.

I saw a lot of love and pride on display earlier this week when I attended Round Rock ISD Council of PTAs Reflections Awards Ceremony at the Cedar Ridge Performing Arts Center. It was standing room only, not an empty seat in the house! Reflections is a National PTA program that provides an inspiring theme each year and recognizes student artwork in a variety of categories, including visual art, dance, film, literature, photography, and music composition. This year’s theme “Look Within” provided inspiration for amazing work as students expressed themselves about who they are, what motivates them, and how they find peace.

Students reciting their own written work, whether essays or poetry, did a beautiful job of sharing their stories. Some were confident, articulate and poised. Others were nervous, their voices shaking, but the delivery only added to the beauty of their work. The courage of their vulnerability was breathtaking. On this Monday night, our students shone bright on that stage!

What struck me as I watched these students perform is the electricity in the room and the feeling that everyone in that vast facility, whether on stage or obscured by the darkness in the sea of seats in the audience, was rooting for every kid on the stage. A tall young man from Westwood High School exuded confidence as he delivered a monologue on the id, ego and superego and how they combine to make up the complex behavior of human beings. He captured the imagination of everyone in the room and his enthusiasm for his topic was contagious. But no less impactful was the student who spoke more quietly, clearly nervous as he shared his secrets, his fears and insecurities, with a roomful of strangers.

But in that moment, we weren’t strangers. We were leaning forward, hanging on every word, loaning our confidence and support. We were rooting for him. We were rooting for them all.

The night before Reflections, I caught just a bit of the Academy Awards. Watching some of the students on Monday evening, I was reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech when he won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He was the portrait of a tortured artist as he delivered his heartfelt speech, and, while uncomfortable at times, it was beautiful in its vulnerability. And as the camera panned to his fellow nominees you could see they were rooting for him.

“Human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment,” he said, to applause from his peers.

That invention, creativity and ingenuity are what we saw on display Monday evening, right here in Round Rock ISD.

All of our students won’t end up on a stage. But, as Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” Whether it’s in the classroom, the band hall, on the gym floor or football field, in the realm of leadership or friendship, let’s find a “stage” for our students and root for them to do their best. To not let fear keep them silent or diminish their ability to shine.

Who are you rooting for? Who’s rooting for you? We all need a cheering section, even when — especially when — we feel we’re faltering. That’s when the audience leans in and wills us to succeed. When this happens, we all breathe a collective sigh of relief, assuring us we are never, ever alone.

I hope you are able to spend some time this weekend with some of those who are rooting for you. And I hope you know that I am rooting for each and every one of you every day. We’re better together, and we’re better when we’re rooting for each other. On this 2/14 let your light shine on and for others 24/7!

Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools