I’m writing to you with a Thursday Thought to serve as our Friday Focus since tomorrow is a school holiday. I know the idea of a holiday feels odd since most of us have been in our homes since Spring Break, but I also know how hard you have all been working during this time. I’m so proud of our Round Rock ISD educators who, this week, launched our At-Home Learning platform. It has been a monumental endeavor to completely revamp educational delivery in the space of mere days, and though we certainly have more work to do, I want you to know how impressed I am with the perseverance, dedication and heart of our Round Rock ISD team. Think about it, we are all a part of something that has never been done in the history of our nation’s public education system!
Whether you were providing lessons to your students via Google Classroom this week or supporting your own children as they transition to learning at home (or both!), you deserve applause and you’ve earned a break. I hope tomorrow you can take a breath, reflect on what matters, and spend some quality time with those closest to you.
I think most of you know that I’m a fan of Simon Sinek (author of one of my favorite books: “Find Your Why”) and this week he didn’t let me down. A self-proclaimed optimist, Sinek appeared on CNBC to talk not only about the light at the end of the tunnel through all of this, but ways businesses and organizations can thrive. I encourage you to read, “How displaced teams, leaders can thrive during coronavirus,” which sums up his tips, but here are some highlights on how Sinek suggests organizations can become stronger through all of this:
Double down on empathy
This is a difficult time for all of us and people process anxiety in different ways. It’s important for our colleagues (and our students) to know we care about each other. This is the time for grace.
Keep up with your office social habits
Video conferencing has been a lifesaver for me! I hope you’re staying connected with your team. Text and email are great, but make a call or set up a video chat. Nothing replaces the sound of your voice and face-to-face interaction.
Leadership has nothing to do with rank
Think you can’t initiate that video chat because you’re not the “boss”? Wrong! Don’t be afraid to take action yourself. Leaders are born out of adversity.
Ideas can come from anywhere
Necessity truly is the mother of invention. This is the time to be creative and think out of the box. After all, our box doesn’t even exist right now! Dreaming up new ways of doing things isn’t an option — it’s our reality. But maybe through this we’ll discover better, more engaging approaches. Let’s focus on how we can improve and do better, and make sure we hold on to that spirit of ingenuity when things are back to normal.
And speaking of back to normal, we will get there. This too shall pass. But every time I hear someone say “I can’t wait to return to normal” it makes me think, are we setting the bar too low? Why go back? I say, let’s return to better. Let’s take the lessons we’ve learned from this and bring them into our “new normal.” I’ve seen more of my neighbors, at a safe distance, out walking together as families. Through social media, I’ve enjoyed pictures of friends and co-workers playing board games and dreaming up creative family activities. Like our Director of Behavioral Health Dr. Amy Grosso and her husband coming up with a “Disney World” ride for their son, which consisted of riding a mattress down the staircase! Disney World closed the day before the Grossos were scheduled to arrive there on a dream trip. Instead of feeling sorry for too long, they found a way to make it work. In addition, they allowed their son to pick a rescue dog and named her Minnie! By the looks of it, Minnie is the most loved dog on the planet. It worked out well for Minnie but ask them and they’d probably say it worked out for them as well!.
Another example of the generosity and kindness in our world right now is Round Rock High school freshman Emma Ray who found a way to keep spirits up for residents of a local nursing home. When she no longer could go and visit the residents and sing to them as she has done for the past two years, she set up a microphone and speaker on the front lawn, and continued to share her gifts and spread joy.
I don’t want to leave those things behind. I want them to serve as the impetus for the tough days ahead. Let’s bring the good forward as we make our way through this trying time. Feel free to share with me what you have found that has shifted bitterness to betterness in your world the past three weeks.
We will get through this together! More importantly, let’s get to better, together! We’ve got this! My hope for each of you this weekend: Let patience prevail!
Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.
Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools