Thoughts As We Begin the Year
Every day, we change. This is true for all of us – our children, our friends, and our communities. At the start of each school year, I love taking stock of this change. Some of this change is planned – our great new staff, wonderful new space, inspired new programs, even the new blue paint in my new office. And some of it is a surprise – new traffic at middle school pick up, new staff babies being born, new talents on display by new students. It’s a fabulous part of my experience here.
Though our school year is young, I’m thrilled with what I am experiencing right now. More than ever before, students laugh, play, question and create, while they express joy for being here each day. Teachers move through the day with purpose and passion, connected and focused, all along supported by our leadership team and our new teacher mentor program. Parents, grateful and some even giddy, smile with joy each morning and afternoon, some even writing me to express their emotions about finding our community. Some parents and teachers have even said to me, “now we are a real school!” What I think they really mean is “we are a bigger school!” and a better version of ourselves. And that feels “real” because more systems are in place, more space is available, more kids means more opportunities for friends, and our expanded program means more choice for our children. And this feels good.
When I arrived at Synapse, there was a need to change quickly and to “fail fast” as a parent on the Board told me. Now, three years later, after some fast failure and quick course correction the need has changed. Author, blogger, and entrepreneur Seth Godin writes that “we move (slowly) toward the person we’ll end up being. Not just us, but our organizations. Our culture.” He asks his readers, “Are you more generous than the you of five or ten years ago? More confident? More willing to explore? Have you become more brittle? Selfish? Afraid? Grumpy and bitter isn’t a place we begin. It’s a place we end up. Do we intentionally choose the optimistic path? Are we eagerly more open to change and possibility?” The answers to these questions add up incrementally. The change is not fast, but the change is real.
Godin’s questions are important ones, questions teachers and students ask themselves here at Synapse each day. It’s what we do and how we approach building our community. Godin goes on to write, “Every day we make the hard decisions that build a culture, an organization, a life. Since yesterday, since last week, since you were twelve, have you been making deposits or withdrawals from the circles of supporters around you? Do we find ourselves taking actions that make our conversations more considered, our arguments more informed, our engagements more civil? Or precisely the opposite, because it’s easier?”
Building a school is not easy, I assure you. But, boy, is it worth doing each and every day. Because so many of you have helped us, Synapse is thriving. And I feel it’s time to look ahead now that we are “real.” So I ask you what Godin asks us: “When your great-grandfather arrives by time machine, what will you show him? What have you built, what are you building? When your great-grandchildren remember the choices we made, at a moment when we actually had a choice, what will they remember?”