"Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure. --Napoleon Hill
This was the quote that our new principal left us with today as we ended our day-long faculty meeting. And, yes, I did say day-long. We had a whole-heck-of-a-lot to discuss. As I drove back to school to finally face the mountains of unpacked boxes, I thought about that quote.
It is hopeful, but it also hurt a bit. I am glad to have a chance at our greatest success, but it still hurts to have been a part of our greatest failure. It's difficult to reconcile that one cannot exist without the other, no matter how much we wish it could.
As my administrators and I sorted through mounds of leftover supplies and trash last week, we talked about this journey that we are on. In essence, we're starting a new school, but we're doing so in the span of just a few weeks under chaotic and uncharted circumstances whereas others get a new building and a year or more to plan and settle. It's overwhelming at minimum, mind-blowing at maximum. In the four core subject areas (math, science, English, and History), we return 16 teachers from last year; we have 25 new-to-Nichols teachers in those departments. We had a great deal less turnover in the other subject areas, but we also have 3 brand new assistant principals, 2 new counselors, and 1 entirely new support staff in an unfinished office.
On Tuesday, our faculty joined forces with the other junior high in our network for a training. When we had to get up and move around to meet new partner, I learned her name, her subject area, and all about what she'd be if she weren't a teacher. She was so nice and funny, and I was truly glad to have met her. I only had one problem.
I had to ask, "I'm sorry, but do you teach at Nichols or Shackelford?" It felt clumsy and embarrassing not to know who taught in my very own school (and it was clear that I wasn't new as I was standing there in my favorite Nichols t-shirt). There were so many new faces that I haven't met in my own building that I thought I had better check before I spent the next 3 days trying to track her down for a lunch meeting only to discover that she doesn't even work for us.
And she doesn't, by the way.
But plenty of really nice new people do, I've discovered. I don't think I've had to introduce myself this often at Nichols since I walked into that gym for registration 14 years ago. Everywhere I turn, there seems to be a new face and a new name, but they are smiling faces who don't seem to mind introducing themselves a dozen times either. I am extremely thankful for my penchant for name memory this year.
The meeting today was overwhelmingly positive in its mood and tone. For the first time in a long time, I felt as though we were making choices that were out of logic as opposed to tradition. I felt like we were truly making choices that were in the best interest of our students and teachers as opposed to ease. We examined rules and policies for worth and consistency and chose which fights were most important to us. And I finally felt our focus begin to shift from our past to our present, with our eyes upon the future.
That was a good feeling. That was a damn good feeling.
But as any good Nervous Nellie would tell you, I still have my hesitation. We are pretty unproven at this moment. The jury is still out. I've been on dozens of "new staffs" especially through my time camping. In years past, when people ask me about my new staff, I've been known to say,
"Well, I really like 'em, but I know enough not to get married on the first date."
But with one year to prove ourselves, like it or not, we just might have to.
See y'all at the chapel.