First Day of School For Gold Medalist Kids!

Tonight I write from head and heart about your first day of school, a lot about family, patriotism, ethics and values.

Watching the Olympics is extraordinary, I’m sure you’ll agree. How amazing to see the best in the world compete, note how they get along, or don’t and when it gets really great, mess it up with terrible behavior, by any standards.

I started following the Lochte scandal on Twitter. The more I got into it, the worse I felt.

All leaders know the importance of following rules, meeting standards not only of grades and goals, but exhibiting the highest behavior of ethical morals and values. I think true Champions, sports athletes and learning athletesfollow a code which goes something like:

Protect your family, home and school.

Model tenacity.

Be of high level ethics and morals.

Love every person you meet.

Give more than you get.

Take blame.

Make amends.

Work really hard. Arrive early. Leave late.

Find some balance.

Watching great athletes is thrilling and back stories most compelling. School is a lot like that.

Great schools figure it out. Each school is its own family, with ways to do things that consistently work. Servant leaders, principals sharing leadership with all staff hear every voice, including first and foremost, students.

Parents are our partners, too. There needs to be a seamless effort between school and home, however you choose to do it.

First day of school is the Olympics opener. Filled with flash splash, getting to know you, setting the learning year and expectations kicks off the Gold Medal year. Primacy-Recency Theory holds true. Students remember first, best, so a strong school-wide and classroom kick-off really counts. Of course, last day of school is another biggie, closing things up. At the moment, fresh start, new beginnings is on my mind.

Family, ethics, patriotism, values. Regardless of how we organize our classrooms, homework or not, textbooks, yay or nay, a lot has been decided. Figuring out blended learning, project based learning, student-centered learning, inquiry learning, digital learning, maker spaces, however you want to get there is just great. However, where are we going, anyway, and how we get there depends on our school-house family and its values.

The future is now, already here. Our knowledge of pedagogy, tech and program possiblities is astounding. What schools lack in money and resources is problematic, but deep in our hearts is belief that by modeling how we think, question and learn will undoubtedly help our children meet change and growth which is inevitable.

Mindsets matter, grit, resilience, empathy, back to Maslow, that’s where the first day of school really starts. Kids want to know what it will be like every day, what to expect, how to behave and be part of the larger class community. Who is our teacher? Schoolwide, the big family extends from one to another, hands held, minds melding.

There was really very little time for champion administrators and teachers to take a break this summer. Instead, a busy stack of professional reading, online articles and research, great blog posts, Edcamps, you get the idea. Stories dominated. Stories of life. Now it’s time for bold, brave, risk-taking action. And the most fun first day ever. Sky’s the limit.

So I come back to the notion that if truly want our schools to be the best in the world, we ought to take a moment as school bells begin ringing, to determine our destination and prepare our roadmap for excellence. That really is Vision and Mission. I believe all kiddos are geniuses waiting for opportunity to create, invent, explore, master basic skills, with Genius Hour every hour of the school day.

Most importantly, who we are as people, contributing to the future of our great nation of future scholars and leaders, reigns supreme.

Schoolhouses have been evolving for years and years. Ethics and values remain the same.

Back to Lochte, when we look out at the sea of eager faces across America, we see geniuses and champions, best in the world littles and bigs. Learners waiting for us to set the environment, gather the resources, then let them fly like eagles!

Making it to the Olympics is such an honor. Being part of the team. Being part of the family, Olympians and supporters, simply extraordinary. Somehow a couple adults, not kids broke that first day of school code of conduct, structure and rules and became focus of cringe-worthy international dismay.

Contrast this story with the story by John Cena, a heart wrenching, beautiful story about patriotism. It’s obvious educators all share an intense belief in encouraging our country’s youth to Olympic gold standards. That championship spirit drives us to refine our strategies, make mid-course corrections and dwell on success, not failure.

All children are at-promise, not at risk. Enrichment always beats out remediation. Attitude is at the top of the affirmations and telling the truth is always number one. When we are dishonest or make an unworthy decision, take the blame, tell the truth, make amends.

How did those athletes forget first day of school basics? We expect kids to follow our lead as quality human beings, no matter what. Regardless how schools teach and assess progress, ethics, values and our patriotic spirit remain primary for kids of all ages, therefore that’s where Opening Day really starts.

First class and morning meetings set the tone for the year. As we decide how our room is run and how to get along or solve our problems, we build trust. We are safe and content. We can make mistakes and profit from them. There is no great failure, only feedback.

I read enough about Lochte and I’m sure you did too. This story is one we cannot forget as a nation of great leaders, nor can we allow it to happen again, at least what is in our control. It all begins on the First Day. It all begins with us.

Wishing you all the best award winning, fulfilling first day ever and every day after that until that final bell rings, if your school still has them.

There were many ‘greatest ever’ athletes showcased at this Olympics. Ashton Eaton was one of many. However, he summed up my feelings about the value of participation and being a true champion, when he said “I’m just feeling happy to be a part of the family, the decathlon family, regardless of the records. To be a two-time medalist is great, but it’s just greatest to be a decathlete.”

School is like a decathlon. We’re in it for the long haul, no matter what.

We ought to re-think, as classrooms and schools our belief in what being a gold medal school really means and how our values support this.

As a society of educators, we join hands in thanks for our combined hard work, dedication, infinite belief in the genius waiting for us to encourage it, and demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.

I believe in literacy on angel’s wings, and you are all angels. Surely you are being rewarded with your best class ever, feeling strong and confident, ready to change the world, step- by-step, inch by inch with love, respect and honor.

Writing this at my kids’, with almost Kinder in and out waiting for me to play another board game. First we reviewed the rules, promised no cheating, then had lots of fun. That’s what First Day school is about. Family. Values.

Along with the honor of teaching, great leaders model respect, a patriotic sense of belonging with the family of team and country, for the greater good.

Thank you to all the great Olympians who gave us pride and hope by overcoming great obstacles. By performing extraordinary acts of excellence, along with generosity of spirit, you join John Cena and countless others who continually pay it forward. Best patriotism imaginable, kid-worthy.

Our legacies are waiting. Our destiny is right now. This is our defining moment.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

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