Thursday, August 2, 2012

When It Feels Like Home

I had planned on sharing a little bit about my philosophy in my next blog but I feel like this is more relevant right now...but some of that philosophy will come through in this writing.

Starting a new job can be a bit of a surreal experience as you meet new colleagues, community members, and learn "the way it's done around here".  Each school, organization, or business is in a unique place and does things the way that it seems to fit where they're at.  There's nothing wrong with the way it's done one place or the next but just means that there is some learning that needs to take place when you start a new job.  I probably should clarify that I don't like to use the word job because in my 27 years in education I don't know that I've felt like I had "a job" and while there are always those days that make you question and wonder, I have always felt extremely blessed to work with many great students, athletes, teachers, coaches, and administrators.  I feel like I've gotten paid to do something that I love to do and would do for free (Please don't tell Dr. Lane or my wife, Deb, that I said that).  

Back to the original thought of learning a new way.....Sometimes when you're learning the way things are done you become so consumed by it that you can forget about why you do what you do.  To me, it's about working on positive relationships with colleagues, students, parents, and community members so we can keep working on doing things that have a positive impact on our students now and years down the road.  Part of building those relationships is sharing the many events and activities that we participate in, watching our students improve, and our coaches/directors interact with them and make a difference.  While I have enjoyed watching our Carlisle baseball and softball teams play I just haven't been able to feel the real connection yet because I haven't had a chance to get to know our students and I'm just getting to know the coaches.  Early on I have to say that I'm impressed with both.

However, something surprising happened a couple of weeks ago at the state softball tournament.  In the midst of learning the way things are done, meeting new students, teachers, coaches, and community members Carlisle became home.  And all of this happened after a loss.

After our softball team was beaten by Washington in the state tournament quarterfinals I know there was disappointment, not at all in the team and coaches but just in the fact that we lost.  That's happens.  I believe that we find out a great deal about our character after disappointments and most of the time our true character can be revealed after those disappointing times.  That's why what we can teach through our activities are such a valuable part of the educational experience and preparing our students to succeed for a lifetime.

After the loss in Tuesday's Quarter Finals I traveled to Fort Dodge not knowing what I would see but having a feeling it would tell me a lot about the Carlisle school and community.  What I discovered was what I was hoping for.  Many times after going to a consolation round, or game, you may see some parents and family members attending and not many more, in fact, that's what we saw from Sioux City Heelan, but not from Carlisle.  I was so impressed by the Red and Yellow I saw in the crowd and thought it said so much about the support that the Carlisle community has for our students.  Granted, we love to get behind a team that wins and the softball program has done just that for a long time, but I also hope that we support our kids when they give a great effort, compete with passion and our coaches are working hard, have teams prepared, and they are all representing Carlisle with class and pride.  I believe that if we can do that consistently winning follows and follows in big ways.

So, community support was there right away and so was the next thing I was hoping for.  A fantastic, passionate effort by our softball team and coaches.  Those who have competed know that it's not hard to get pumped up when you're playing for a championship or in a semi-final game to have a shot at a championship, but to play with the effort and heart of a champion when you're playing two games in 100 degree heat for 5th place says a great deal about a person (player), team and a program.  Driving back to my temporary home in Ankeny I couldn't help but feel so good about being in Carlisle and know that if we can get all of our programs to compete like our softball team did that day we are going to be on our way to being a  3A/4A program that will compete for conference and state championships on a consistent basis.

The bar was set by our softball team in terms of how we need to compete and it's attainable for all of our athletic and activity programs and we don't have to play in a state tournament to display it.  The passion and heart that we practice, train, and compete with is something we'll try to do on every level, every day.  That's the excellence that we will strive for no matter what the situation, point in the season, or circumstance.  We will control what we can control.....things like our effort, heart, and determination.

So, even though my old home, Treynor, won the 2A state championship (and I am happy for those coaches and players) I know without a doubt that I have new home in Carlisle now because of what I saw on a hot July afternoon from a group of fans, coaches, and players.  I'm still learning the Carlisle way in some areas of my job but I'm sure that we're going to get some great things accomplished  because of the Carlisle Way of competing and that makes me excited to get to "work". Oh, and boy, does this feel like home.