University School of Jackson

Headnotes: Day One of the Pandemic

September 1, 2020

 

Dear USJ Family,

 

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, established a philosophy that has become legendary in the business world. He believes and teaches that successful businesses stay in Day 1 mode; the idea being that start-ups are hungry, think creatively, and outwork older, Day 2, operations who live in the static world of complacency. In spite of any criticisms Bezos may deserve, there is undoubtedly merit in this mindset. Major issues tend to grow as soon as one believes he has “arrived,” and we can all benefit from an attitude of constant improvement and daily seeking to solve problems constructively.

 

As we work through this crisis of COVID, we encounter difficult issues daily. This weekend brought three more positive cases to our school family, a middle school student and two faculty members, while three students returned from quarantine Monday. We also face new logistical challenges, updated CDC and health recommendations, as well the daily issues that one encounters in working toward growing 1200 people who enter our campus every day for school. I believe the Day 1 mindset for problem-solving might look something like the following:

 

Gratitude. We should start with being grateful for the day and yes, its problems. I am grateful for life itself, for the people with whom God has blessed me, and the opportunity to improve myself and positively impact others. Even these challenges with which we are faced should be seen as the opportunities they are. We face difficult decisions and conversations, criticisms and challenging tasks every day in educating people during these times. What a blessing! As I’ve said before, life is not safe and it isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be, and on the other side of working through these problems is exactly where we find the much-needed growth. I am so grateful we are in school today. As we look and learn from other schools around the world and even in our backyard, we can see others aren’t even trying. Others are struggling to stay open, and there are those who are finding much success. We can learn from all of those experiences.

Ownership. We tend to find it pretty easy to blame others and dodge accountability for our problems. ”I didn’t sign up for this,” or “this isn’t my fault” are lines we’ve all heard and probably used ourselves. What if we thought differently and just assumed it was our fault? Did I cause it? No. Ok, could I have prevented it? Did I make it worse? Can I improve the situation, or solve the problem? Now we are thinking in a manner that may bring about better results. As teachers, parents, and students, we should all own this crisis and the related problems. Then I understand that I can perhaps play a better role in improving them. The problems that come from our current crisis have tentacles that can extend into far-reaching consequences that are often worsened by our responses. So what can I do? I can focus on the fundamentals today. Again, teachers must enforce procedures every period. Parents must make the hard decisions regarding what students need rather than what they want. Large group gatherings, for example, such as sleepovers, parties or pick-up games, must be answered with a hard “no.” I know kids will be kids, but we adults must make these adult decisions. And students must “own” their behaviors as well, understanding that there are major consequences for how we respond today.

Teamwork. So our response must be collective. Teachers, parents, and students must work together. Saying no to social gatherings isn’t easy, but as I always preached to my students, “popularity is overrated!” Wearing a mask is no fun, and I am so tired of not shaking peoples’ hands, but success is often the result of doing the unpopular and uncomfortable things. This is a burden which must be shared together, knowing we all reap the benefits of on-campus education. We all want to be in school, to learn and grow together, to discuss a novel, solve a problem, play on the playground, and enjoy the Friday night football game. We all benefit from doing the right things to stay healthy today.

 

Doing things well on Day 1 may just give us the opportunity to experience another Day 1 tomorrow. So, let us respond well to this challenge today.

 

Don Roe

Head of School

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