University School of Jackson

Headnotes: Pandemic Leadership


November 2, 2020


Greetings USJ Families,


Did I mention that I love baseball? As a student and teacher of American history, I appreciate it as a quintessentially American invention and activity. I really appreciate this Gerald Early quote:


"There are only three things that America will be remembered for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, Jazz music, and Baseball. These are the three most beautiful things this culture's ever created."


Baseball is traditional. It brings back so many memories as it has been such a constant in my life. My friendships, family vacations, books, maybe a few video games, and simulations (anyone remember Strat-o'-matic?) all seem to have a connection to the national pastime. And every October brings with it post-season baseball (and not enough Kansas City Royals!). I still enjoy watching the games and the drama play out every night. 


One aspect of the game I truly appreciate is the opportunity to learn. I enjoy watching with friends and family and talking about situations and strategies. As a teacher, I love life lessons, and baseball is chock-full of them! Keep your eye on the ball! It ain't over till it's over. Always think one play ahead. The best team doesn't win; the team that plays best wins. Here is my favorite: It always comes down to fundamentals.


One gets reminded of this in big moments, such as with the recent Braves base running debacle or how the Dodgers absolutely blew a World Series game due to a lack of attention to fielding, throwing, and catching(all in the same play)! The experts said they had never seen it before, but true baseball fans witness it EVERY night. I would argue every game at every level is won or lost due to attention (or lack thereof) to details. And we teach most of these elements to ten-year-olds: It's throwing and catching, getting one's glove down, laying down a bunt or moving a runner, hitting the cut-off man, etc. While folks dig the long ball, it usually comes down to getting in that runner from third with less than two outs or often just throwing strikes. This is a beautiful, and often a hard lesson to learn. I know I sound like a grandpa here (and I am all about letting the kids play), but perhaps our time could be better spent on situational hitting and less on handshake choreography.


This lesson translates well to other areas. In business, no matter how well you produce a widget, one must take care of the customer at the point of contact. Regardless of how bright you are, one must show up on time and put in the work. And what about our business of school? The business of student success, as I just stated, always comes down to fundamentals. If we want students to learn, they must get a full night's sleep from pre-K to grad school. There is no way around it! We want to hit the home run on the ACT, but we must complete our 8th-grade math homework, read that summer reading novel, write the 5th-grade essay, and learn Spanish vocabulary terms. Our kids need to move! Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and burns energy to increase focus. Strong bodies and strong minds have always been related. We need to get our kids in the habit of eating healthy food, to be involved in a faith-based community, to be good listeners, and kind to one another. These are the fundamentals of student growth, and there are no substitutes. These components are integral to learning. Did I mention that it always comes down to fundamentals? Always. So keep your eye on the ball, and Go Bruins!


Don Roe

Head of School   

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