Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This is the Business We've Chosen

A couple of months ago I spent about eight hours on the road traveling to #edcampiowa in Bettendorf before heading to Des Moines for the state girls basketball finals on my way back home all in one day.  As I was traveling, I had the opportunity to listen to quite a few episodes of The Rockstar Principals' Podcast, and was very intrigued by one of their segments where Jon and Nick compared the leadership styles of mob bosses to school leaders.  I have always been fascinated with the mafia, organized crime, and have read several books about John Gotti, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, and the Gambino Family.  I have seen all of the classic mob movies like Goodfellas, The Godfather series, A Bronx Tale, and many more.  Naturally, when Jon and Nick started talking about this segment, my ears perked up.


The Rockstar Principals referenced the Godfather II and a scene where Hyman Roth has a conversation with Michael Corleone about the death of Roth's friend, Moe Greene.  Roth's close friend was murdered, and he goes on to say that he is not angry, and says his famous line, "This is the business we've chosen."  Roth knows that in his line of work he is going to make a lot of money, but there is also a strong likelihood that he or the people close to him are going to die in the process; it's all part of the business.  I bet you never thought that you would hear the mob and educational leadership mentioned in the same sentence; neither did I until I heard this podcast.  So, how in the world does this tie into our work in schools?


"This is the business we have chosen" is very applicable when we think about the many challenges that we face in a given day as educators in the school setting: children coming to school hungry, parents not showing up for important meetings, students coming to school unprepared and not ready to learn, and the list goes on and on.  We are going to deal with issues similar to the ones mentioned above and many others of which we have little or no control, and should not be surprised because this, in fact, is the business that we have chosen.


It doesn't make it any easier to deal with situations; however, we must have the mindset as great educators to focus on what we can control, and not let the other pieces of the puzzle prevent us from doing amazing things for kids.  Are there going to be irate parents who seem impossible, state and federal mandates that seem to make our jobs more difficult, and students who did not get their homework done because they literally have no place to go at night?  Yes, on any given day, we could experience all of these situations.  When faced with difficult circumstances like the ones that I have mentioned, we have a choice: we can choose to complain about the student, families, the federal government, or we can choose to focus on the things that we can control.  We can control the love, support, dedication, and excellent instruction that we provide to each student every single day.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  Teaching is so incredibly difficult each day because it matters, and not everyone has what it takes.


As an elementary principal of two buildings, I am faced with my share of challenges whether it involves difficult students, upset staff members, pressure from the state, requirements from Central Office, and so forth.  It is so very important for me to model the behavior that I expect from our staff members.  So, over the past three months, I have found myself saying, "This is the business I have chosen," when dealing with challenging issues.  It is the business I've chosen, and a pretty damn good one too.  I cannot imagine doing anything more important.  We have an incredible opportunity to provide world class experiences for our kids, regardless of the challenges they are facing.  Let's be great.          


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