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From Your Lower School Division Head: Courage
Tracey Shirey

Courage is too big a topic for me to choose only one story on which to write. I have much to share, and I’m thankful for my oldest daughter who came to me the other day with an inspiration board, a creative brain break activity she whipped together in between studying for school tests and the ACT. It was nothing fancy- a simple shoebox top which she covered in pictures, words, quotes, and drawings...a visual representation of her “style” she said. It gave me such a beautiful snapshot of where she is in her 17-year-old life, a sneak peek into her heart and soul. 

It is in this same spirit I offer you my own inspiration board on our virtue of the month, courage. Here you’ll find quotes, references, short stories, and thoughts on what it means to be courageous.

 February    Courage   “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”  Psalm 27:1

One of my favorite quotes that speaks to courage is this one from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Astronaut = Courage

Our second graders had an amazing treat Tuesday when astronaut Colonel Paul Lockhart came to ESD to share his story. Colonel Lockhard flew two missions to space on the space shuttle Endeavor. He took students on their own virtual flight to The International Space Station during his engaging presentation. As we watched his personal video footage and 

participated in his simulation, I couldn’t help but think of the courage required to be an astronaut. Colonel Lockhart empowered our young ones to consider life as an astronaut, and he spoke to them specifically about their work with recycling this year. After sharing what has to be reused and recycled on a space shuttle and at the space station, students are more curious than ever to begin their study of migratory space life.


More on Colonel Lockhart can be found here.

Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer is a must-read for educators and a book we studied with our LS Leadership team several years ago. Teaching is courageous work, and it is work of the heart. Teaching is all about relationships, and relationships require a good deal of courage. In this clip, Parker reflects about three influential college professors on his life. He goes on to shockingly share that he can't recall the most basic subject matter they taught him. So what did he remember, and what impact did it make on him as a person? He remembered the relationships he had with those professors and the heart with which they led- that was what impacted his life the most.

The Courage to Lead

All leaders, young and old, need courage. Several summers ago I attended the Wonder Women conference by Leadership & Design in Oakland, California. This was like no conference I had ever attended. Active participation was required, and let me tell you, I did more public speaking at that conference than I had the past ten years of my life. I think most people would agree that speaking in front of a large group requires a certain amount of courage. Speaking in front of a large group and sharing personal information requires a double dose.  We risk being judged, misunderstood, and even rejected. Sometimes our students feel the same way in the classroom. Recognizing this and building a trusting environment where risk-taking and courage live is vital to developing our learners and leaders. Enter The Responsive Classroom, the premise from which our social-emotional wellness program operates. I hope you'll take some time to familiarize yourselves with this important part of your child's education. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a big fan of Brené Brown's work. I find her research on vulnerability and shame to be of great support to me both as a parent and as an educator. Brené's research shows that we cannot have courage without being vulnerable. Nor can we experience joy without vulnerability. In the video clip below she is talking to a group of teachers at SXSW about the courage and vulnerability teachers experience on a daily basis. Did you know that joy is the hardest emotion for us to hold onto? Dr. Brown explains that for about 95% of us when we experience joy we tend to sabotage our thinking with negative thoughts. But there's one practice we can do to hold on to joy, and you've heard me speak to it many times. The practice of gratitude.  (I was in a second-grade classroom just this week where students were adding to their gratitude journals!) As part of our professional growth work, I've asked LS faculty to watch and reflect on this talk. I hope you'll consider watching as well and shoot me an email with what resonated with you.
(Warning: some adult language is used, so be mindful of who's around when you're listening.)

Courageous Conversations

Amy and I often use the term "courageous conversations" as part of our work in partnering with parents. It means that we lead with respect and kindness when we share your child's learning journey, and we practice courage and empathy when we know the news might be hard to receive. We, like you, want what's best for children. We work really hard to know our students, teach through their strengths, and provide them with the best tools and strategies to be successful learners and thoughtful citizens. We're looking forward to our upcoming parent-teacher conferences where our goal is to share the progress your children are making this year and establish some working goals to finish strong. See you then!