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Success Is a Journey, Not a Destination

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”
– Maya Angelou

Happy New Year!

I hope that you had a pleasant holiday with plenty of warm family time.

As we begin 2024, I have been thinking about success. Success can take many forms. On Monday, January 8, my favourite American college football team, the University of Washington Huskies, lost to the University of Michigan Wolverines in the college football championship game. Naturally, I was disappointed that the Huskies lost (I revisited Boys in the Boat in order to feel a bit better). I expected the Huskies to lose despite their great season. The Huskies had an incredible offence; the Wolverines had an incredible defence: in my experience a great defence usually beats a great offence.

Though the Huskies lost in the championship game, they had a successful season. It is normal to see success as the final outcome of something. To be sure, the final outcome matters, but the reality is that success is better measured by the smaller successes that we experience day to day.

One of the great joys of working at a school is seeing the constant daily successes of our students (as well as all community members). Success is ubiquitous at school, so much so that we often don’t recognize it for what it is.

With our younger students, success happens as they make the small daily steps of learning to read. It is also found when they learn to socialise with peers (e.g. making friends, sharing, being kind…). The littlest of kids are successful when they learn to take care of their own needs, like putting their own jacket on or carrying their own backpack. Those might seem like small things, but they are critical life skills that everyone needs to successfully do themselves.

As young people grow, they find success in tackling increasingly sophisticated academic and life challenges. These challenges (and the accompanying successes) are different for everyone based on their context. For example, a student who scores a “2” (on a 1-4 point scale) may have had to work harder and learn more than the student who scored a “4” on the same assessment based on where they started. The success is in the learning and growth, not the final outcome (just like the Huskies).

Similarly, a middle or high school student who joins the basketball team, but does not make the CEESA travelling team may be every bit as successful as the student who makes the winning shot in the CEESA tournament. Because, maybe that student who didn’t make the travelling team has never played before, but took the great leap to learn a new sport knowing that they would be playing with other students who had played for years.

One of the most powerful things we can learn as people is to see our successes by what they mean to us, not by what they mean to others.

One of my favourite successes that I witnessed this school year happened on a Friday evening in December. The AAS High School Student Council sponsored a movie night for students to watch the holiday classic: Home Alone. At the end of the film, the student audience cleaned up the minor mess that normally accompanies movies. We (the chaperones) gave the students brooms and dustpans. It was obvious that some students had never “broomed” before (as one student called it). We gave some tips, and they successfully cleaned up. I was impressed by their ability to quickly pick up “brooming”, but more so by the fact that they cleaned up after themselves on a Friday evening.

On a personal note of success, I learned to surf this winter holiday. As I caught my first waves, which were tiny, and found myself more often on top of the board instead of tumbling between the bottom of the board and the sand, I felt joy and success. It was fun to watch the surfers who rode the larger waves turning hither and yon, but they’re greater skill did not diminish my feeling of success.

As we continue into 2024, I wish you success whether you take up surfing, learn to “broom”, or what have you.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
-Leo Tolstoy

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