Not Being but Becoming
At the beginning of every semester, I start Chapel with a quote from Martin Luther that expresses his belief that the real strength and treasure of a nation is its people of education, enlightenment, and character. This year, trying to find the original document from which this quote was taken, I discovered the following quote, also from Luther:
This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road.
I thought it was appropriate for the start of a new calendar year and a new semester, when we are encouraged to set new goals and dream again of what we can become—both as individuals and as a community.
Upon further reflection, I realized how much this quote had rung true throughout our three-week Winter Break. One of the often overlooked aspects of this school is just how busy and energized it is all year long—even during breaks and vacations—and over this one in particular, I could point to at least ten areas in which we lived out Luther’s message of striving toward a noble goal—of focusing on what we can become and not just what we are. Below are just a handful of examples that show the range and depth of our efforts:
- I watched a number of our athletic teams, all of whom are enjoying successful winter seasons, and I saw a number of out-of-season athletes in the weight room going through personalized workout regimens designed by our athletic staff. These young men and women realize that it is the team and/or athletes that have continued to improve that do the best in the post-season, when the intensity is the highest.
- I met with Chief Information technology Officer Jim Mazzonna, who told me his department is looking at improving access to technology beyond just our 1:1 iPad program, making us more of a 2:1 school and further integrating technology into our curriculum. Especially in an area like technology, the one who stands still gets left behind.
- On January 7, 187 eighth graders took our day student placement test. Although a nerve-wracking event for them all, the placement test marked the beginning of their careers as students here, and was the first time the class of 2019, or at least a majority of it, congregated in one place.
- I met with my development team to discuss options for funding the renovation of Brantview. A beautiful and important historic structure, Brantview needs to be brought into the 21st century in terms of energy efficiency and handicap access while being restored to its 19th century luster as an elegant landmark.
- I met with a number of area partners—organizations, businesses, and schools—discussing economic development, educational opportunities and innovation, anti-poverty measures, and promotion of the arts. At the end of the three weeks of meetings, a vision of a revitalized St. Johnsbury and Northeast Kingdom economy with outstanding, world-class educational opportunities for students from Pre-K through college started to emerge as a real possibility.
- Immediately after break, our faculty and staff re-gathered to discuss over 50 recommendations that had emerged over the past 18 months as we looked at ways to improve our communication, compensation, curriculum and instruction, and evaluation of performance. Again, the conversations that resulted have started to merge into a new and improved vision of the Academy. As we get ready to begin our decennial self-study process that is part of our accreditation, this vision will become even clearer.
In all of this work on becoming more than we are, I am reminded of some quotes by Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines:
- The bigger the dream, the bigger the opportunity
- If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small
- Those who achieve great things are the ones willing to be scared but not scared off. If you dream big and take risks, impossible becomes just a word.
While sometimes overwhelmed by the busyness of break and the number of recommendations for improvement generated by our faculty and staff, I enter this new semester energized by the knowledge that we are well on the way to becoming better, that “we are not yet what we shall be but are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road.” I hope you will stay tuned as we continue to move toward our scary and audacious goals; even better, I invite you to join us on the road there.