Principal at Good Hope Middle School, Ouachita Parish
2018 Louisiana State Principal of the Year Finalist
The beginning is the most critical part of the work. – Plato
January 1, 2021, a new day, a new year, a new beginning. Day 11 of 2021, freezing weather, bitter winds, SNOW. Fast forward to Day 46 of 2021 gray skies, below-freezing temperatures, and more snow. God has a way of showing His domain over our lives when we least expect it. With the time off, I had the opportunity to reflect and think about new beginnings as spring approached. Through my reflection, I came up with eight tips to help me enter a new season. I hope they will help others too.
Renew. Each year, spring brings forth a new beginning. It is a time for preparation. For me, both professionally and personally, Spring 2021 brings a season of change. Personally, my oldest daughter is graduating high school and entering college in the fall. Professionally, as an educator, spring brings preparation for the fall months with extra-curricular tryouts, testing, examining staffing needs, and preparing the schedule for next year. As these new beginnings approach, I will continue to appreciate the newness of each day and the opportunity to seize its greatness.
Rebirth. Resilience, uncharted, unprecedented, and unique are words that have been the mantra of 2020. As Louisianans, these words are what we are. We are unique. We are parishes. We are king cake and Mardi Gras. We are Ouachita, Calcasieu, Atchafalaya, and Tchoupitoulas. We are etoufee, gumbo and jambalaya. We are bayous and jazz. Louisiana is and always will be resilient. Let us enter this new season with hope and confidence and capture the possibilities this new season will bring.
Reflection. As tomorrow’s newness awaits, I developed a personal mission statement that I am reflecting on daily- I received a wonderful gift – LIFE. I plan to celebrate it and live it to its fullest. I will strive to maintain positive familial, social, and spiritual relationships. I will take time to understand the misunderstood, educate the uninformed, and love the unloved. I will face tasks no matter how large or small. I will do them right or not at all. I will eliminate mediocrity, neglect negativity, and exert myself to improve life, love, and work. I will endure life, laugh more, and celebrate life’s greatness. I will remember that things that do not hurt me only make me a better person, friend, and leader. I am accountable for my decisions and actions. My grandmother would often remind us that a clear conscience is the softest pillow. Have the courage to do the right thing! Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher. That is the mantra I am reflecting on daily, and I challenge others to develop a personal mission statement, too.
Reveal. As a twenty-five-year educator, I sometimes struggle with my “why.” With the approach of a new season, I plan to reveal my “WHY.” I have always possessed a love for writing. Writing is my expression. This thought brings me to an article that I wrote in summer 1994 while completing a summer workshop at Harvard University’s College of Education that I think is relevant today. Then, as I thought about the famous Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime,” I thought about how it applied to my life and wrote the following words, “Many say my biggest journey begins with a small step. I am taking my step by becoming an educator. I want to a part of the future, but I want to help shape the outcome of the future. I have the responsibility of shaping the minds of young children. This responsibility must be as steady as a surgeon’s hands. The doctor’s responsibility is to heal. The police officer’s responsibility is to protect. The teacher’s responsibility is to mold and guide. I chose education because I want our children, tomorrow’s leaders, to fish for a lifetime. Educating a child is more than just saying. It is doing and modeling. I want to do more than say what should be done. I want to do what MUST be done. Show me, I will forget. Tell me, I will remember. Involve me; I will learn. What I do for myself, I will take to my grave. What I do for others will live forever. Plant your professional legacy.” All those years ago, I discovered my “why,” and today, I revisit my “why” as it is still applicable.
Relish. As aforementioned, Louisiana is unique. We own it and relish it. Our flavor and style are often imitated but never duplicated. Let us enter spring, relishing in who we are. I often tell my three daughters to love “the skin they are in.” You have God-given talents. Use them to help one another. Cling to your prayers and thank God for all that He has given you. We are truly blessed for all that we have. May we relish it and continue to use our gifts.
Reliance. I lost both of my parents before I was fifteen years old. My sister, Penny White, has been the single most influence on the woman I am today. I give her flowers while she can still smell them! Her strength and guidance afforded me inspiration and hope. She often reminded me to rely on others. As we enter a new season, let us remember to help others and accept help when we need it. Lend a hand. Pray for one another. Listen. Love and support each other unconditionally. Be someone on which others can rely. It makes a difference.
Remember. The only thing permanent in life is change. Louisiana, at its best, is adhering to change. Change has allowed us to adapt to life and accept the little things we have. During the storms, my family lost power and water. When the water and power were restored, the heater whirring’s sound and the warmth of the water were truly appreciated. Change is growth. Growth is success. May we remember to embrace change and appreciate the simple things life has to offer.
Rejoice. Never get too busy to celebrate life. There is so much that encompasses a healthy and happy life. Seek innovative ways to spark your imagination while challenging yourself to be a better person. The greatest gift that we can give each other is love and compassion. Happiness is a fantastic leader. It is pure and confident. Rejoice in celebrating life and share happiness.
Recognize. I wear many titles and roles. However, the GREATEST roles that I have are wife and mother. My family has been a great support in all of my endeavors. For over twenty-one years, my husband, Abram Calhoun, Jr., and my three beautiful daughters, Lauren (17), Ava, and Layla (9) are my life’s joy. We experience life together. My work family at Good Hope Middle is a fantastic support as well. Today and always, I recognize my most essential roles and am thankful for them all.
Relinquish. Finally, let go of anything that does not bring you peace. Relinquish all that does not bring you joy.
This month, we enter into spring. Spring is a transitional time and a time for renewal and rebirth. It is a time to say goodbye to winter and start things anew. It is time for new opportunities and new possibilities. As I recently reflected, I came up with eight tips to help usher me into a new season. I hope that my suggestions are helpful to all who read this. May each of you write your mission statement and find your “why.” As Plato once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” May we all embrace the beginning of a new season. It is a season of fresh rosebuds coming out of hibernation, warmer weather, more daylight, and a greater appreciation for LIFE!