Last week, my youngest daughter came home from school devastated. She had auditioned for her first high school theater production and did not receive a part. While trying to comfort her, she told me that I didn’t understand because I always succeeded in everything I did and referred to some of the lead roles I had played in theater productions. While she was right about me being fortunate in some of my acting roles, she didn’t have a clue about how many times I have failed in my life. I started to question myself and wondered if I had only focused on the successes while talking with my daughters. If they really knew me, they would know that any success I’ve had is because of my MANY failures. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Wrestling: This sport was my life in high school. My ultimate dream was to earn a medal at the state finals. When I went to the state finals my sophomore year, my goal seemed to be within reach. Even though I promptly lost my first two matches, I knew the next year, I could make it happen. My junior year ended in sickness (probably from extreme weight cutting) and being eliminated at the district level by someone that I had beaten several times during the year. My senior year saw a return to the state finals where I made it to the final eight. Medals were given to the top six. I was a two time state finalist who considered himself the biggest loser.
Coaching: When I started teaching, my district was in the process of starting up a wrestling team and asked if I would serve as the head coach. Creating a team from scratch was hard enough, but I was a first year teacher who worked at the elementary trying to recruit at the high school. Luckily, the football coaches befriended me and helped me out. Our first several years as a wrestling team was brutal. Our team was tough, but inexperienced. We had a lot of heart and very few wins. As far as I was concerned, we had the best team in the world, even though on paper, we may have looked like the biggest loser.
Career: After several years as a teacher and then elementary principal, I was offered the position of Chief Academic Officer at a small private college. Against the advice of people that I should have listened to, I left the public schools and took the position. It sounded prestigious, but in reality, the position was not for me. In fact, I was terrible at it. I dreaded coming to work each day and was perpetually unhappy. Three years into the position, I had lunch with the president and he said something that I will never forget. “Jon, I just don’t think it’s working out.” I was stunned. As lousy as I was at my job and as unhappy as I was, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my contract was not being renewed. Ironically, this traumatic event led me back to K-12 education and back to the job that I loved best in the world…an elementary school principal. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to find out what my true calling is, but during the time that I was waking up to that call, I spent three years feeling like the biggest loser.
Marriage: This was a hard one to reflect on. I’ve always considered myself a “family first” person and to have failed at the relationships that matter most was devastating to me. For years, I felt embarrassment and shame at having a failed marriage. I also felt like a hypocrite for telling people to focus on their family first, when it was something that I clearly didn’t do. However, I’ve come to learn many valuable lessons. I’ve learned that relationships can’t be neglected, that people can still parent together from separate homes, and that second chances do happen. Even if, you once believed you were the biggest loser.
PhD: Do you know what the letters ABD stand for? Someone who has participated in a doctorate program would tell you that it means “All but dissertation” and that they know many people who have this title. Well, I am one of them. At the time of my enrollment in the Educational Doctoral program, we were told that 50% of participants leave before they finish their coursework and of those that remain, half do not finish their dissertation. I fell into the second group. I completed my coursework, and took my comprehensive exams (comps), but failed to complete my dissertation. Life happened along the way and I became a well educated, biggest loser.
It’s funny how my daughter (and probably many others) only see the successes. In her mind, I simply wished for something to happen and made it so. Perhaps that is my fault. Maybe I didn’t spend enough time talking about learning from failure and how the glory is in the fight and not the outcome. Well, this post is to let my daughter know and those who I have been fortunate enough to connect with in my life, that at many times in my life I have been the biggest loser…and I’m a better person for it!
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Tamara Letter Danny Steele
- Monday, January 21: No School in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Tuesday, January 22: Achievement Team (Hurula) 8:15 AM
- Wednesday, January 23: Data Dives in the Morning (Rotating Subs), Jon to ABC Negotiations and ALT meeting in the afternoon
- Thursday, January 24: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
- Monday, January 28: Student of the Month Assembly (Confidence) 9:05 AM
- Tuesday, January 29: Achievement Team 8:15 AM, PTA Skate Night 6:00-8:00 PM
- Thursday, January 31: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM
- Wednesday, February 27: Students in AM/Building PD in the Afternoon
- Thursday, March 7: Kindergarten Parent Orientation 6:00-7:00 PM
- Friday, March 8: Students in AM/Records Day in the Afternoon
- Tuesday, March 12: Grades entered by Midnight
- Friday, March 15: Report Cards go Home
- Friday, March 22: Battle of the Books
- Monday, April 1 – Friday April 5: Spring Break
- Thursday, May 16: Art Fair (K-4) Music Concert (1-4) 6:00-8:00 PM
- Tuesday, June 4: Kindergarten Round Up
- Wednesday, June 12: Field Day