Thinking Beyond the Status Quo

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Albert Einstein

Early in my life, I fell in love with puzzles. There is just something about challenging yourself to attack a complicated problem that I have always enjoyed. Even today, I will find myself sitting at the house working on a crossword or a sudoku puzzle in my downtime. Problem-solving forces us to pull away from everything we know and sometimes question our assumptions. The way we handle problems tells us so much about who we are as individuals. Great problem solvers are capable of viewing issues from multiple perspectives, and when necessary, reframing these issues in new and creative ways.

A few weeks ago, I was in the grocery store. I had a list and was trying to get a few things for the house before heading home. I had not intended to purchase toilet paper. I had enough toilet paper, but when I got to that aisle, there was a frenzy of activity as everyone was stocking up on toilet paper. So, since every other buggy in the store had toilet paper, I grabbed a pack as well. Only one pack. I wasn’t interested in hoarding; I just relieved my anxiety by following the peer pressure of other shoppers and falling in line.  

The toilet paper scarcity problem in the country has fascinated me. I am pretty sure that toilet paper does not play a significant role in the prevention of COVID-19 the way Clorox and hand sanitizer might. But, it is rushing off the shelves nonetheless. The simple answer is that people are hoarding toilet paper; however, we must also consider that since the majority of the country is staying at home during this pandemic, we are making more trips to the bathroom at home and far fewer at work or school. We might actually need more toilet paper at home. It is easy to write people off as hoarders, but realizing the peer pressure and fear are both extremely contagious allows us to see the problem through a different lens.

When we disrupt the status quo, there are ripple effects. COVID-19 disrupted our sense of normal. As the events surrounding COVID-19 continue to unfold, it is changing the way we think about grocery shopping, dining, education, and many other parts of our normal lives. Finding answers to the problems caused by this disruption will require deep thinking and collaboration. It will not be solved by the same thinking that created these problems, and it will not be solved by blaming others for these issues. The ripple effects from the spring of 2020 will likely be felt for years to come. It is up to us what is remembered, the problems that could not be solved, or the creative genius that allowed us to thrive in difficult times. The world will be different when this is over, but what it looks like is still up to us.

Keep Climbing!

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

From time to time, everyone needs to find something to do to escape the grind. For my wife and I, we have spent the last couple of decades using hiking as that release. Specifically, we find something to climb. There is something about putting in the work and taking an uphill adventure. The views just seem better after hours of on the trail. After a tough week, it isn’t unusual for my wife to look at me and say, “I need to go climb a mountain somewhere.” We live in an amazing place for these types of hikes. From North Georgia to the Shenandoahs in Virginia, we have a world of opportunities within a day’s drive. More than one could hope to hike in a lifetime!

The view from the summit gives you perspective. After a long hike, in the silence and solitude at the top, the hills and valleys that once stood in the way seem much smaller than they once did at the trailhead. On most hikes, the view from the top is usually the midpoint of our journey. Gravity, momentum, and the sense of accomplishment always make the second half a little easier than the first half. In my experience, trails and trials have a lot in common.

Unfortunately, the trials and troubles of the last few weeks have certainly limited our ability to engage in a number of normal activities. From dining out to planning an outdoor adventure, our activities and opportunities have been significantly reduced. For many of us, the ability to work and produce income has also been cut back. The stress that many of us face is significant. Edmund Hillary, the first man to stand atop Mount Everest, once said, “I think that all mountaineers do get a great deal of satisfaction out of overcoming some challenge which they think is very difficult for them.” In these difficult days, I encourage you to keep climbing. There is something about continuing to put one foot in front of another, clicking off mile after mile. Pushing through the difficulties will make the view from the top of this climb a little bit better because of what we have all gone through. And… we will be better because of what we have endured.

An Exercise in Exceptions

“Even Life Itself is an Exercise in Exceptions”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This is one of my favorite lines by one of my favorite characters. If I can find any way to describe the events of the last few weeks, there is no better way to start than to describe it as an exercise in exceptions. There is no playbook for the decisions that we have faced in the last few days, and these decisions have weighed heavily on the hearts of administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Last Thursday morning, students came to school getting ready for scheduled ROTC and band events, choral concerts, and spring athletic contests. We finish this week with schools closed and events canceled. The majority of our students and staff have also quickly transitioned to an online learning environment.

We still face significant uncertainty on how long the current status will last. There will be growing pains as we go through this transition, and we ask that you bear with us. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of our students, as so many of them have embraced this sudden change. I couldn’t ask for a harder working group of teachers and staff, as many of them have teamed up to help this transition go as smoothly as possible. Faculty and staff continue working together to get google classroom’s setup, helping pass out chrome books to parents and students, and voicing genuine concern for the well-being of their students.

Every day, we are working to increase opportunities to provide meals to students that might need it. My hope is that we can continue this as long as it is both practical and possible. While school looks much different this week than it did last week, know that many of those services that we provide to students are still available. If you need to talk with your counselor, your teacher, or an administrator, we can arrange it. If we can help ease the burden that you’re feeling during this season of our lives, please reach out. Know that this will pass. While we don’t have all of the answers to your questions, we have not forgotten, nor do we take our responsibility lightly to help you or your child graduate high school well prepared for the world that they will enter. We know that their dreams depend on it!