Dr. Bobby Bolen
President, Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA)
Superintendent, Bering Strait School District
Educators strive to encourage and ensure students’ well-being and assist them in their educational efforts to never give up on their dreams. Just as some students are excited by new and challenging tasks, superintendents must also attack new challenging tasks as a mountain summit they must reach. This requires taking that first step up the mountain by starting small and remaining constant throughout the endeavor. The summit may seem more than can be handled and often insurmountable in today’s educational environment. Unfortunately, the hesitation sometimes prevents districts from even taking the first step.
Just as educators believe that all students can learn, superintendents must also believe that all districts can overcome their challenges through persistence. We all first learn of persistence as a child through fun: in play, sports, and arts. We are all persistent learners in those things that might excite us. However, we become much less persistent when things are not motivating, and clear goals are not established. This is where superintendents and district office staff must come in and help set direction for reaching goals. In a 2018 EdWeek article, Steve Heisler stated that he believes that teachers can take steps to help students identify times their persistence led to success. As superintendents, we must also occasionally help our staff, district administrators, and site administrators identify times they also successfully overcame obstacles.
To create space and allow our schools to succeed, we must ensure the following elements are a part of the process. First, we must create a safe environment for people to try and fail at their own pace. We must promote the acceptance of mistakes and make them a part of the learning process. Second, we must promote a growth mindset. We want to ensure that our staff know and believe that improvement can be shown through dedication and hard work. Third, we must encourage our staff to have and show grit. We want our educational communities to believe in what they are working on and develop that sense of pride that they are willing to work long hours and dedicate themselves to making a difference in our schools. Finally, we must demonstrate these qualities in our own work to model what perseverance looks and feels like.
Persistence is just one of the attributes and life skills that everyone needs to succeed in life. Educators are some of the most hard-driven individuals in the world. This is often out of necessity, as our educational buildings have become the centerpiece of the communities we live and teach in. Digging deeper into that persistence and staying power allows us to encourage the attributes we want to see in our districts. One way to show your perseverance is always to try to do things a little better tomorrow than we did today. Always leave the place you have been better than when you got there.
Alaska Superintendents continue to be a strong group of leaders. I remind all of you to reach out to each other when necessary for resources and support. I know we couldn’t do this without each other. We will “Persevere Together.”