Today is September 11th

September 11, 2020

Today is September 11th, and for 39 years, it was simply my brother and sister’s birthday. In 2001, everything changed. Being New Yorkers, we are notoriously tough, and our family was more fortunate than most as my brother arrived home after walking most of the way home from New York City to his home in the suburbs--a little dusty, a little shaken, but happy to be alive. Needless to say, the 40th birthday celebration for the twins was way more subdued than planned, like everything else that evening. The grief was real — we grieved for those who didn’t make it home, we grieved for those who were injured, we grieved for the loss of innocence.

Today is September 11th, and today we grieve for a lost spring and a summer co-opted by COVID 19. An Education Week Survey warns of declines in student enrollment, increased teacher resignations, and growing concerns about academic progress in students. Much of this can be attributed to unresolved grief. According to McKinsey researchers, grief arises from the loss of one or more deep-seeded human needs — attachment, territory, structure, identity, future, meaning, or control. To overcome grief, individuals go through a three-stage process: become aware of the problem; accept the pain of the loss; and, let go of the past and make meaning from the experience. Organizations can help by setting the right tone of openness, recognizing grief when it happens, creating rituals which signal transformation and recovery. As the organization deals openly with grief, it can “transform grief into a creative force that turns loss into inspiration.”

Today is September 11th, and today we reframe our school and university narrative and focus on individual purpose. Igniting individual purpose can be a guidepost that helps people face up to uncertainties and navigate them better, and thus mitigate the damaging effects of long-term stress. It can also help our organizations thrive in the next normal. Individual purpose (where you find meaning) is illustrated by the following values: achievement, conservation, caring, freedom, respect, tradition, enjoyment, stability, and equality & justice. An ongoing conversation about purpose, meaning, and what your employees want from work can help people better identify and articulate their purpose, and even start finding ways to help them live it more fully at work, which will benefit everyone.

Today is September 11th, and today we start an ongoing conversation about perseverance and resilience by focusing on:

  • sustaining our people, many of whom are experiencing not only fatigue but more stresses than they ever have;
  • sustaining our organizations in continuing to create value for all stakeholders;
  • sustaining society as it experiences multiple existential threats;
  • sustaining our own ability to lead so that we can continue to serve over the long journey ahead.

Today is September 11th, and today we stand together with integrity, transparency, and loyalty in support of independent school and university education, all of our stakeholders, and each other. Together we will prioritize our self-care to stay strong for the long haul, together we will create the next normal, and together we will resolve our grief and fatigue to find our individual purpose and perseverance for the betterment of our families, colleagues, stakeholders, and institutions.

Take advantage of the power of the flock…

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