Anything for a year . . . .
One of my father’s favorite reminders to his four children was “you can do anything for a year.” This bit of wisdom has crossed my lips numerous times with my own children, friends, colleagues and occasionally, with a bit of introspection, back at myself. When and why would he say this? My father would encourage us with these words any time one of us was facing a difficult time, inconvenience or challenge. For example, when I was 20 I lived off campus about 7 miles from the University of Utah. While I believed the solution was a car, my father wisely said, “you have about a year left until you graduate. Take the bus, save your money, graduate and when you find a job, then you should consider a car. Until then ride the bus or catch a ride with friends, but for now you can do anything for a year.” He was right. Another example was in my third year as a teacher when my take home pay dropped because health insurance premiums rose dramatically. It forced me to make different and difficult choices in spending, but I knew I could “do anything for a year.” My father’s advice wasn’t a literal 365 days but it was meant for the difficult circumstance or challenge one is currently facing whether it was six months or 36 months.
Like many parents, my father had a “no quitting” mandate for childhood activities. Want to play baseball; you stuck it out for the whole season. Want to join Scouts or start playing a musical instrument, great, but you had to finish the season or year to get a true sense of whether it was for you or not. At age 24 I thought I would add mathematics as an endorsement to my teaching certificate. One Sunday afternoon my parents called and when I talked to my father I said I was considering dropping a calculus class I had started taking a few weeks earlier. I was working full-time and as a young teacher, putting in all those extra hours prepping for multiple subjects and I thought I’d put off that calculus class for another time. My father asked what the difficulty was. We were studying derivatives and I hadn’t put the time in to fully grasp it. Somewhat understanding my frustration, my father rattled off some formula to help me (he was an electrical engineer with a MBA from Harvard courtesy of the USMC). He followed up by asking, “will taking this class help your career?” “Yes”, I replied. “Then two things, you can do anything for a year and finish what you start.” I didn’t drop the course.
Our school district is undergoing some changes, specifically in the area of curriculum development, assessment and textbook-materials adoption. This has been an area that has been impacted by a recession and the need to put resources elsewhere. It’s now time to make this the priority. I’m proud of the Middleton Board of Trustees and the entire MSD staff as we discuss and implement plans to address these areas. Two thoughts: it will take a long time, but we can do “anything for a year”, and even though this will take longer than a literal year, we won’t quit but finish what we start for this is what is best right now for our students, teachers and student learning