What I’ve Learned from My Son

As a parent, you always want your children to be successful. You want them to grow up to be a good person, to be a contributing member to society, to be mindful of the world they live in. But as they move into adulthood, there is a time where we can also learn from them. My oldest child, Billy (or William, as he is known to his business associates), is now 22. I can so vividly remember the day he was born. He was this tiny little person, who fit in the palm of my hand. His entire life was in front of him. The only thing we knew was his name and that he was ours. That was it. This month, he embarked on a four week trip to China, his second visit to this country. On his own. Alone. During Christmas. Yes, there has been some trepidation on the part of his mother…and me too. But two days in, I have realized something. Watching him prepare, plan, pack and execute this trip has taught me a few things. When I look back at his growing up and add in his trip, I realize that I have learned so much from him that I didn’t realize. Here is what I have learned from my son and what it means to me and my work.

Be Brave

Yes, this is a common saying these days. Be brave. But how do you demonstrate this saying? Billy did every bit of planning for this trip. He found the airplane tickets, selected the cities he wanted to visit, lined up train tickets, hotel and hostel reservations, and planned the entire itinerary. All on his own. That is brave. It is bold. It is detailed. If my son can plan a trip like this, who am I that I can not show the same type of dedication and bravery in what I do? I should be able to take that example and translate that into action in my school. By being brave, trying new things, planning, being detailed, I can make a difference at my school, for my kids and my staff.

Be Adventurous

A life well lived is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts to be adventurous, but that is exactly what we should do. As leaders, we always ask our teachers to take risks, to be adventurous. But are we, as leaders, modeling that advice? Are we taking risks, looking for new things, trying new things? Are we demonstrating this skill for our staff? If not, how can we expect them to follow this advice? Watching Billy plan the whole trip and set out on his own was a reminder that I too need to be adventurous.

Be Dedicated

I was a Physical Education major. Nothing wrong with that. Billy was an Accounting major. Slight difference. The thing that I was impressed with was his dedication to his goal. He determined that accounting was what he wanted to do. He researched the major accounting firms, decided which one he wanted to work for and focused his energy  on securing an internship and ultimately a position with the company he wanted. As a principal, am I dedicated enough to my school? My staff? My students? It was a great lesson to be reminded of when I watched him pursue his dream and plan his trip.

Be Steadfast

As his trip unfolded, there were bumps in the road (literally and figuratively). Tickets were not delivered, flights were changed, hotels were not what he thought. However, through it all, he showed determination and grit. He adjusted plans, fixed those things that were wrong and moved on. What a great lesson for me as a principal. We have things go wrong on a minute to minute basis. How do I react? Do I get flustered, angry? I was reminded that people are watching me to see how I react. As the leader, it is critical that I react in a manner that instills confidence in the people I work with.

While these lessons are not new, we, as leaders, ned to constantly remember them. They are all critical to the success of the organization you are leading. Thanks for reminding me son.

Merry Christmas to everyone!


About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. 2018 Outstanding Virginia Middle School Principal of the Year 2018.
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