Advancing by Retreating

By now most people have heard the joke about the three best things about working in schools: June, July, and August.  For years I have been asked some version of a related question: Do you work during the summer?  What exactly do you do all summer?

There is certainly some truth underlying the above sentiments and questions.  There is an indisputable change of pace at school during the summer.  In my case there are far fewer meetings, far fewer events, and indeed far less excitement. 

The key is for one to embrace that change of pace as an opportunity to re-group, re-vision, and re-focus.  A couple of recent experiences in which I have participated since the end of the 2013-14 school year have heightened my awareness of that opportunity.  The day after our last day of school and graduation, I began a Memorial Day weekend retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center here.  The timing of the retreat was in fact exquisite since the contrast between the peacefulness of the retreat and the end-of-school rush could not have been more dramatic.  The retreat gave me a chance to reflect on what type of person I am at this moment in my life, all within a spiritual and faith-based context.  So the question at the heart of the experience is this: What kind of person have I been during the school year just completed?  What kind of person do I choose to be going forward?  I realize that many (most?) people do not have the ability to spend a weekend on a retreat.  But there is a way for every person to structure a few moments each day in reflecting on questions like the ones cited above.

Earlier this week I attended the June meeting for heads of member schools of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS).  As is the custom with this annual June gathering, the meeting took place at a vacation destination setting- this year in Colorado Springs (no, not the Broadmoor).  The program was of very high quality, but the schedule was more leisurely than at most of our meetings.  The focus shifted from the “being” reflections of the retreat to the “doing” reflections related to my work as a school leader.  The questions that emerged during our meeting were related to practical matters like risk management, donor-centered fundraising, legal issues, and grit and self-control as predictors of success. 

During our afternoon free from any program presentations, I chose to join a group that rode the cog railway to the summit of Pike’s Peak.  There are few things more effective in providing a person a healthy perspective than taking in the panoramic vista from 14,000 feet above sea level- at least in those moments when one is not a bit lightheaded.  My Pike’s Peak experience tied the two experiences together- retreat and meeting- in dramatic fashion.  Being and doing are two important elements in life.  Congruence between who we are and what we do is essential if we are to live lives of integrity and authenticity.  And that mountain peak also reminded me once again not to inflate my role in the grand scheme of things!    

Until next time… 

My best,

Leo