When I was thinking about whether or not to take the job as Head of School and Foundation at Lakefield College School, I reread a quotation that inspired me, from the epigraph of Daring Greatly, which is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
At the time, I wondered if I could start a new job, in a new home, hours from my family. I wanted to take the opportunity to put everything I had learned from my time at CAIS, when I saw 150+ of the best schools in the world, and to lead a school that our family loved through the experiences of our teenagers, but I felt that it was a huge risk, for many reasons that you can imagine. Eventually, I realized I was compelled by this opportunity to dare greatly.
Good news so far – I am not sure how long it took, because it felt like love at first sight, but in the past year at Lakefield, I have fallen in love with all things Grove. Our family feels so good about this decision that it hardly feels like a dare at all.
But now that I have just more than a year under my belt, and now that I have worked with our Leadership Team, board, staff and students, and now that we – as a full community! – have developed our Strategic Directions (stay tuned!), I feel that now is the time that this quotation really comes to life.
In the next few years, we need to make some big choices – for example, what will be our signature programs? Can we grow our school size while retaining our culture and small-school advantage? What will be the main elements of our new House Model? Can we be a school with a rigorous academic program AND a caring community with an experiential, outdoor program? How can we ensure our school is affordable to great families?
There are so many options for us, and we talk a lot about the fact that not one of them is a bad choice. As a Leadership Team, we agreed that we will need to have courage to make good decisions and that whatever we choose will require us also to champion the choice for a good 3-5 years. (We will, however, also do ongoing research and reflection, with the courage to switch gears if something is not effective.)
In other words, when I think about what is needed to strengthen the school, I believe that our Leadership Team will have to dare greatly. The future of Lakefield, as with the future of all schools both public and independent, will require us to do things differently. The trick for us at the Grove is to embrace what is new all the while retaining – and possibly strengthening – the best of what we are and have been.
At last night’s alumni reception in Calgary – my first Canadian alumni event and the first of many chances to connect with our global community this year – I loved hearing about everyone’s favourite aspects of Lakefield. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a new part of our community – the experiences and stories of our alumni. It reminded me of Jacob and Kathleen’s stories, and there were so many similarities with what I am hearing from our current students as I tour the houses in the evenings again this year.
But I had two additional questions. It was important to me to also ask, what might need to change as well as what must never change.
Finding the right combination will be tricky. In fact, finding the best way to manage our strategic choices will require our entire community of staff, students, parents and alum to fully embrace this concept of daring greatly.
I sincerely hope you will join me in the arena, so together was can make LCS the very best it can be for past, current and future students.
p.s. On my flight home from Calgary, I started reading Brene Brown’s new book Dare to Lead. Yesterday, and I kid you not, it was recommended to me by Mike Arsenault in the morning and given to me by Carol Grant-Watt (the new Head of Strathcona-Tweedsmuir) in the evening. I was clearly meant to read this book! And then there it is again in the introduction – Brown includes the Roosevelt quotation in this book too.