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Superintendents’ forum: Start STRONG

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle: https://www.readingeagle.com/2023/09/14/superintendents-forum-start-strong/

By: Dr. Ryan Giffing, Conrad Weiser Area School District

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Yellow buses once again traverse the roads carrying the future in their seats, and crosswalks bustle as students take steps toward their dreams.  A new school year full of possibilities and promise is upon us.

Much planning and preparation has been undertaken by our teachers, staff, and administrators to ensure that this year is the best one yet. And while we take pride in what we do, it is important to remember that we do not do this work in isolation. Everyone reading these words has an important role to play in the education of our youth. I believe if we all work together with the common goal of investing in the advancement and betterment of our society’s future, we will all benefit.

In an effort to help provide some guidance for all of us as we work together to build our future, I would like us to focus on the idea that we must “Start STRONG!”  Though this article is being published at the outset of a school year, the tenets can be applied in any setting at any time.

“STRONG” is an acronym for “See” “Talk” “Relate” “Optimize” “Navigate” and “Grow.”

Suggestions provided are intended to be applied in school, at home and throughout the community as starting points and can never have an end.

“See”: Anonymity is a scourge, and everyone deserves to be acknowledged. In the age of the internet and social media, true connections, which are essential for humankind, have been lost. It is important to make eye contact and acknowledge individuals with your countenance. If you are within 10 steps of someone, smile; and when you are five steps away, say hello.

“Talk”: Communication is the key to gaining understanding, overcoming barriers, and discovering uniqueness. Jon Gordon says, “Where there is a void in communication, negativity will fill it.” As with your family, those with whom you work and learn are part of your life story. It is important to communicate with them.

“Relate”: As people communicate, it is natural for commonalities to surface. When those commonalities are discovered a mutual connection begins to form. It is this connection that sparks the start of long-lasting relationships. The ability to relate to one another is essential to a functional community.

“Optimize”: Once connections have formed, it is important to cultivate them by deepening the dialogue and building bonds. Creating opportunities to dig further into the likes and dislikes of another ensures that networks are strengthened.

“Navigate”: As with any worthwhile relationship, there will be moments where communication may not be clear, and barriers may appear. Rather than give up and walk away, use what you have learned about the other person to help guide you through the bottleneck. View this as an opportunity to nurture the connection that will result in one even stronger than before.

“Grow”: Finally, as you continue to feed the relationship you have, you will find that it grows exponentially. More than likely, your connection with one, will lead you to connections with others. Use the “Start STRONG!” process to guide you in those interactions as well.  Before you know it, your network will be vast and your view of your community will be one full of possibilities and promise.

I wish everyone reading this a wonderful school year. Remember to invest in your community and participate in making it better. We all play a role in shaping the next generation and I encourage all of us to “Start STRONG!”

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