Our large childcare center in Boston could sometimes feel unwieldy. There were just so many people, so much activity, so much to do every day, that we all needed a break at the end of the school year to prepare our minds (and environments) for the new year beginning in September. We decided to close our program for the two days just before Labor Day weekend—to children and their parents. We worked, however, and worked hard to get everything ready for the first day. But it was a labor of love and that made the difference.
As we gathered together that first morning, I took the opportunity to thank everyone for the year just passed, and highlight some of the successes and accomplishments of my team. I then moved to the task at hand—preparing ourselves and our many spaces for the children and families arriving next Tuesday. It was important to set the tone for these two days (and the year to come), and so I always prepared a few “words of wisdom” that focused on some aspect of working together effectively.
The following are my remarks to my teachers, dated Thursday, August 30th 2001. Yes, I was a director for many, many years (and I saved everything).
“These next two days are a gift. Enjoy the camaraderie, the enthusiasm, and the time to create. As you think about your classroom environments and space, read, re-read, and read again, “We Believe In…” Our philosophy is embedded in each section of the document, and your classrooms should be the picture to these words. Think big! Think creatively! How could you make these words come to life in your classrooms?
We have come together at this time, in this place, to do good work. I believe that nothing is more important than nurturing and educating the youngest of the young. We all recognize this, for, here we are!
But while we are giving to the little ones, to our teammates, to our colleagues, to our families, we need to give to ourselves as well and receive something back in the process—balance! We spend a lot of energy working in this field. And we need to fill the well back up somehow to keep vital and energized and happy! Everyone does this differently—some of us are spiritual and find our peace inside; others are physical and find that movement and exercise balances them; others read and get replenished. What do you do—to regain composure, lessen stress, take a break? Whatever you do, be certain it brings you joy, peace, and much pleasure! If so, it will be the balance you need. This year, find what works for you.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than knowledge. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, than giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a business, a home, an organization, a team.
The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one card we have—and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.
So, this year I’d like you to join me in working on our collective attitude here at the childcare center. Make the conscious shift from negativity, complaining, or gossiping to acknowledging the good and passing on encouragement, praise, and congratulations. There is so, so much more going right than wrong. So:
- Just for today, be happy.
- Just for today, live for this day only. Focus your energy on the here and now.
- Just for today, adjust to what is. Try not to adjust everything to your own desires.
- Just for today, take care of your body. Exercise it, care for it, nourish it, so that it will be a perfect machine for your will.
- Just for today, exercise your soul. Do something nice for someone without their knowing it.
- Just for today, strengthen your mind. Study and learn something useful.
- Just for today, be agreeable. Look as good as you can, act courteously, be liberal with praise.
- Just for today, have a quiet half-hour all by yourself and relax. Think about the big picture and get some perspective in your life.
- Just for today, be unafraid—to be happy, to enjoy what is beautiful, to love.
Let’s work together on balance and attitude, this year. One day at a time.
Once again, I am truly pleased to have all of you on board! Let’s make it an exceptional school year!”
Note: The “We Believe In …” document can be found in its entirety in the book, Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.