I am not writing you to make a political statement.
Instead, I’m writing to help you think differently about your school community.
The idea of school vouchers are bringing a threat to some of our schools, budget cuts are threatening some of our most successful grant programs, and some of us are thinking, “We weathered the great recession and now we have to weather this!?”
Let’s take a moment to remember that in hard times, great things can happen.
My divorce was one of the hardest moments of my life. The embarrassment, loss of dreams, and the shock of the situation put me into a very dark place. I am sure you have felt that way before, too. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you got laid off from a job that was perfect for you. Maybe life just threw you a curveball when things were tough enough already. Think back to that time, and let me ask you: how did that adversity change your life for the better?
If I didn’t get divorced, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the road reaching nearly 100 schools a year.
If I didn’t hit those 100 schools a year, TEEN TRUTH wouldn’t have reached critical mass, and I wouldn’t have moved to Austin.
If I didn’t move to Austin, I wouldn’t have met my wife.
If I hadn’t met my wife, we wouldn’t have had our first son, Austin, or our second son, Avery.
I don’t want to imagine a life where those things didn’t happen.
All of those wonderful things were set in motion by a really dark time. So as we face headwinds in education, I am wondering what greatness might lie ahead?
Difficult times force us to re-evaluate and re-create.
They force all hands on deck. Remember the day after 9/11? We united as a nation against the darkness.
So how do we cultivate that feeling on your campus right now?
We have to get serious about creating school culture. With a strong school culture, parents won’t want to use vouchers to take their kid to a different campus. With a strong school culture, the loss of key grant money won’t be as devastating because your community will be more resilient to change. With strong school culture, you can weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.
Every good investor knows when times are hard, it is the time to invest. You buy when stocks are down, not when they are at all time highs. So let’s think about this current situation like an entrepreneurial investor.
During the great recession Southwest Airline’s stock bottomed out at $5 per share, today it trades at $60 per share.
They bought Airtran, rebranded their logos, started to offer internet and TV access, and continued their “bags fly free” promotion. They strengthened their culture. Their employees continued to “fly the friendly skies” and they increased their market share dramatically.
In 2009 (the height of the great recession) Southwest carried more domestic passengers than any other airline, and continued that trend for three years in a row!
Is your staff as fun and thoughtful as the Southwest Airlines team? Are your students feeling like they are receiving that kind of value? Are your parents looking at your school as their very best option, or would they rather fly a different airline?
What would happen if culture became your main focus?
That is how we combat the headwinds. We get entrepreneurial about it and invest in our future, today!
If you’d like help building your school culture, consider hosting our student leadership summit or professional development school culture workshop this summer. Heading into next year, your staff, your students, and your culture need to be working like a well oiled machine. The future of your school may depend on it.
I’m honored to be in this fight with you,
President & CEO | TEEN TRUTH
Check out this short video that our clients at Cristo Rey Dallas created about the value of taking the time to discuss school culture.