In the movie The Fast and the Furious, I love the first exchange between Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and undercover agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). Brian just lost his first street race, and his initial response to Dominic is, “I almost had you”. Dom responds with his now-classic swag reply – “it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning’s winning!” Brian, in his misguided assumption, believed that being close mattered. Dom had to educate him on the reality in drag racing…and life. The same holds true for us as educational leaders.
Does it matter if you are surrounded by students walking down the congested hallways, if you don’t actually connect with students? Does it matter if you are in the cafeteria during the lunch period, if you believe your job is to hold up the wall with your shoulders? While you might be an inch away from students, you might as well by miles away.
During the busy emails, meetings, and beginning of the year activities, it can be easy to go through the motions and focus on the “work”. When it comes to making connections with students, make this “Job #1”. Protect it. Cherish it. Put away the phone checking Twitter (I’m guilty of this!) and emails. Instead, focus on building relationships. Get to know names, interests, and what motivates them.
What about with parents? During community events or parent nights, are you huddled in a cocoon of familiar people? As educational leaders who work with their children daily, parents are excited to meet you and share their insights, ideas, worries, and support.
Sometimes, it is easy to go to sleep at night recounting all of the events you attended. But, does it matter if you were within inches of people but never made a connection? If that’s the outcome, you might as well have been a mile away…