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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting Back Up

Wins and losses are counted in many different ways for many different reasons. Everyone loses at something sometime, (I've certainly made more than my share) but successful people prevent personal defeats from getting them down. Instead, they learn from their misses and work hard to convert their mistakes into personal victories. Let's look at sports. At one time the legendary New York Yankee, Babe Ruth, simultaneously held the major league baseball record for most home runs and most strike outs. It's hard to swing for the fences if you're worried about striking out. Yet, if you fail to adjust as a result of the misses you're not likely to remain on the team.

Two separate experiences influence this evening's Blog. First, an interview committee comprised of several teachers and the two building administrators and myself spent half of the day meeting with candidates for a position teaching high school English. Second, the boys basketball program opened up the Central Hudson Valley League season in their home opener.

There were nearly 120 applicants for the teaching position that will become vacant upon the retirement next month of a longtime contributor to the dreams and hopes of many learners who had passed through the hallways at Heatly High. Ten dozen college graduates looking for a teaching role after acquiring the necessary degree and certification. If you even select the top 10% of the applicants to interview that still leaves you with 12 very well qualified candidates, each deserving a 30 or 40 minute interview. It's a lot of work and a very important responsibility. Yet, when you identify those who you will offer an opportunity to contend for the position, you are also disqualifying over 100 other potential teachers from consideration.

Each of our staff members seated around the conference table has at one point been in the same spot as the applicants; anxious and hopeful of securing their first teaching position. Each of us can identify with the feelings that the individuals wrestle with as they prepare for the interview, sit in front of ten members of the panel, and respond to questions both anticipated and unanticipated. Each person interviewed will receive specific feedback on their performance. Only one will be hired. The rest will help determine their fate in the future with other schools in the manner in which they integrate the feedback into their preparation for their next interview. If they incorporate the advice and opinions we provide into future experiences they may likely increase their chances for obtaining a position somewhere. If they choose to subscribe their inability to receive a job offer to the failure of the interview committee to perceive their potential, then they may very well meet with frustration during additional interviews elsewhere. We can all learn fro our setbacks.

That brings us to the boys basketball games. Both the Modified team and the Varsity team went down to defeat this evening. While there's always a sense of subjectivity within the officiating of the sport, the margin of loss both teams suffered would render that issue a mute point. Neither game was close after halftime. We can be proud of the consistent effort and refusal to surrender that both teams evidenced in their determined play. The question remains similar to what's been posed above - can we, will we, learn from the experience? If we do, then we can salvage something positive from an otherwise negative evening. We can learn something about ourselves in a situation like this. Did we give up? Did we begin to blame our teammates or coaches? Did we search for excuses?

It starts with our willingness to honestly and objectively look in the mirror after experiencing a loss - whether it's not receiving good news following an interview, or being humbled by the numbers on the scoreboard. What went wrong? How did I contribute to the loss? What can I do differently in a similar situation? What can I practice in order to improve? What strategic changes can we make? How can we work together to better our performance? Am I willing to commit to the difficult work necessary to improve?

I recall a quote I read once which offered the advice of the former undefeated heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Rocky Marciano. He said that it "doesn't matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you get up."

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