From Mr. Lagarde to Our Students, Choice is Your Superpower
While school officially started this past Wednesday, Friday morning’s Convocation felt like the true beginning of our year together. It’s the first of many times that we gather as one school to celebrate our commitment to character, conduct, scholarship, leadership and service as Severn Admirals. During the morning ceremony, Headmaster Doug Lagarde welcomed every student with words to guide attitudes and shape expectations for the year ahead. The following is excerpted from his remarks.
The first weeks of school are always filled with anticipation and excitement and often raise a lot of questions. What and who is new? Will I do well in my classes this year? How will my interests and passions change? There are many unknowns ahead and those unknowns can bring forth excitement, but also apprehension and nervousness.
That nervousness is good because it shows that you care about what happens this year and in your future. In fact, it’s a signal that your body is preparing itself physically and mentally to meet your future unknown challenges successfully.
I do worry that at times those emotions can be so strong that they become overwhelming and you feel as if you are no longer in control. But let me assure you, you always have control, more control than you realize. At every moment and in any situation you can choose how to act and respond — that puts you in the driver’s seat; it puts you in control. The ability to choose well is arguably the most influential tool for controlling your future. Choice is like a superpower.
From Who You Are to Who You Will Become
Choice takes us from who we are today to who we want to become in the future. The choices you make reveal more than your likes and dislikes, they also provide insight into your character. If you choose to tell the truth; if you choose to be respectful and kind; if you choose to be a reliable friend; if you choose to be genuinely interested in others, you show the world that you are a person of superior character. It’s not just a private activity, but a public one as well.
How do you make the right choices?
First, know that you will not always make the right choice and there will be times when your choices are unsuccessful and disappointing to you and others. Superheroes aren’t always successful, but after failing at something, they always choose to strive forward and try again. They respond to difficult situations, to failure, with renewed effort. You always have a choice, and my hope is that you choose to renew your commitment and effort when you are faced with disappointment this year.
But, again, how do you choose well? James Ryan the president of the University of Virginia gave a speech a few years ago when he was the Dean of the Education School at Harvard in which he provided a strategy for choosing well. That strategy involves asking four specific questions before choosing:
Wait, What?This question gets at the root of all understanding. It clarifies crucial aspects of a situation so that you can choose more wisely.
I wonder why?This question activates your curiosity and allows you to probe deeper to further clarify the situation.
Couldn’t we at least?This gets your mind thinking about potential options you have to choose from and provides momentum forward.
How can I help?This question is at the heart of choosing right. Whether you ask "how can my choices help me?" or "how can my choices help others?" if this attitude is central to your decision-making process you will choose correctly far more often than not.Wait, What?
Clarifies. I wonder why?
Activates curiosity. Couldn’t we at least?
Initiates momentum. How can I help?
Assures your choices will improve yourself and the Severn community.
My Hope for This Year
As this year unfolds, my hope for everyone here is that we all use our inherent superpower – the power of choice – to be the best versions of ourselves. My hope is that we all choose to tell the truth, to work hard and to meet challenges with resolve. We can choose to unplug from our devices and listen attentively to a friend, a mentor or the world itself. We can we choose to meet disappointment renewed determination.Choice lets you make a positive difference in your own life and in the lives of others. If that isn’t the most important and powerful superpower, I don’t know what possibly could be. Don’t let the future happen to you. You control it because you have choice. Use your power of choice wisely to shape a successful future.
Thank you, Headmaster Lagarde