This week we had our daughters’ parent – teacher conferences. These are the beginning of the year discussions where teachers provide a quick snapshot of what they’ve observed so far and set goals for the year. Having sat in a few of these now, I find myself wondering when the goal setting in elementary school started and what in the world my goals would have been had we set some. And then I remember – my first grade goal would likely have been to learn to tie my shoes instead of relying on anyone around me to help. To this day, I do love slip-on shoes. If only I’d had that goal….
At our second conference of the week, my daughter’s teacher suggested as one of her goals to maintain a ‘growth mindset’ – which turns ‘I don’t know how to do this’ into ‘I don’t know how to do this. Yet.’ One small word that drastically changes the meaning. When my daughter was asked if she could sign up for this goal, she squirmed a bit in her seat, saying ‘that’s hard for me.’
Her comment made me think of a recent piece I’d read about Ginny Rommety, the CEO of IBM. Her now famous comment during an interview was, ‘Growth and comfort don’t co-exist’. And I was equally reminded of that when I recently met with a fellow Burlingame mom, Elizabeth Kendall.
For those in our neighborhood, Elizabeth’s name may ring a bell. There are a number of possibilities for why. She’s a mom of 3 elementary school kids and an active supporter of the school, from PTA meetings, to pushing for removal of the bungalows (aka trailers) that the 3rd graders use as classrooms, to serving as a mentor for the Washington STEM fair. What you may not know is that she’s a research scientist at Stanford Research Institute who studies the weather effects in the upper atmosphere and oversees a research facility in Greenland. So yeah, it’s pretty safe to say she’s qualified to oversee the kindergarten STEM fair submission.
It would also seem pretty safe to say that her plate is rather full. In addition to her very big job, raising 3 kids and managing their myriad activities while supporting the school, she managed to wind her way to the March on Science a few months ago to make sure her voice was heard and support of science seen. But the other reason her name might ring a bell to locals is that it’s one on the placards in yards around town. Elizabeth is running for the Burlingame School Board.
Not only is she running, her involvement resulted in a true election. For the last many cycles, the school board members were appointed unopposed. There weren’t enough people who wanted to take on this important responsibility to even warrant an election. Suddenly, people are having to talk about what they stand for, and what’s important for our community. This after Elizabeth threw her hat in the ring to join the board 3 years ago and was ‘interviewed’ at a public school board meeting. She didn’t get the spot. So she returned 2 years later to join the board. Comfortable? No way. Change-maker? Absolutely. And with an election – something new this time. The mayor has weighed in, with an endorsement for Elizabeth.
It’s easy – and comfortable – to stand on the side lines and criticize or second guess the decisions that are made. It’s far tougher to shake up the system and be willing to embrace growth and eschew comfort. And now I realize – if I’d had those goals to set way back as my 4th grade self, I’d endeavor to be like Elizabeth – someone who not only believes in the importance of driving change, but is willing to get uncomfortable to see change through. It’s inspiring to see.
And one final point on inspiration: lest recent elections didn’t make it perfectly clear that every vote matters – consider this. Our local mayor won the election by….wait for it…a total of 9 votes. So whatever your views and whoever your candidates may be – make sure you make your voice heard. It’s a lot easier than a trip to Washington DC to March for Science.