Staying in the Moment

“Good teams stay in the present and what's going on right now. They stay focused on the day, the at-bat, the pitch.” 
David Ross

Everyone who knows me, realizes I am a passionate, lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Like Cubs fans everywhere, I have noted a new practice this quirky team seems to have adopted: Players who reach first base point to the ground with both fingers. Apparently, this is a practice adopted after learning about the importance of staying in the moment from a psychologist, Dr. Ken Ravizza, who often works with sports teams. With all the hoopla surrounding the potential of the Cubs this season, it makes sense for them to not get too carried away about the possibilities down the road and, instead, focus on staying in the moment.
Although many have predicted a World Series in their future this season, the Cubs know that World Series success is earned one day, one pitch, one hit, one throw at a time. Just as importantly, with the team's dismal past record of postseason success, it is equally important that they not dwell on these past failures. If they were to base their future success on what has happened in the past, they would be planning a World Series run in the year 2124. Indeed, if the Chicago Cubs are to maximize their chances for success over the course of the current 162-game season, it behooves them to make the most of each individual day, living intensely in the moment rather than looking too far ahead or worrying about what has come before. The only way our beloved Cubbies can realize the long term success they seek tomorrow is by doing everything in their power to succeed today.

In thinking about this, I realized the many parallels which exist between the 162-game baseball season and our own 180- day school year. There are many opportunities for educators to lose sight of the present moment, whether looking ahead to upcoming events or reflecting on previous events or past performance; it becomes easy to take our eye off the ball: what is happening right now, in every classroom, in every school, in every cafeteria, hallway, playground, and with every student and staff member with whom we are interacting and serving. The most successful teachers and administrators I know are simply masterful at “being present,” focusing like a laser beam on the lesson they are currently teaching, the conversation they are currently having, the meeting they are holding with a parent, the feedback they are giving to a student or colleague. Of course, these great educators are also planners, who well know what units of instruction are approaching and how they are thinking of teaching these or what professional learning opportunities they want to offer next year for various staff members. Yet, while planning these short and long term events, they never lose sight of what is most important: the future that is unravelling before their very eyes right now, whether that is the child who needs their full attention or the colleague who stops by unexpectedly with a question.

Before long, many of us will be nearing the end of another school year. Approaching the end of any school year is akin, perhaps, to approaching the end of any baseball season; whether we have had a stellar "season" or a somewhat challenging one, it becomes ever-so-tempting to lose sight of the current year and look ahead to the off season or even next year. When tempted to do so, let’s remember to “point to the ground” as a reminder to focus on making the absolute most of every second we have available to us to ensure that our outcomes--and those of the kids we serve--are the ones we are all hoping to achieve.

In the quote above, David Ross---a back up veteran catcher for this year’s team--wisely observes that good baseball teams stay in the moment, focusing intently on today and even a single pitch, a single at bat. Good schools are made up of team members who behave similarly, never losing sight of today and the single lesson, the specific question, the simple kind gesture that may just make all the difference in the world to someone else down the road.

Working in schools is an amazing opportunity; it is also a ridiculously challenging profession and when we are in the middle of our season, a myriad of responsibilities, tasks, duties, and events hit us at a head-spinning rate. Losing sight of the here and now to take care of what is coming next is always tempting as a strategy to save time; however, based on my experiences, the more we attend to what is before us this very moment and the less we try to multi-task or look ahead, the more time we save in the long run. 

Moreover, the better our collective focus is on this single day, the greater our chances of success for many tomorrows. Our season--like the baseball season--is a long one. Our likelihood of long term victory--a successful school year for us and our students--is based largely on the “small” victories we are achieving today. Cumulatively, these small victories will add up to a celebration worthy of the one the Cubbies hope to experience when they finally win the World Series! Staying in the moment and being present for our kids, parents, and each other are important ways we Teach, Learn, and Lead with Passion!

Cultures of Excellence

“ Culture is what enables teams of people to defy the odds and achieve the remarkable. ”  from the NfX Company Culture Manual “Culture”...