"The Journey of 1,000 Miles..." - Mid-Pacific Institute

High School Principal's Blog

"The Journey of 1,000 Miles..."

Posted on September 6, 2017

by Thomas McManus on September 6, 2017

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Just about my favorite two nights of the year are Mid-Pacific's Welcome Program in the fall and Aloha Program in the spring. They are joyful for so many reasons. For starters, there is the unabashed and enthusiastic reception for the unique talents of performers which range from party tricks (joke-telling, juggling) to cultural connections (Hula, Taiko, Dragon Dances) to lifelong passions (piano, singing), etc. The kids are just plain brave and the audience rewards them with aloha.

As the principal, I also love the way these programs mark time to open the year and close it with bookends of gifts from the hearts of our community. The kids' gifts are in their talents. The adults' gifts are in their time, copious amounts given behind the scenes to produce a show, run a school picnic, sleep away with seniors at camp for two nights, greet parents on back to school night, host morning coffees, and--of course--interact and love the students through these important transitional days.

During Thursday's Welcome Program, the senior class welcomed new teachers with a slideshow that ended with the famous quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu: "The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step." This is an awesome educational quote because it feels like we are always beginning (even our year-end graduation ceremony is called "commencement"). If we can embrace an opportunity to be new and aspire to new heights, every day is a day to begin.

For the last few years, I've told colleagues at school that I consider this past week, ending with the all-school picnic (our fifth week, halfway through one quarter, full of the machinations and events that mark the opening of school) as the "end of the beginning." Unlike the inverse saying which is more apocalyptic, my message is intended to tell them that we have really come some distance already in this young year; the "normal"--but still high intensity--period is to come as we all stop feeling so new and ties grow deeper between us, our work, and our belief in one another as a community.

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Of course, life doesn't work that way. I'm not sure there really is a "normal" or calmer time to the year, only what's ahead and how we feel about it. As educators, we know that for each student (and ourselves) some days/weeks/months feel like fast starts and some feel are more like a warm-up. We speed up and slow down for lots of reasons and matching our pace to one another helps everyone move forward. I've been thinking about this idea of pacing as I watch our team at cross-country meets, grueling but prescribed distances that ask for personal discipline and grit. The distances are fairly constant but every race is different because every runner is different on that day.

Last week, the Owls were at an Invitational at Kualoa Ranch, a beautiful setting for a race that drew some of the fastest competition from the West Coast of the mainland. Some of our students recorded their fastest times with the inspiration of new competition while others found themselves outpacing themselves with little left at the end. In both cases, there were lessons to be learned and in all cases, there is something even better around corner...another race.

So, perhaps my belief in the "end of the beginning" is best thought of as a way to mark the passage of time rather than any promise of what the next phase will look like. We can look forward to the coming week as the "beginning of the middle," "the middle of the beginning," or just the end of the weekend! Lao Tzu may well have told us that even with each step, there are always another 1,000 miles you may yet still desire to travel. Each day is filled with opportunity and our good work is in believing we can get there together. As always, I am proud to run with my fellow learners (faculty, parents, and students) on our course. We have come far already, and great things await us in the 2017-18 school year.