I saw this article today and thought I would use the nine points to analyze HoneyFern School. This may or may not be a good idea, but I am a big fan of knowing where I need to improve. Reflection is key!
1. Get specific. Going through accreditation forced the issue on this one, and struggles with a couple students really clarified my vision for the school. I believe that the vision of the school is specific, and now it is a matter of being consistent and sticking to it, not falling back into old patterns. When you leave the public schools, you will have been assimilated into the culture of testing and standardizing students. There is a period of de-institutionalization that occurs, and that can be problematic at times to stay away from. Suffice it to say that HoneyFern is not a waystation for students who want out of public school briefly; we are a safe haven for permanent departure from the lockstep, and we are accredited to be able to offer all of the institutional benefits (a high school diploma and scholarship opportunities) without the institution.
2. Seize the moment to act on your goals. I am not always as good as I should be on this one. I am great at making contacts and working on behalf of my students, but for personal goals it can be exhausting. One thing I am doing is making them a bit more public; this will force me to work steadily and consistently towards them because there is a lot to lose if I don't! I have found two editors for my non-fiction book and have put a personal blog online to keep track of my Day 0 goals. It is private for now, but I have crossed two off already!
3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. I have specific targets for budgeting reasons. I also keep track of academic targets for students, as well as experiential targets.
4. Be a realistic optimist. This one is tough. I am better at doing this for students than I am for myself. I think part of this is built into who I am. I am currently reading Beyond Happiness, a Zen Buddhist guide to examining what happiness is and what it means, and I am gaining some good insight from that book. Part of un/happiness is simply the perspective we bring to any event. I am trying to change my perspective. The Child reminds me of my own mantra, chanting, "First-world problem!" when I get morose.
5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good. Another tough one. After 40 years, I am finally able to say it: yes, I DO want to be recognized for being fabulous. There is tremendous reward in teaching when my students are succesful, and, ultimately, that is the best recognition, but it would certainly be nice to be rewarded for being good at what I do in a tangible way (plaques? certificates? my own TV show? whatever works). This is part of being a realistic optimist, though. I am a very reflective practictioner, and it is important to me that students keep growing; as long as I tell them that "practice makes better," isn't that what I should be telling myself? I find this step challenging in a good way. I can see them getting better as they work through the years (the benefit of having them for many years in a row!!), and I can also see myself getting better.
6. Have grit. An online dictionary defines grit as "firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck." Getting through it and pushing forward even when the going is tough. HoneyFern has this. HoneyFern also has an incredible support system to help reinforce when the grit runs lows.
7. Build your willpower muscle. This muscle is well-developed in HoneyFern's headmistress. It has to be!
8. Don't tempt fate. I would not quite agree with this. I think to take risks is to tempt fate, but if you don't then how will you know what you can do? The whole enterprise of HoneyFern is one big temptation to fate, but had I not left public school to start it, I would by now have been a quivering mass of misery, and my child an I would not have the relationship we do. I think sometimes fate needs a big, ole "neener-neener" in the face. We will see how this theory works out for me...
9. Focus on what you will do, not on what you won't do. I came to this on my own when I decided to stop publicizing what HoneyFern isn't in order to promote what it is. We don't need to put down other things in order to appear more favorable. The other part of this quote is not making promises you cannot deliver on, and honoring your word in all things. That is called integrity - doing the right thing even if no one is around to see it.
I would add one more thing that successful people do differently - ask for help from experts. I came to this school with a firm grip on curriculum and gifted students; I lacked all of the other parts that make a school run (business administration, marketing, website design - the list is endless). I asked for help, listened to people who knew more than me and took their advice. Bring able to recognize that you don't know it all and to find those who can fill in the gaps is a key piece to success.
What other things do successful people do differently? How do you know?