Keep Your Focus

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by Nancy Mugele, Head of Kent School

A woman I admire, Eleanor Roosevelt, famously said, “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.” Often used in graduation speeches, this quote resonates with me. Yet it is another quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that inspires me more. In my own research on leadership, I just re-read Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way by Robin Gerber, a senior scholar at the Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland. In this book, Gerber provides a roadmap for leadership from the pages of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life. One of the tenets stuck with me: Keep working on your understanding of yourself and lead according to your own beliefs and values. 


On Friday, I told the employee group that I had hit a wall the previous week, resulting in tears, indecisiveness, and self-doubt. This shared vulnerability gave our faculty, and those who support teaching and learning, permission to hit the wall and come out on the other side. The struggle is real right now, and we have to acknowledge it. We were not strategically launching The Kent Online School when we steered the Kent School program to distance learning. We were swiftly and strongly reacting to safety precautions taken in the face of a global pandemic. We believe wholeheartedly in the deep value of our unparalleled environment for learning, and know that nothing replaces the rich experiences our students gain with their teachers in their classrooms. 


I re-read Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership lessons after I hit my proverbial wall last weekend. The refresher helped me focus on my beliefs and values, which include optimism and hope (definitely on my short list for next year’s word). Eleanor also wisely encouraged leaders to “keep your focus.” This simple thought put self-doubt on the back burner and made me focus on our students. What is best for our students is always our first priority at Kent School. It is central to our mission for a reason – students are at the very heart of every educator’s desire to lead a purposeful life. 


Connection is the most important thing we can offer students now, even more so than content delivery. Whenever the time comes when we can be together again, our expert faculty will get our students back on track. That is their superpower. No students are ahead, and no students are behind. Our students are where they need to be, connected with educators who are keeping their focus. 


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