"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
Character matters! We've often heard this comment expressed in speeches, rallies, sermons, and the media. But what does it really mean? Do the individual traits of compassion, honesty, courage, and integrity really matter in today's society? Do they trump over what type of car you drive, what clothes you wear, or your professional and community status?
You bet it does! It's often been said that when we die, our family and friends will remember us more for the way we treated people, rather than the possessions we left behind.
As a school leader, my motto has been: "We will prepare students to become first-class citizens with a world-class education." Here at Clayton Valley, I believe the goals for educating our students is two-fold: academic and character. If we are creating really smart students who are bad people, what is the benefit? Similarly, what is the benefit of developing exceptional students who are not academically prepared to engage meaningfully in the world with rewarding careers? We need both: smart kids who are compassionate, tolerant, honest, selfless, generous, courageous, respectful, responsible and trustworthy.
I learned a long time ago that "more is caught than is taught." In other words, we need to practice what we preach as parents and educators. Students learn more by observing what we do than by what we tell them to do. If they observe us gossiping, using put-downs, cheating, abusing substances, lying, and the like, then they are learning that these negative characteristics are acceptable behavior. And, they are likely to imitate our behavior. Be the kind of person you want your kids to grow up to be.
One of my favorite quotes is: "My goal in life...is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am." As dog lovers, these charismatic creatures have been a part of Eileen's and my family since our son was born. As an only child, our son was fortunate to have as "siblings" Bear and Mercy who helped us raise and teach him many life lessons. After Bear and Mercy passed, Cheyenne and Dakota became members of our family. When our son left for college, Cheyenne and Dakota filled our house with love, affection and communication. No matter the stress or the challenges of the day, we always had the "children" to greet and love.
Raising our son to "be the kind of person our dogs thinks he is" remained a continuous theme for Eileen and I as parents. We are proud that he grew up to be an intelligent and caring young man of good character. Celebrating his kindness and courtesy in the way he treats others was our way of reinforcing these admirable qualities. Additionally, speaking with him openly and honestly about the issues of drugs, alcohol abuse, and other character issues provides further support.
One of the primary reasons I became an educator was to make a difference in society by helping parents raise great kids who make our community strong. I take great pride that our students are good, decent, and compassionate people who have caught our school's mission to be "first-class citizens."
I was honored that we received the following letter from a visiting James Logan High School coach and wanted to share it with you. He took the time to commend Coach Murphy, our student athletes, and our school community for the character he observed at our home football game.
"Coach Murphy, I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how impressed I was with your football program on Friday night. I just moved here from Oregon, coaching High School football for 12 years now. Since moving to the Bay Area about 2 months ago, I've been extremely discouraged with the lack of sportsmanship, school spirit and class in most of the football programs that I have seen in the area. Your entire PROGRAM is top notch. From the moment I walked through the gate, I was greeted with class. I coach up in the box on Friday nights, and normally I'm get berated on my way up there. Friday, people were helpful, the staff in the press box was helpful, and even the Coach who was up in the box with me as your "eye in the sky" was extremely classy and helpful. Your players handled themselves in a first class manner, something I can't say the same for some other programs. When you could have run the score up the 50 points at the end, you took a knee and showed a lot of class the entire night. I just wanted to let you know that you run a class program and admire what you're doing."
This example of sportsmanship, school spirit and class is the mission for all our staff and students, whether it is in athletics, music, drama, academies, or clubs. We are preparing our students to become first-class citizens and to be people of character. Let us always model the characteristics we want our students to emulate. As parents, staff, and community members, I encourage you to heed the adage, "more is caught than is taught!"