Finding the Courage to Create

Dr.Jackson_July16_edition

by Ryan B. Jackson, Ed.D

An anchor statement is your brand’s bottom-line, the boiled-down essence of everything your organization represents. I’ve been on a mission lately, evangelizing to educators the power of embracing their brand, both personal and professional, and I’m prepared now to put my money where my mouth is.

I was recently hired to administer my own school; I’m now the proud principal of Mt. Pleasant High School in Mt. Pleasant, TN. Naturally, I’m bringing my personal brand with me. In fact, I’m quite certain the #UnderdogsAdvocate brand played a large part in why I obtained the position. The past several years have been dedicated to showcasing my life’s work, tirelessly serving underprivileged students, in order to better connect with fellow educators, community members and various stakeholders. The impact of creating and sharpening my personal brand has had a multiplier effect on not only my work but also serves as a conduit for others to learn from my work, the driving factor of a professional learning network (PLN), as well as a 21st century form of professional development.

MPHS pic

Limitless possibilities

Immediately after taking the helm of Mt. Pleasant ideas began to swirl. Mt. Pleasant is a school in the midst of a rebirth-like transformation, surrounded by a city bubbling with innovation and business development. The school’s identity was starting to develop organically as its middle-school feeder (a visual and performing arts 5-8) was promoting incredibly talented freshmen year-after-year. This overwhelming surge highlighted the obvious: What’s the next step?

And so the #Courage2Create movement was born.

The idea is simple, and it most definitely applies directly to Mt. Pleasant; however, its impact and reach stretches far beyond any one particular classroom, school or school district. Actually, I’d argue the ethos of Courage to Create expands through school systems, organizations, families, even governments. It’s a divergent way of thinking, where status quos are burned in favor of rebuilding new paradigms from the ashes of archaic, controlling old ones. All of this scholarly rhetoric sounds great nestled in a blog post but it has to have a starting point, a tangible beginning: the beginning is courage.

Courage implies we make a leap of faith, trusting our instincts, relying on our skillsets. Courage rejects judgment, ignoring the mundane majority in favor of a more exclusive, eccentric club. You can begin to see how my two brands intersect, as the Underdog’s Advocate platform is built around proving the majority wrong while writing your own success story. The Courage to Create movement is merely an extension of that ethos; it’s where the rubber-meets-the-road. Initially, I thought this movement exclusively applied to young people – I’m an educator thus my brain constantly focuses on improving student outcomes – but a trip to Boston, speaking at the Americans for the Arts convention expanded the idea.

After speaking with artists, educators and community stakeholders from across the country, the unyielding message was an extreme need for change. Reduce education’s standardization and increase community arts influence to improve quality of life were just a few of the common threads echoed during the convention. The majority of the dialogue that followed centered on HOW? How do we change things? How do we inspire others? How do we sustain it? My response overwhelmingly was simple: Courage. Yes, the courage to begin, as so often the decision to change and its first-step require the most faith, yet also the courage to persevere, that unwavering fortitude to weather life’s (and our system’s) inevitable storms.

DrJ speaking

Introducing the #Courage2Create vision at AFTACON.

At Mt. Pleasant it will mean inspiring a student body to find the courage to create their future, a symbolic rally-cry that emphasizes your destiny is indeed in your hands not cemented by bloodline or previous expectations. Practically speaking, we’ll ask students to embrace their inner-artist, whether that’s as an engineer whose art serves a necessary utilitarian purpose through the beautiful bridges and infrastructure designs they’ll create or the dancers, musicians and painters whose artistic-creations equate to food for the wearied soul. Even student-athletes will see the artistry behind disciplined training and courageous commitment. Furthermore, it’ll mean challenging a faculty and staff to step outside of their comfort zones. Embrace the courageous act of relinquishing the safety and self-control of our previous norms in order to create something new – something different.

The Courage to Create is most definitely our Mt. Pleasant High School anchor statement but it’s so much more than that. It runs parallel with my philosophy on leadership:

“Leadership is a lifestyle.”

And, in essence, so is the Courage to Create. It’s an amalgamation of growth mindset, logotherapy and a burgeoning STEAM movement. All of this coupled with a personal touch, that unique flair that distinguishes us from every other living thing making our creations truly one-of-a-kind.

Our Courage to Create mission is uniquely embedded within the rising tide of Mt. Pleasant High School but its universal message – the theme that transcends geographical borders and passionate purple cow leaders – lies within the hearts of all organizations redefining themselves. It’s a synergy that has a Tesla-ability to illuminate our shared connections while celebrating peacock-inspired differences. Please join us on this journey towards self-discovery and realizing then maximizing human potential.

All it takes is courage…