As I was watching my two Siberian huskies, Sydney and Jasper, run, explore and just simply exhibit their “zest for life” out in the back yard (and, yes it was in the snow, snow, snow, as of last week), one would not guess that they are respectively nine and 10 years old.
It was evident that both were looking through rose-tinted lenses of puppy eyes. And, when they were ready to come in the house, they showered me with lavish affection as if they had not seen me for days, even though it was only about 15 minutes. And, as I was overcome by their friendliness, my initiative took over as I was just as enthused to see them – after only about 15 minutes!
As you have read in previous articles, the adults throughout my educational career, and especially in middle school, played a significant role in where I am today. Not only did these adults encourage the gift of learning, but they also modeled overcoming obstacles, learning from struggles and how one can benefit from mistakes. And this was all done through kindly concern, interest and support – in other words, friendliness.
It was May 1979. This particular month and year stands out in my mind because I was an eighth-grader trying to be excited about turning the page to the next chapter, in my book, in education – high school. I viewed this “opportunity” more as a sense of loss. The loss I was feeling was attributed to the friendliness I had experienced from those whom I considered role models of friendliness: secretaries, custodians, classroom teachers, bus driver, lunch ladies, the extra adults who were in my classes and principals.
Being astute, as role models, they recognized the sadness and conflict I was experiencing. They reminded me that a strength I had was initiative. And, that initiative was my internal motivation to experience success by creating supportive relationships. Plus, supportive relationships just do not come to an end because you move on from one grade, school or career. It was good advice that I applied in high school, college, graduate school and try to apply in my daily work.
The rich heritage of the Siberian husky is ingrained deep within their being. Their initiative is the desire to engage in rigorous play for hours as if there is no tomorrow and enjoy the wide-open spaces of the great outdoors. Plus, their friendliness often pours out to include strangers and other dogs.
Our friendliness allows us to be open toward other people and take risks of inviting them into our world. Our initiative allows us to prioritize around the most important things. So, as we reflect on this past school year and look forward to the next school year, initiative tells us that we are capable of doing interesting and complicated work. And, friendliness propels us to be excited to see each other – even after only 15 minutes. Thank you for your continued support.
Dr. Jinger Gustafson is an associate superintendent with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.