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My Why, My Joy

Enlightenment From a Veteran
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JR & Brian Roberts

this article was taken from CADA News, January 2023

I was asked to share the “why” of my involvement in student activities, and I wish I could say it is an easy question to answer, but how can you share why your heart is so full after 38 years in education and student activities? So I will find the right words to share this story with you all. As I’m writing this, I am smiling right now, crying right now, and feeling so extremely blessed. 

So here goes… I know you’ve probably heard this over and over, but today, more than ever, our students, our campuses, yes, our schools need us. I LOVED being needed. It gave me a reason; it gave me a passion. It gave me drive. I was blessed with the opportunity to change and mold students’ lives. I got to witness lives change for the good. I was blessed to watch young people grow into productive young adults. Somedays, there would be small things that I got to witness, and other days there would be significant things. Somedays, there were setbacks, and other days there were triumphs. Somedays, I’d drive home and be so upset over something that happened at school, then toss and turn in bed all night, wondering how I could improve that situation. Then, over a cup of coffee in the morning, I’d remind myself that “JR…today is another day to go to your passion and make it better.” On other days I’d drive home so excited to share with my family what success happened that day at school. Then, I’d go to bed thinking, “how can I keep this going?” 

Here’s some of the things I did (and still do) each day to help me live my why. 

  1. I always start and end each day with a smile. I feel like if I can smile and laugh at myself, I can share joy so much easier with others. Over the years, I’ve learned that many of our students have no joy at home. I could be the one to give them a little bit of that joy. It starts with a smile. 
  2. Every day, I try to say “hello” to the people I pass. Sometimes the “hello” is just a simple head nod or a wave. It’s funny over the years how many wonderful and interesting people I’ve met by just starting the conversation with a “hello.” My wonderful father taught me to do this. He was in education his entire career. He made me realize that meeting people and making new friends and connections makes you wealthy. As a retired educator, I am on a fixed income, but I am genuinely the wealthiest woman in the world. Thank you to all of you who have said “hello” back. You have made me smile. You have made my cup very full. “Hello” is the easiest way to start a conversation. I can remember many times, over the years, when a student would run into my office and share a story about someone new they had just met. Their excitement about creating a new friend was my “why.”
  3. My mentor and dear friend, Dale Favier (the first Activities Director at Diamond Bar High), used to say to his leadership students all the time that “Good Enough Never Is.” That quote soon became my mantra too. Not just at school but in life. I always want to be proud of what I’ve done. I often ask myself, “Did I complete the task just to complete it”? or “Isn’t it more fun to think of ways to complete the task and make my world better?” My family teases me because even today, I have the Thanksgiving table set a week before Thanksgiving. I find great joy in the “little” things. I used to make my student leaders finish everything needed to put on a pep rally, dance, lunchtime activity, or any event, a week in advance. That way, they had time, yes time, to enjoy the event themselves. You know that considerable joy you get in your heart when your students are truly proud of what they’ve done? Yes, it’s pretty darn special. That’s a big part of my “why.” When you realize that your students know that “good enough never is” and get excited to make their campus a better place. I often remember when debriefing a really successful event with my student leaders, we’d share all the amazing things that made it such a success. But the best part was when I’d ask them the question, “If we did this event again next year, what are some things we could do to make it better?” Listening to their excited answers was indeed my “why.” Yep, big time. (Good enough never is!)
  4. I try to remember to say “thank you” all the time. It’s easy to say “thank you” to someone when things go well. But it becomes harder to say and think “thank you” when things didn’t go well. Each “thank you” is a learning experience. I remember days sitting in my administrator’s office hearing, “JR…please don’t do that again.” Or “Really, what were you thinking?” I can remember coming up with what I thought might be a reasonable response, then knowing a simple “thank you” could have been better. Ugg! But I always learned from each ‘thank you.” How can I be more creative next time? What should I have done, and what can I do to make my administrator one of my team players again? I say “thank you” to my family and friends daily now. “Thank you” is a huge part of my “why.”

Over my teaching career, I’ve taught at three different high schools: Walnut, Diamond Bar, and Chino Hills. I appreciate each school for “needing” me. I never really went to work each day; I was blessed to go to my passion. I got to smile, meet such wonderful people, continue to improve and be totally fulfilled. Right now, I am enjoying retirement and need to take a minute to say “thank you” to YOU, yes, each of YOU. Your schools need YOU. YOU are making a difference. YOU are so lucky! Go out and fill your cup with your “why.”

 

Janet Roberts served several years on the CADA Area and State Boards, she was President 2013-2014 and put on the Convention “The Art of Leadership” in 2013.  Furthermore, Janet has been honored as the Area E Area Service Award in 2003, Earl Reum Award 2015, Harry Bettencourt Award 2024 and won the Jack Moore Award in 2022.  Through her time as the Activities Director at Diamond Bar & Chino Hills High School, her programs have won several Outstanding Leadership Awards.  Today she is living in Long Beach with her husband Brian and dog Emma while enjoying retirement, and spending as much time as possible with her family and more importantly her grandson Alvie.

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