Return to Headlines

Supt. Olson Editorial: ISD 882 looks in the mirror to continue building a community filled with kindness and caring for all

The following editorial originally appeared in the March 28th Monticello Times

If you have been reading my editorials this school year, you’ve seen a trend in most of my topics. I am a believer in reflection, connecting to loved ones, and self improvement. I believe that taking consistent hard looks into the mirror is a powerful tool that drives me to be a better husband, father, superintendent and person every day. As a young man, this was not always the case. In fact, one of my heros in my life (my dad), had to work hard to help me think about my actions prior to making a mistake that potentially would send me stumbling back. 

Through my teens and twenties, I was headstrong and on pace to learn a lot of lessons the hard way. Through my life experiences and life’s lessons, I finally learned to slow down, reflect, plan, and think proactively. I often recall a quote from my dad that I have heard numerous times;  “A smart man learns from his own mistakes, while the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” 

When I look at how I can impact the world, I try to remember to be the wise man, and to learn from both the successes and mistakes of those that have came before me, not just in this district but in this world. I know that I can only directly change myself, but I am hopeful that through sharing honest reflections about myself and our school district, that our community is able to unite, to learn from our mistakes, to apply the lessons learned from history, and to make the world better for the next generation. 

Looking through my lens, I see three simple but major areas of growth for myself, our school district, our community, and our nation to consider when trying to make lasting change:

Look at life through multiple people’s perspectives before making decisions and forming opinions.

Welcome diverse thinking and celebrate people.

Be good to each other.

Being that my three focus areas are all deeply connected, I am going to dive into my thoughts head first. 

While growing up, I was put into some life situations that forced me to grow up fast. Through these experiences, I learned to take care of myself and care for others. I could easily make decisions at a young age. At the same time, my family instilled in me a passion and heart for others. Coupling a practiced decision-making process with a passion to serve, I often stood convicted that I found the “right and only answers” to everything I did. Believe it or not, I often had not found the only right answer. As I’ve matured, gained experience, and learned more about the different lenses through which people see dilemmas, I’ve learned more about the issues of only seeing problems in one way. 

The failure to be able to look through a lens other than our own is a common and widespread issue, and one that plagues many great people. It’s also easy to understand. In this modern world, we are not learning about our neighbors any more, we are not slowing down, being curious for growth, and asking questions. It feels like the pace of our world, a world that can feel very self absorbed with the instant gratification of social media, leads so many people to make huge generalizations about those we don’t know well, and those that are unlike us. Without time to have healthy discussions, and air out our differences, we seem to align ourselves with like minded people, and by doing so we stay in the same pattern of  “We just don’t know what we don’t know.” Unfortunately, no one is standing up to change this phenomenon.  

The longer we allow ourselves to go down this road of distancing ourselves from those that are unlike us, the more disconnected our world becomes. I think the time has come to be curious, to learn more about others, and to open ourselves up to the world beyond our self. Some of this must come through conversations with others, and through new connections. But some of it can come through self reflection, as well. Recently, I have been using a series of questions in hopes to take both my personal life and the actions of our district to a new level. It is my hope that more people begin asking these questions, or questions of a similar nature:

What would the world be like if we all remembered to look at life through multiple lenses? 

What would life be if we celebrated diversity rather than feared it? 

What would life be like if we focused on being kind and always led with love? 

By asking these questions, I have tried to challenge my own biases and thought patterns to try to make our school district better. In doing so, I believe that the Monticello School District can and will build programs, better teaching practices and policies that truly support “Every Kid, Every Day.” 

I look forward to being part of a district that walks the talk and leads a movement of learning  and celebrating all people in our community. I am grateful to be part of a community where leaders truly welcome all people who move to our community, and I hope that someday our new residents get that feeling from every single person of this wonderful community.

Our country is changing, certainly. But it always has been. From the birth of this great nation, we have been considered a “melting pot” of races, thoughts, cultures and political views. On paper, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were supposed to have “melted” our nation together in 1776 when we became a country. In practice, I believe it is high time to truly look at life through multiple lenses, to welcome diverse thinking, to celebrate all people, and, above all else, be kind humans to all humans!