Highlands Blog

Day 1 at Highlands

Kavita Vasil
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has been in the news this summer for Amazon’s enormous purchase of Whole Foods, but he was in the news last spring describing his cornerstone “Day 1” mentality, which focuses on guarding against the contentment that success can bring. He has been reminding people about Day 1 since he founded Amazon in the garage of his Seattle apartment in 1995. Even the building he works in today is named Day 1.

By committing to his Day 1 mentality and striving to maintain a “start-up” climate throughout Amazon, Mr. Bezos has sparked a culture of resilient creativity and restless innovation that calls on his community to approach everything they do with fresh eyes, attentive ears, and open hearts.

How do you top that? Not with Day 2.  “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline,” he says. This kind of decline, Bezos admits, happens in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the result would still come. That is why it is always Day 1 at Amazon.

I was fortunate enough to have many Day 1 moments this summer, from learning and growth opportunities that have invigorated me to time with family that has brought me laughter and joy. In June, our entire administrative staff had a 2 day Admin Retreat at Samford University. This included a glance backwards to what was accomplished and what was still in progress from the past year and opportunities of focus for the new school year measured against our Highlands Strategic Plan. Our administrative team at Highlands all possess a deep understanding of the mission and values of Highlands and a firm commitment to the individuals who enrich learning in our school every day.

As part of our Master Campus Plan, we have been re-imagining our spaces. Through the support of our Board of Trustees, and the herculean efforts of Elise Blackerby, Nancy Riley, and Larry Bender, we are piloting three completely redesigned classrooms, both 1st grade rooms and the middle school language arts classroom. Except for the structural four walls, we have completely transformed the environment based on research of how a student’s environment influences learning.

I also had the gift of time to read several books I have been itching to get to for a while. Of course, it helped to read these while on vacation, looking out over the serene and beautiful Pacific Ocean in Northern California. If I were to rate my favorite summer reads, these two would make the top of the list:

A More Beautiful Question – The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

Originals – How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Finally, last week, we welcomed back our faculty for a week of in-service. Our veterans along with our eight new faculty/staff make up a Dream Team that could teach anywhere yet have honored Highlands with their commitment, dedication, and service to children and families. I have observed them in grade level and all faculty meetings this week, I have observed them during our curriculum workshops and presentations this week, I have seen them setting up their classrooms, and everything else they have taken on their long “to do” list. Functional leadership is about process; transformational leadership is about people. I am privileged to be working alongside some amazing individuals who will lead me as much as I will lead them.

I enjoyed Day 1 today as the entire school community gathered around the quad, showing their Highlands spirit and greeting friends. We will enjoy another Day 1 tomorrow, and every day this year.

So, on behalf of the entire faculty and staff, welcome to Day 1 at Highlands. 
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Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.