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Bumps Ahead

Sometimes you see something, an icon you’ve looked at hundreds of times, and recognize its message. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve passed this sign on my morning walks, only to recently have it resonate.

So, here’s lesson number one: look up and pay attention to what is in front of you.

What strikes me about this signage is that it is a perfect metaphor for leadership, tenacity and persistence; all three elements that are critically important in the early days and weeks of the fledgling school year. Opening schools or opening learning this year, in particular, is going to be a tricky proposition. School leaders and practitioners need to heed the warning. Parents, community members and students themselves need to pay attention. There will be, with absolute certainty, bumps ahead.

Now, I recognize that there will always be bumps in the road. It comes with the simple territory of “being.” We reasonably forecast that the sea may not be absolutely smooth as we meander along our route. When we are aboard a commercial airliner we anticipate that some turbulence may jostle us. However, our current circumstances warrant a warning, a proclamation contained in bold black letters against a mustard yellow background. The message is not a prediction that something could or might happen. No, it is a full throated statement of fact. A warning.


Armed with that information, what should a leader do? Obviously, he or she prepares for a variety of contingencies. Is the treat credible? They will look at the specifics of the message. It doesn’t read “bump ahead.” The word used is “bumps,” suggesting multiples. How many? Can we anticipate any consistency in their spacing, scope or impact? How should we prepare for these inevitable occurrences and how might we recover from them? What do we think the long range ramifications might be? How do I prepare my community and my stakeholders, and how do I communicate with them in a manner that is honest and straight-forward? These, along with a long list of other questions, must be considered by a responsible leader who only knows one thing for sure. What we’re about to do is not going to be easy. We’re going to be challenged. Because, ladies and gentlemen, there are bumps ahead.

The power of the overall message contained in this roadside signage is that it includes a second sign. A simple directive of how to respond, or how not to respond to the warning.

Taken in its entirety, I interpret this installation to say:

Prepare for trouble ahead,

But you don’t have the option of sitting it out.

Keep moving!

It’s reminiscent of the old adage: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

That may be, precisely among the most important things we want kids to learn as they navigate their way through the realities of this uncertain world.

If you observe injustice, act - do something.

If you recognize a failed degree of commitment toward the common good, act- do something.

If the rhetoric you hear seems discordant and inconsistent with what you believe, act -do something.

If you believe your neighbor, your friend, your community member is being mistreated, act -do something.

In other words, they (our students) must insist upon learning and practicing the skills of tenacity and perseverance

  • How do you keep going when the going is tough?

  • Where is the vision of your action?

This post is designed to be a one minute read. My followers have very full plates. Every decision they make will surely have forward ramifications, especially in light of the tenacious

question of how, and when, to open schools. So let me concise and clear. Schools must reopen. However, it must be done safely. Any, and all, decisions must be rooted in scientific evidence. To do otherwise, to do anything else, is folly.

Simply stated: BUMPS AHEAD

Prepare for the bumps ahead. Your responses to them will define you.

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