LUKSHAITIS: Great moments


By Matt Lukshaitis

Pine River Area Schools Superintendent

Yes, I’m a sucker for a thought-provoking, energizing quote.

I’ve been thinking about great expectations for myself and for my district lately, so I’ve been browsing through the Dickens classic of the same name searching for a sword point, but Mr. Dickens can lose a little in jumping from his century to ours. Yet, he is a great mind and a great thinker. Writers have always influenced me, as have great coaches and great teachers. While I love Dickens’ prose, there are times when I prefer the directness of a Herb Brooks locker room speech (think polyester suit and tie and two large hands clapping together):

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. That's what you have here, tonight, boys. That's what you've earned here tonight. One game. If we played them 10 times, they might win nine, but not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate. Tonight, we stay with them and we shut them down, because we can! Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world.”

If you haven’t seen the Disney movie, "Miracle," I heartily endorse it. It’ll take you back to 1980 and the USA’s triumph over Russia as we claimed the gold medal for the first time since 1960. (The Soviets had won all the gold medals for team hockey during the years between, but I digress …)

Dickens tells me to note and draw strength from setbacks — and I agree with him. Brooks tells me to realize opportunity in the now and take it. Waiting, watching and measuring is for reading Dickens and discussing literature and philosophy, Brooks seems to state. Coach Brooks also seems to be telling me to grab the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns and master — not just enjoy — the ride.

There are times to read, to think, and there are times to act.

We are asked what we think about grades, testing, the curriculum and athletics all the time in the education profession. I find myself more interested, as time goes by, in helping kids become successful. We need equal parts preparation and a willingness to forge ahead if we are to be competitive, if we are to win that job that helps us raise a family, if we are to pave the way for the future of our children.

Yes, there are tests to take. Sometimes it’s a unit math test, sometimes it’s the ACT. Sometimes it’s a team state championship wrestling match. The point is there are tests to take all the time in life — driving tests, IRS forms, job interviews, etc. We learn from test taking — if we pay attention. We learn about ourselves.

There are times to sit down reflectively with authors such as Dickens as well.

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ― Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations"

Dickens here seems to warn us not be trapped later in life by regret; in fact, he almost seems to tell me to lace up and go skate!

As Herb Brooks would say, “My recruiting key — I looked for PEOPLE first, athletes second. I wanted people with a sound value system as you cannot buy values. You’re only as good as your values. I learned early on that you do not put greatness into people … but somehow try to pull it out.”