Be G.R.E.A.T! by Latoya Dixon

FEATURED originally as a guest blog on

It’s no secret I love Clemson football. I graduated in 1999, following my sisters Elisa and Tonya, who graduated in 1997 and 1995 respectively. It’s in my blood. I also admire and have the highest degree of respect for Deshaun Watson. He’s now the quarterback for the Houston Texans, but like me, he’s also a Clemson Tiger. I like how he looks an obstacle in the eye, stays poised in the most dire situations, and views challenges as an opportunity to be great. I haven’t abandoned the home team (Go Panthers!), but I sure do enjoy watching him play on Sundays. The wildcard game against the Buffalo Bills this year was amazing, and Deshaun Watson in his usual fashion, was the star of the show. At the end of the game an ESPN sports caster asked him what he was thinking in the moments that they were down and working to make a come back. The Texans were losing 16 to 0 at the half, but tied the game up in the fourth quarter to send it into overtime. They won the game! His response, “So I said let’s be great today. So somebody had to be great. Why not me?” I couldn’t seem to get that response out of my head. I am so inspired by the way he responds to challenges, both in action and words. I can’t help but think about how waking up each day with the intention and goal to “be great” might change our lives as individuals, as members of families, and especially as educators.

Sunday can be a day of dread for many, and that’s no different for teachers.  It’s Monday’s prep day. It’s the day to ready ourselves for the week ahead, and if we aren’t careful it can be filled with anxiety, fear, uneasiness, and worry. But if we approached our Sundays like Deshaun Watson approaches challenges on the football field, with the intention being great, how might that change our entire perspective? To me, it would make Sunday the best day of every week. Being great isn’t about being better than others, but about being our very best selves. That’s what I heard when Deshaun Watson asked, “Why not me?” He challenged himself to set the example, and we can do the same thing. Here’s what being G.R.E.A.T. means to me: 

G: Grace-We extend grace to others and ourselves. When something goes wrong, we focus on resilience. We work to help others and ourselves bounce back from missteps instead of wallowing in them. We move forward with a joyful and positive spirit.

R: Relationships– We center and still our hearts and minds. Our focus is on treating others well, building trust and understanding in our classroom and school community. We do this with intention because our relationships are at the center of all we desire for our students to accomplish, and we can only accomplish those goals with healthy and productive relationships with our colleagues.

E: Encouragement– We encourage ourselves and others through positive affirmations, kind words, and supportive actions. We recognize that encouragement is what we need most when we are faced with challenging situations. Our words have the power to hurt or help. We choose them wisely and with care.

A: Accountability– We take personal accountability for the energy we bring into the spaces where we work, serve, and socialize. Our attitude and our efforts are under our control and therefore, are our responsibility. We have the potential to set the tone positively or be toxic. We choose positivity, and accept personal accountability for our actions and reactions.

T: Trust-We trust that every moment we experience as educators-the most challenging ones and the most glorious ones-are helping us develop and grow into the educators we are meant to become. We are present in our conversations and collaboration with colleagues, students, and all members of our school community. We trust that if we show up in the moments that bring us the most challenge, we define our legacies in ways we can be proud of in the future.

So, Why not you? Why can’t Sunday be your day to get ready to be great. Who can you extend grace to during the week? Which relationships can you look forward to improving? How can you use your words to encourage? What are some ways you can take personal accountability for the energy you add to your classroom, your colleagues, your school community? How can you work toward trusting that every moment matters, and make sure your legacy will be something you can be proud of in the future?

I’m no Deshaun Watson. He’s an amazingly talented football player. But we can all make Sunday our day of preparation to be G.R.E.A.T. Why not us? We are the teacher tribe! 

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