Slice of a Life- Clarity (Being a Dolphin)

Sometimes looking back allows for greater clarity for the road ahead.

Clarity- When I first graduated from college I was fortunate enough to begin my career in education at a small school in Central Massachusetts. This school held very high values for their principals, teachers, parents, and students. This was a school that teachers wanted to teach in, new teachers valued experience from, parents desired their kids to attend, and students were excited about learning there. That schools values focused on education of all students, everyone was a learner, and school community was to be family. There was no place like it. When you arrived the principal wore an IALAC pin everyday. He preached about, “Once a Dolphin always a Dolphin.” And he shared the story of the geese and why we as a school needed to hold to the values of the geese. Today I attended a funeral of a person that loved life. She was the physical education teacher, a Dolphin, at this small school in Central Massachusetts. She traveled the globe in search of real adventure and tee-shirts. She loved being a teacher, mentor, and coach. In all her roles she held the 3 F principles, fair, firm, and fun. Soon her closest friends would share their stories and moments they held dear. As I sat down next to my wife and her best friend, also Dolphins, I had to immediately stand back up as former teachers came over and hugged and discussed our roads we have traveled. There were smiles, hand shakes, “Oh you remember”, hugs, and tears. Teachers that had traveled back home from as far as Florida to come together. We talked about fun ties, basketball math, reading, retirement, kids, jobs, and a host of other topics. Many of us together for the first time in 18 years, but feeling as though it was yesterday. We all came together again because that’s what a school that spent their equity on building school community and relationships does. We were there for each other. And I relearned a valuable lesson as I listened intently about the wonderful life a teacher had lived. Her travels and adventures overseas, north of the border, on top of uncountable mountain tops, cutting trails in the summer through Montana, farming, and most importantly enjoying the living of life. I looked around the room one final time and realized that being a “Dolphin” meant something and Principal G was right, “Once a Dolphin always a Dolphin!” My focus became clear it’s the culture. It’s the community. It’s the desire to always want to be part of that community because once you believe in each other, support each other, and share with each other only then can we can do really great things. Dedicated to Ms. Jordan, Coach, and friend!

Lessons from Geese
Lessons From Geese

This was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network, based on the work of Milton Olson:

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help, and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core values of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help or protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Angeles Arrien is the author of The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary (Harper San Francisco) and Signs of Life: The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them (Arcus Publishing). To find out more about her workshops and tapes you may write to: Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., P.O. Box 2077, Sausalito, CA 94966

14 NEW DIMENSIONS, Spring, 1995


5 thoughts on “Slice of a Life- Clarity (Being a Dolphin)

  1. This is a moving tribute to your former colleague and school. So sorry for your loss. I am particularly struck by this line – “We all came together again because that’s what a school that spent their equity on building school community and relationships does.” Beautiful and true. Loved the geese analogy, too!

  2. Not everyone is as fortunate to have “lived” in that supportive culture. What a testimony to the community that was created and the people who made it so. Thanks so much for the analogy of the geese.

  3. It has been quite a while since I was reminded of the “Lessons from Geese.” Thank you so much for your reflective writing about your school community. It is one of the joys of life to realize that you have become a member of a close community where there is love and support through life’s celebrations and sorrows. Bless you.

  4. Sorry for your loss. Sometimes it takes a loss to remember and reflect on the finer things in life. What a great story. It makes me proud to know you are “leading” my daughter. I think the lesson from geese story would be a great one to share with all your “children”.

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