Don’t eat the chicken

I am a huge fan of the show Survivor. I have literally watched every episode of every season…all 38 seasons. I love the drama, the perseverance, and love analyzing the social relevance. The show is filmed in a variety of exotic locations (actually now it is regularly filmed in Fiji), but it always has so much relevance to my own corner of the world, 12,000 miles away.

For those of you who live on your own island and have never seen an episode (I will pray for you), the basic premise is: a group of strangers are placed in an isolated locale for a little over a month. They are asked to survive by building their own shelter, finding their own food, all the while playing a social game knowing that each week one person from the group will be voted off the island. The last person standing walks away with a million dollars. If you tune in, you quickly discover there is actually a lot more that goes into it than that and maybe someday I will write a longer post describing more lessons learned, but for the sake of brevity, today’s message will be shorter….Don’t eat the chicken.

Check out the following clip from an earlier season of the show:


Here is what was happening. In this clip two Castaways (contestants on the show) have gotten into an argument over whether or not they should be eating chickens that they have been caring for on the island. The moral of this story is that it is a lot harder to eat a chicken if you form a bond with it.

Relationships matter. When we form a relationship (whether it is with a chicken, a co-worker, or a student) their needs often come before ours. We fight for them, not with them. We see their value. Our heart begins to have more influence than our heads (or our bellies).

In schools all across America today, we have leaders and teachers who are trying to get healthy quick. They are trying to get a dramatic improvement in school wellness, often measured by student achievement results, by looking for something that will inject a quick dose of energy without really examining the long term impacts that may result. You see, there are always opportunity costs when we make decisions.

In schools, when we focus on programs, often we sacrifice people. When we begin to believe that a tech resource, a textbook, or a gimmick is the answer to what troubles us , we discount the value of the people. When we believe that students are the problem, that they are stopping us from seeing success and reaching our goals, we lose sight of what matters most.

I know it is a crude example, but in our schools we need to focus more on creating a diet built on eggs than legs. We need to focus on what is sustainable, not what can be devoured quickly and cheaply. When a chicken is nurtured and cared for, she can produce eggs that sustain, almost without limit. When we decide that the chicken is there to serve us, we quickly deflate its value and are left with nothing in return.

Too often I have seen staff meetings and staff lounges that resemble the scene from above. Two people fighting over whether we need to focus on the relationship or the quick solution. The relationship and the desire to put off the immediate gratification can be hard. It can make you seem soft. It can make you seem crazy. But, it is also what will sustain you and make you great.

This year, challenge yourself: don’t eat the chicken. Love it. Care for it. Nurture it. Then enjoy the constant supply of energy that comes your way.


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