Each month, the Chancellor selects a children’s book that she feels is inspirational and informative for the students, parents, and staff members who make up the City’s public schools. For past book selections, review the “Book of the Month” category right here on The Morning Bell.
What do you do when you are retired and the Mayor of New York offers you a job running the nation’s largest school system? Do you think that it would be crazy to take on something of this magnitude—at age 70 no less? Do you play it safe and turn the offer down? Or do you take a chance, and take the job?
In What Do You Do With a Chance?, author Kobi Yamada asks and answers this important life question. As the story opens, a boy notices a chance whirling around him like a bird or a kite. Unsure of what to do, he pulls back, and the chance flies away. Thinking about the experience, he wishes he had taken the chance, but fears he does not have the courage.
The next time a chance shows up, the boy tries to grab it but misses and falls. Embarrassed, he decides he never wants to feel this way again and begins ignoring the chances that come his way. One day, he realizes he has not seen a chance in a long time. Although he wants another chance, he still does not know if he will be brave enough to take it. Then, it occurs to him: “Maybe I don’t have to be brave all the time. Maybe I just need to be brave for a little while at the right time.”
Eventually, the boy gets to take another chance, and not any old chance but “a really huge chance!” As an opportunity heads his way, he reaches up, grabs it, and holds on tight. “It felt so good to soar, to fly, to be free,” he says. “I now see that when I hold back, I miss out. And I don’t want to miss out. There’s just so much I want to see and do and discover.”
As you know, I came to the same conclusion when the Mayor asked me to come out of retirement to become Chancellor over four years ago. Like the boy in this uplifting story, I did not want to miss out. I had to take the chance. What is more, I have loved every minute of it, because I have made a difference in the lives of City students.
As I prepare to leave the Department of Education for the second time, I am thankful for all the chances we have taken together. And I am excited for the chances our schools will take with incoming Chancellor Richard Carranza. In this spirit, I encourage everyone to use this time to reinvent yourselves. Think about the things in your personal and professional lives you have been putting off: perhaps taking a vacation, learning to speak another language, or pursuing a new professional passion. Do not be afraid to take a risk. Say “yes” instead of “no,” embrace the unknown, and you will attract opportunities you cannot imagine.
At the end of this month, I, too, will be taking another chance—jumping into my retirement with both feet. It is time for me to focus on some of the other things that move me deeply: spending more time with family and friends, traveling, reading, and possibly doing some volunteer work for our schools. I feel blessed to be heading into my second retirement while I am healthy, while I can enjoy my life, and while I can appreciate how much still lies ahead of me.
So, what do you do with a chance?
You follow this book’s advice: “You take it… because it just might be the start of something incredible.”