A word from Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria ISD

Closing thoughts: Why I write

A word from superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

I have been asked why I write a weekly article every week. I did a quick search and since I started at Victoria ISD, I’ve written 161 articles and many have been published. To be perfectly clear, I do not have time to write. There are countless other things demanding my attention. I learned a long time ago that the phrase I don’t have time is just another way of saying I don’t care. We make time for the things we care about, it’s just that simple. So, I make time to write. Why is it so important to me to carve out time to write to you every week? The obvious answer is I want to keep you informed about what is happening and what is on my mind. Radical transparency is my personal commitment to you and this format offers just one way we try to make a connection between the schools and our community members. But if I am honest, writing to share information is not the primary reason I write. I write because I believe words are like magic and I love them. They cast amazing spells, have tremendous power, and do things that are otherwise impossible.

I was bullied in middle school and early high school like nearly every other person who attended public schools anywhere in the country. Our interpretation is always that bullying was worse for us than any of the other students, but that is probably not true. It just felt like it was the worst. The bullying wasn’t so much physical but was a constant barrage of comments and notes (this was before social media, which has made things immeasurably more complicated for kids today). The words could cut to the heart, make a person feel ashamed, or embarrassed, or worthless. These words cast a spell of sorts. My mood would change, my beliefs about myself would change, my outlook would change, etc. It isn’t that they controlled my actions, but they could control my thoughts. These people had a magical power over me as they probably did for you. They controlled my inner dialogue, and that’s magic. My childhood wasn’t bad, however, because I was surrounded by loving adults who also knew how to say positive words of affirmation. These words cast a different spell. These words of hope made me believe anything is possible, the future is bright, and compassionate kindness
does exist. Thankfully, the positive magic largely overcame the darker magic. As I grew older, I learned some choose to use their magical powers for good and some choose evil.

As I have shared many times previously, I also grew up on a working farm during the farm crisis. Although I dearly loved it, anyone who has lived on a farm with livestock in the Midwest knows about cold and early starts to the day and backbreaking work throughout the year. Books and magazines were one of my lifelines. I read everything I could get my hands on. National Geographic took me to faraway lands, Time helped me broaden my perspective, Newsweek was a connection to a national conversation. Books were everything to me. I vividly remember lying in my bed as a small child and my mother would sit on the top step of the second floor of the farmhouse and read aloud to all my brothers and I in different rooms spread out on the second floor. When I learned to read for myself, I would read every night imagining fantastic places and colorful stories. I can still picture the bed lamp that hung above my bed and would stay on all hours of the night.

When I became a father, I sat on the top step of the second floor and read to my girls the same way my mom did for me. I knew how powerful words and stories were during my formative years and I wanted to leave this same indelible impression on my own children. Not long ago, my girls were recounting this experience from nearly 20 years ago and they both fondly remembered how I would make up voices for the characters in the story and this was one of their favorite parts of the experience. I remember reading from the bible, poems, children’s non-fiction, and loads of fiction. I wanted them to have vivid imaginations because I think it is a big part of adult success.

You could probably picture some of the images in the previous three paragraphs as I was sharing them. You likely pictured it in your mind and with vivid detail. Maybe you pictured yourself or perhaps you imagined what it must have been like for me. The previous three paragraphs are both true and real. Fiction stories however are untrue but that doesn’t make it any less real in our minds. Let me say that a second time because this is very powerful magic. You can write, or by extension, say something that is not true but becomes real for others. Some magical conjurers use this to inspire hope. They talk about a better future, one that only exists in our minds. It isn’t true, but it becomes real for us. We can all think of great leaders and maybe even some of our friends who are wizards as they cast this magic. Something that is unrealistic or unbelievable today can turn out to be inevitable tomorrow under their spell. As an example, four years ago very few people, if anyone, would have believed VISD could build out an entire K-12 STEM learning pathway, but now that it’s done it seems inevitable. I’ve seen this happen many times in my life. Other sorcerers choose to use this magic power to destroy or harm. They speak or write untrue and negative things with the expectation that others will believe it as real to wreak havoc. Stephen King used the phrase “low men” in several works and strikes me as appropriate here.

So… I committed to studying and learning the power of words. My love of literature and my love for kids (and teachers, and staff, and community) was my opportunity to cast positive incantations for people I care about. The unwavering goal is always to bring light. The world needs more of that. So I write.

By  Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.