Sunday Night Reflections: Present, Patient and Purposeful

August 19, 2018

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the San Francisco Unified School District. It’s been some time since I was in school, but it’s not too difficult to take myself back to the anticipation I felt before school started. Those were the days when I had hair. I would spent time rubbing in sportin’ waves grease and brushing my hair trying to get my waves to dip . I would have my brand new outfit laid out, new school supplies prepared in my backpack and I would daydream about how the first day would go.

Leonard D’Agostino and me at Thurgood Marshal circa 2001

Leonard D’Agostino and me at Thurgood Marshal circa 2001

One of the standard first day questions was “how was your summer.” As I got older, the answers I gave got shorter. “It was cool” became my response for everything when I was in high school. Today in my conversations with my students I can see that not much has changed as it’s still the go to reply. But it’s not just my students, many of us give a similar short reply when we’re asked for an update or recap of the recent events in ours lives.

However, every now and again we have an opportunity to go deeper in our conversations. I often find those discussions the most rewarding and memorable, but I will admit that I don’t often seek them. The boilerplate “it was cool” response does serve a purpose. A short response doesn’t hold up my schedule, compromise my do to list and gives me a false sense of accomplishment for having spoken to multiple people in a short period of time. The truth is, I prefer the real conversations and I’d rather actually get to know people. So if that’s the case, why is it that I don’t take the time to go deeper when I have the chance?

I’m an ambitious man and my mind is often filled with various plans and designs. Unless I make a purposeful effort to remain present, my thoughts are occupied with something that happened in the past or something I want to happen in the future.

This school year my focus is on being more present, patient and purposeful in my interactions. Given the demands of my schedule, I do need to commit time to getting work done. But when I’m spending time with people in the community, my coworkers, family or my significant other, I want to actually be there and not consumed with yesterday or tomorrow.

I believe we all should be in pursuit of something. I want our students and educators to remain focused and disciplined as they seek to get their goals accomplished. The world is filled with challenges to set your focus upon, places to explore and lessons to learn. All those things are well and good, but that can’t be the entire aim of our lives. Besides, I have yet to hear about a person on their deathbed wishing they would have completed more work on their to-do list.

I understand that this is not the common message you hear from your local politicians. Typically someone in my role talks about their legislative agenda, recent accomplishments that would not have happened were it not for their leadership and promises they can make to help improve our community. I say that not to disparage those messages. We need our public servants to share their priorities. I will certainly be writing those messages over the course of the year.

That being said, I believe it’s important to share the efforts I’m taking to show up as a better person. I have found that when I make it a priority to be more present, patient and purposeful the quality of my service improves. Not only has it made me a better public servant, it’s made me a better man.

To our students and educators starting school tomorrow, I hope you enjoy the evening, get your rest and leave yourself open to everything the first day of school has to offer. Tomorrow, I will be visiting John Muir Elementary and Wallenberg High School.

This school year, I plan to continue my Friday morning school site visits. I look forward to meeting and hearing from you over the course of the year. Feel free to share your goals for the upcoming school year as well. It can be as open as being more present or tangible like working out 3x a week, reading a book a month, maintaining a 3.2 GPA, etc. Either leave your goals in the comments below or send them to me privately via email to

Sunday Nigh Reflections is a weekly column series

Sunday Nigh Reflections is a weekly column series

Stevon Cook