I remember as a child picking up the receiver and dialing a number on a rotary telephone and the odd excitement that it brought when I called a number with multiple eights, nines, or even zeroes. I would listen to the pulses, and though I still don’t know the specific series of pulses for each telephone number I dialed, I felt that this was some advanced form of Morse Code that allowed me to connect with the intended party. I also knew that if a single digit was mis-dialed, I would have to re-start the sequence of pulses and watch the transparent spinning circle make its way through each rotation again.
Later, I remember the trimline phone that allowed for simple push-button dialing and (at least in the case of the telephones I had) allowed for the transition from pulse to tone dialing by the flip of a simple small switch.
Again, I was not all that concerned with the significance of the feature but found it fascinating to dial sometimes to hear tones representing the numbers and at other times listening to the familiar sound of pulses.
As I nostalgically reminisced about these phones, I began to think about the “pulse” surveys that I periodically send to my teachers to get some feedback about initiatives and programs in our school; I review the results with my assistant principal and share the feedback with our school leadership team. I realized that I make efforts to listen for the pulse, but I must (with the collective ideas and efforts of others) make these translate to setting a tone for the future.
The pulse metaphorically presents a cause for reaction, whereas the tone is indicative of the action. Just as physicians interpret certain elements of our health by listening to our pulse, we must be careful to listen to the pulse of those whom we lead so that we might assess the health of the culture and systems therein. If we merely listen and produce no action, we will likely hear a dimming pulse.
I endeavor to listen even more carefully to the pulse this year, placing the metaphorical stethoscope on even more locations (beyond the somewhat impersonal survey format) in an effort to set a clearer tone indicative of support, love, and opportunity for all constituents of our school family: students, families, community friends, faculty, and staff. Though I anticipate it won’t be as simple to set an intended tone as pushing buttons, I hope not to mis-dial and instead generate a venue for communication that will continue to not only sustain the current pulse but to further enliven the pulse of our school. I am blessed with a team of fellow educators, staff, and families whom we serve who are fully capable of producing an even more remarkable tone, as evidenced by the great tone that we have already set together.