I love watching our students walk into the school in the morning.  Standing outside—even in the sometimes ridiculous weather that Northeast Ohio serves up—I get inspired by our students. Greeting kids with Mr. Musolf or Mrs. Diffenbacher at the Lower School, and with Mrs. Lovelace, Mr. Culp, or Mr. Hamilton at the Upper School, I see remarkable courage unpretentiously dressed in Lands End school uniform clothing, carrying book bags and computers—trudging sleepily across the campus of each school.

Gus Lee, in his book entitled: Courage: the Backbone of Leadership, defines courage as the “mental and moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.”  Lee goes on to say that courage comes from the Latin word for heart, and he calls courage “the tip of the spear of integrity.”

“Courage,” says CS Lewis “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

If you stood outside in the morning greeting students at one of our campuses, you would see courage on display. Our students (over 250 this year!) hop off school buses and vans and pile out of cars after traveling sometimes great distances (from 70 different communities in 10 different counties!) and despite sometimes painful past experiences in school, they step out and up, across the threshold of the school and into the classroom once again.

As our students and parents can attest, school in the past has been a place where failure, frustration and even rejection have been the norm. Every student at Lawrence comes with a learning difference that may impede the acquisition of language skills or challenge a student’s ability to plan and manage time.

Because most public and private schools are generally set up as ‘one size fits all’ environments, our students don’t quite fit and often get unfairly labeled as “disabled” or even worse.  Yet when they are educated in an environment that honors their individual learning style, they succeed—even excel—and go on to successful experiences in schools, colleges and careers. There are over 300 schools like Lawrence across the country—three in Ohio, but only one in northeast Ohio.

Our students face the real fear that failure could happen again, and still they gather their courage and come to school anyway. They persevere. Each works hard to study and grasp something difficult, figure it out—only to lose it when the time comes to put it on the test—and then still they gather their courage and go at it again.

Lawrence students pursue their hopes and destiny with a kind of courage and commitment that many other students in other schools simply can’t understand.

Every day—every hour of every day, every week, month, semester and year—our students toil in the vineyards of learning and scholarship.  They are often misunderstood, sometimes confused, and ever in danger of being left out of the one experience in which every child from 6-16 years old in America is supposed to thrive: learning in school.  Learning in school is, in fact, their first experience of employment—the only “job” they are supposed to have—and too often their experiences in school become a barrier rather than a boon to their future experiences.

Learning at Lawrence is a high stakes enterprise. We can take very little for granted. Everything we do matters. It takes courage and it takes commitment from students, parents and teachers.

Our teachers at Lawrence daily accept this high stakes challenge. They struggle right along side students in a quest to learn and grow, and to make our school a safe learning community that affirms our students’ courage and confirms as well as sustains their commitment to persevere and succeed.

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the Olweus Bullying prevention program—the very same one Lawrence adopted for both campuses two years ago with help from the Prentiss Foundation—because of its focus on the bystander and its carefully researched evidence-based activities. Lawrence is committed to ensuring a safe learning environment for all.

On opening day, our new Parents’ Pride organization hosted coffee socials on the lawns of both campuses so that parents could meet and talk with one another after dropping students off. I spoke to several who were new to the school and were worried and anxious about how their kids would fare in a new school environment.  There is no question that all our parents are on a difficult journey of their own. Kudos and congratulations to our parent volunteers Tina Smee and Diane Moser for their work creating a space for our parents to gather strength from fellowship with one another on a high stress, high stakes morning!

The faculty and staff began orientation week at both campuses, with a focus on the three verbs that drive our work: “teach”, “ignite” and “inspire”— words that come right from our mission to teach students with distinct learning styles, to ignite their potential, and inspire academic and social success.

Our mission acknowledges that what we do is distinct from other schools. Our mascot, the Lawrence Lion aptly roars with courage (and even some defiance!) right off our students’ sweatshirts and hoodies!

We daily acknowledge that we are in a high stakes endeavor. We celebrate the courage and the commitment of our students, their families, the faculty, staff and administration, as well as our dedicated Board of Trustees and community partners.  We commit to a relentless pursuit of excellence, and to creating a learning community of practice where we determine and then do, as Lawrence Trustee Mario Morino advises, ‘the right things’ in the classroom, the hallways, offices, and the boardroom.

Many thanks to our students and to our entire school community for your singular courage and commitment!

Welcome to the Pride! Welcome to Lawrence School— where differences are not disabilities, and where great minds don’t think alike!

Have a great weekend!



About lsalza

Headmaster of Lawrence School serving children with learning differences in grades K-12; "Where differences are not disabilities and where great minds don't think alike."
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8 Responses to Courage

  1. Diane says:

    Very inspiring, Lou! I sometimes forget the courage it takes for my son to face his learning struggles. I probably don’t give him enough credt! I’m so glad he’s in a place that is allowing him to feel good about his work.

    • Lou says:

      Thank you Diane! The most important thing for our students is that they have a sense of belonging–and success. The rest will take the right course if we can keep those two things on track!

  2. Teri Heer says:

    Amazing as always, Lou! I am so glad that we can all work together to see our children succeed!

  3. Pattie Collett says:

    Wow! I am speechless! This was really amazing. Thank you for expressing so perfectly what makes Lawrence the special place it is. Not only is it a safe and accepting environment, but it is one of the few places where its students are recognized for their simple-yet strong-courage. Thanks for writing this blog, and thanks to you and all of the staff for helping our children every single day.

  4. Lenore Pershing says:

    After reading this, I can’t wait till I have the opportunity to meet you!!! This is my son’s first year at Lawrence. I was moved to tears while reading, but I felt so grateful that he is now in a place where teachers and administrators recognize that sometimes he may have to work much harder than others and still may not succeed. You reminded all of us that success can be defined and measured in many different ways. Thanks for that!

  5. Lou says:

    Let’s make sure we meet soon! Lenore was my grandmother’s name! I appreciate the response and the courage required for parents to make the decisions and moves they need to make on behalf of their kids!

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