Sep 06, 2021

Thinking in Moments: Inspiration for the New School Year

August 1997. My classmates and I posed for this photo, marking the beginning of the new school year. We were freshmen—eager, excited, nervous, curious, scared, homesick, uncertain, inspired, confident, impressionable, and so much more! We were all moved into our dorms on East Campus. We were making new friends and ready for the semester to begin. And for those of us fortunate enough to have had our families help us move in, they were most likely gone.

This picture, that moment, marked a major milestone and transition in our lives.

September 2021. A new school year is upon us. Social media is abuzz with back-to-school celebrations and first-day-of-school pictures. So many smiling faces! Despite the ongoing challenges, concern, and nuanced complexity of the pandemic, I hope you’re like me and feel encouraged seeing your timelines flooded with all the creative ways these defining moments are being captured and shared. The back-to-school season reminds me of the time I spent in the classroom and working in the school district, preparing for bright and hopeful faces, feeling the excitement, and experiencing the palpable energy.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite books—The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. The authors share that a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful. Spelling “D-U-K-E” with the members of our freshman class, at night, in the middle of the East Campus quad qualifies. So does posing with first-day-of-school signs at home or smiling in front of their new school or at the bus stop this new school year season.

If you’re a school or district leader, we hope this inspires you to “think in moments” this year and to create defining moments that spark positive emotions for students, families, teachers, staff and for each other. This might be especially meaningful this year. The good news is that creating a defining moment simply requires one or more (not all) of the following elements:

  • Elevation: Defining moments rise above the everyday and provoke memorable delight.
  • Insight: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world
  • Pride: Defining moments capture us at our best—moments of achievement, moments of courage.
  • Connection: Defining moments are strengthened because we share them with others.


Another tip: To think in moments, we need to be attuned to transitions and milestones. Transitions are classic occasions for defining moments because they’re natural. Milestones are fairly easy to spot, too. They are exciting and can be personalized and meaningful ways to celebrate an accomplishment. Not only can this spark great connection, positive emotions, and support positive classroom or school culture, it will give someone a fond memory to look back on—especially if the moment can be captured in words or in a photo!


We are inspired daily and have the deepest respect for our education clients. Thank you for entrusting us to support you, as you serve your students, families, and communities.


Best wishes for a successful school year filled with moments that matter!


Samantha A. Murray, M.S.Ed.


Star Cypress Partners

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