Tension is the magnitude of the pulling force exerted by a string, cable, chain, or similar object on another object. This force is a push or pull that can cause an object to change its velocity.  Or, said differently, tension creates a force that creates acceleration.


I became acutely aware of this principle while biking in China. I often felt the painful effects of Tension (burning leg muscles, loss of breath, pounding heart rate).  In reaction, I would desire a lack of tension.  I would often gear down so that I would be able to spin my legs much more easily.  What I learned quickly was that while “life” instantly got a whole lot “easier” for me, I also went nowhere fast.  My physics lesson was complete… little tension meant little progress; easy spinning meant an easy life in a very slow lane. And, I came to realize, it’s a whole lot more fun to go fast than to go slow.


And so now I had experienced tension, as opposed to simply studying it.  I now considered appropriate tension a friend to be valued for the sake of speed, progress, and efficiency.  Too little tension was damning. But an increase in tension, even with the increase of “pain and suffering”, was to be valued and even pursued.  Or I wasn’t going to get anywhere fast. 


Now here’s the point.  I think the physics principle also applies to the biological.  Social/human/experiential tension (stress) is not to be avoided at all cost.  Some tension, an appropriate level of stress, is desirable. While a lack of tension might allow you to spin seemingly effortlessly, you miss the point.  The point is, simply, that the point of your life (and the point of the MTR) is not to allow you to spin effortlessly.  For effortless spinning doesn’t really get you (or us) anywhere, and certainly not anywhere with any urgency. 


So, here is what I expect of you, and here is what we promise…


I expect you to come embracing tension. I want you to want tension, to value tension – appropriate tension. I expect you to go above and beyond normal or socially acceptable levels of effort.  I expect you to come as a learner, desiring to get the most out of this year… recognizing that tension is a tool for your acceleration, and therefore your student’s academic acceleration. 


Here is what we promise.  We promise to provide you access to tension.  We will provide you every opportunity to embrace tension through academic rigor.  We will provide constructive and fair criticism and feedback.  We will introduce experiences that will be sure to challenge you.  We will enter difficult conversations as needed for the sake of unity and functionality.  We will probe your learning, requiring you to be able to communicate both the “what” and the “why” of lessons learned.  And we will do all of this within a spirit of love, charity and grace… for the sake of positively impacting student achievement in Memphis’ urban schools, all within a Christian context.