From Supt. Ricca: Being Right Isn’t Always Right

by | May 29, 2023

By Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D.

Have you ever had a disagreement with one of your children? Or a family member? Or a friend? The kind in which you know you’re right – I mean, you know you’re right – and the other person is wrong? 

Both of Our Children are athletes, and both compete beyond the school sports schedule. Weekends are a blur of schedules, carpools, and road trips. There are email messages, text threads, and apps that inform the reality of where the Riccas go and are on weekends. Occasionally, there’s a miscommunication, and someone ends up at the wrong place at the right time or vice versa. 

We’ve had this running disagreement about Memorial Day weekend. The family calendar in our house (aka The Bible) says that there’s a basketball tournament. The email the coach sent for May says the team is free that weekend. The parent text thread is mixed, and of course, the young man in question is unsure. Or at least he was, until this past Monday night. 

He came into our bedroom and was prompted by My Wife, “Isn’t there something you want to tell your father?”

“Oh yesssss,” he held that last syllable. “As it turns out, there IS a tournament Memorial Day weekend. Coach told us tonight at practice.” Followed by a huge smile and a happy dance around the confines of the room. Gleefully, he came around my side of the bed to gloat. 

And I missed it all. 

I was fumbling for my phone, furiously finding the Gmail app and opening up my inbox. I was searching for the folder where I keep all his basketball email messages for scheduling. I found the message I wanted and turned the phone toward him so he could read it. Undaunted, he kissed me good night and pranced out of the room. 

“You missed that whole thing, Ricca,” My Wife told me. “Because you had to be right.” 

Guilty as charged. 

We place too much emphasis on being right. I place too much emphasis on being right. And in doing so, we risk missing smiles, dancing, and glee. More importantly, however, we risk missing the fact that there’s a human on the other side of our desire to be right. A human who is like us in more ways than we often admit. A human who laughs when something is funny, who cries when something is sad, and bleeds when their skin is cut. 

And the situation I described to you was low stakes. My lack of attention to My Son didn’t give him pause or stop him from celebrating. I was the one who missed out. 

We’ve all been in higher-stakes situations. Ones where the collective adrenaline is running high. Ones in which there are complex realities to face. Ones in which there are serious consequences, depending on who is right or wrong. And still, even in those moments, we are all humans. 

That’s hard. It’s really hard to do. It’s really hard to do even when our world is not as polarized as it is today. And yet, that’s the work of being human. It’s recognizing the humanity in others. In those who don’t share our opinions, values, or beliefs. In those who don’t look like us, love like us, or behave like us. 

They’re still human. We’re still human. I’m still human. 

Wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day three-day weekend. I have a basketball tournament to go to.

Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D., is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.

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