I’ve been pretty tough on the education system in the past. I don’t argue it’s importance: it’s easily one of the most essential and empowering parts of our culture. The problem is it can also be among the most limiting and dangerous. It’s tendency to reduce human beings to numbers to be ranked against one another often stands in the way of true leadership and development.
I’ve often said that I wish every school on the planet had the following painted in fifteen foot letters right inside the main entrance:
“Work hard to make your grades extraordinary. Work twice as hard to make sure they are the least impressive thing about you.”
I didn’t think that sort of philosophy actually existed in the education system until I was lucky enough to be invited to speak for teachers and principals from the Franklin Covey Foundation’s “The Leader in Me” Schools.
Franklin Covey took the concepts of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and created a total school transformation program called “The Leader in Me”. Kids who go to Leader in Me schools don’t just get the standard academic curriculum; they are completely immersed in personal and leadership development from the moment they step through the door. Most importantly, they’re taught that every single one of them is a leader. As you can imagine, this philosophy resonated with me strongly,
A few weeks ago, one of those teachers, Kara Shutler, was kind enough to reach out and share her “lollipop moment”. I wanted to share the message she sent me with all of you as a reminder to make time to recognize the remarkable people who have shaped your life.
A few years ago, you spoke at The Leader in Me symposium in Columbus, Ohio. You introduced me to the meaning of a lollipop moment. I would love to share my lollipop moment, and the full circle that was, in part, initiated that day.
My 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Reinhart, was the reason I became an educator, and the inspiration behind my reasons for staying late, ignoring history and achievement scores, and loving and advocating for my students as much as I am able. I don’t remember anything I learned in 1st grade, just the feeling I had while I was there.
Fast forward from 1982 to 2000 when I returned to college to become an educator. I never felt I was doing what I meant to do, so as an adult, I worked full time so that I was able to attend college. During my student teaching, I wrote Mrs. Reinhart a letter thanking her for the impact she had on my life, and told her how I appreciated her long-lasting presence as I become an educator myself.
As I began substituting after graduation, I returned to my home district, and was thrilled to get to sub under Mrs. Reinhart’s principalship. My letter was hanging in her office. We shared a moment as adults and professionals; and seeing my letter on her wall showed my impact on her as well. I only subbed in her building once or twice before I was offered a position in another county.
So there I was, at the LIM symposium, 10 years or so after running into Mrs. Reinhart at work. I listened to your presentation, and was chatting with coworkers before departing for site visits when I turned to the table behind me and asked a lady for the time. That lady was Mrs. Reinhart! Just as in the movies, our eyes met, we immediately recognized each other, we hugged, happy cried a few tears, and introduced each other to the crowd that had witnessed our squeals. It turns out we ended up on the same bus and spent the day catching up and talking shop. We exchanged Facebook contacts, and went our separate ways.
Another 3 years go by, and I am now working in a Leader in Me school. Our LIM coach was changing positions so we were receiving a new coach to help us through the remainder of our journey. My jaw literally dropped when Jolene Reinhart was introduced in an email as our new coach. We have since had several meetings and we share this story every time. As I have now learned through talking with her, I was her first 1st grade classroom and she claims to have had no idea what she was doing…in my first grade eyes, that year was perfect.
As you have said, you never know when your actions will impact another, nor how deeply. My mission is to not only create lifelong learners, but to be “that teacher” for as many students as possible.
If you’ve got a Mrs. Reinhart in your life, take a moment and reach out to them today. Leadership recognized is leadership created!
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