A big thank you to teachers everywhere not just for the academic lessons but also for the leadership lessons. If you’re like me, the teachers who are memorable taught you something beyond the curriculum. Yes, you learned your ABCs, addition, history; and along with it, teachers cultivated so much more in you.
Marissa McGee's Kindergarten classroom in DC, according to NPR News, is the room to watch. Teachers from all over the district have observed her classroom with an eye to learning her secret. "Obviously, I think it's important for them to learn to read and do math and all of the other academic things that they need," McGee says. "But I'd say character is just as important. I'm helping them be better people when they leave by the end of the year." Teachers are true leaders in our world.
My sons spent many years at a remarkable school in the Hill Country where I watched teachers work magic. I recall the day I walked into a three year old room and the teacher was telling two preschoolers who were at odds with each other to work-it-out. I thought to myself that’s not even possible. However, her high expectation and complete confidence in them translated to the two adversaries coming into agreement. Teachers see who you can be and move you toward it. My most memorable high school English teacher saw talent in me that I’m not sure I possessed. However, her faith in me inspired me to become more than I thought I could be. Both of these teachers modeled leadership by inspiring their students to grow. Leaders inspire.
In fifth grade, my fourth grade teacher pulled me out of my class to sit in her classroom when she had to run up to the office. She awakened in me leadership skills and quickly empower me at the young age of ten. This was not a single event, she pulled me into her classroom repeatedly that year. How many people would put a ten year old in charge of a room full of nine year olds (and do it more than once)? It sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m happy to report, not a single incident of disruption during her absence. Leaders empower.
Mrs. Orand, both of my sons’ beloved kindergarten teacher, sat quietly on the floor with her legs crossed waiting for the class to settle down for circle time. In a very soft voice she would repeat, “I’ll wait,” as rambunctious boys would work out their energy on the way to the circle. She exuded more patience in a day then most of us practice in a lifetime. Occasionally, she would come skipping out of the classroom in the afternoon delighted to announce to me some fabulous concept that one of my sons had mastered in his short five years. By the way, she retired the next year. Her skipping was not an indicator of her age but of her enthusiasm. When people are enthusiastic about who you are and what you’ve done, you cooperate with them gladly. Leaders spread enthusiasm.
No doubt you've seen the investment of teacher-leaders in your world pay off 10-fold. What can you do to inspire, empower and spread enthusiasm in the people around you today? If you need ideas, consider shadowing a teacher this week and watch the subtle ways they lead students to become more.