One of the great leaders in our school is Mr. Kevin, the head of our school's building and grounds. He is in charge of the campus facilities. He oversees the upkeep of our building. The work he does in this regard has helped our school be a beautiful place to work and learn. What he does for the school though, is so much more. I see Mr. Kevin at so many school events. He is probably here earlier than all of us and often is one of the last to leave. He is here on Saturdays. He notices the small things as well as the big things. He jokes with staff and students. He goes into classrooms and works with students as they need support. I have heard that during his time here, he has also gone in to substitute when the school was desperate for substitute teachers. He does what is needed--for any of us. Where there is a need, Mr. Kevin is there to fill it or find a way. He is a person who makes a difference in what he does in a quiet and daily way. He has made an impact on others in ways that he is probably not even aware.
We are all leaders. Each of us have the opportunity to make a difference in our daily interactions. On my way to school, I stop for coffee at a local drive-through and recognize the leadership offered by the woman who greets me with a smile, ask how I am doing and takes special care to make sure my order is correct. Leadership greets me as I work with fellow administrators and teachers, each of us planning in a daily way to offer strong instruction, loving interactions and an environment that allows each member of our community to learn and to grow. Leadership continues in my interactions with my family in the evening as kindnesses are offered and support is given, sometimes when weariness would be the preferred response. Every day, all day long we are offered choices that allow us to lead in ways that make a difference. And sometimes that difference has a huge impact on another. Sometimes we may never know the impact we made. And on rare occasions we are offered a glimpse of that impact.
Early in my career my life was changed by what was then called the Bay Area Writing Project. As a young teacher, I travelled from Ohio to Berkeley one summer to learn about writing and how I teach writing. The next school year I had the most fun I have ever had in exposing my students to writing and creating a room where a joy in writing was had by all. Several years ago, I was visiting my home town and was in a local diner. A young man saw me, came up to me and gave me a huge hug. He was a former student and as we talked he told me that he was currently in college. And he wanted me to know what a difference I made for him. He told me that I taught him how to write as a fifth grader in a way that impacted him in middle school and high school. He told me my writing class set him up for the success he was then experiencing in college. I think about that experience of finding out that I made a difference. I felt gratitude in knowing that I made a difference for him that first year after my Berkeley experience. Those who taught me made a difference. My student will make a difference. And the ripple continues.
We never know the impact we have on others. And sometimes we get to know. Below is a link to a short Ted Talk (six minutes) that talks about everyday leadership and making a difference. What can you do to make a difference in the lives you meet today?
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.