I have a friend who retired after a long career as a middle school social studies teacher. She was one of those people who taught us all what it means to engage students. Her classroom looked different every day. One day the desks were in a huge circle to facilitate a whole class discussion, and the next they were arranged like the legislature to reenact a debate about the Bill of Rights. She used formative assessment before we knew what that term meant. And she taught me as much as anyone about good instruction.
I have another friend who has a gift for connecting with students. Almost weekly a former student would come back to see her to tell her how much she meant to them. During passing period, the students would hang out in her room to talk. Before and after school there were always kids in her room for extra help. While they were dissecting sentences or talking about The Outsiders, they would almost always also be telling her about their soccer games or dance recitals, their babysitting jobs and their trips over winter break. She built relationships, and she taught me as much as anyone about the importance of connecting with students.
Neither of those friends had “official” leadership titles. They were not department heads or assistant principals. They were not curriculum facilitators or district administrators. But make no mistake, they were two of the most influential leaders in my life.
The President came to Omaha a week and a half ago. Before addressing a crowd at Baxter Arena, he stopped at the home of a high school English teacher. She had written him a letter, and she had made an impact on his thoughts and his feelings. A high school English teacher in Omaha, Nebraska had provided leadership to the leader of the free world.
Leadership is not a title.
Everyday we have the opportunity to impact the lives of our family, our friends, and our co-workers. We can model positivity and strong work ethic. We can do our jobs well, and we can treat each other with kindness and compassion. In education we can build relationships with students from whatever seat on the bus we sit.
Every one of those interactions may serve as an example for others. And every time we have the opportunity to witness those things, we can learn and grow and become better people.
We are all leaders. We all share the responsibility for teaching our children, and we all share the responsibility for making our world a better place.
I get to watch the leaders in our district work every day. They are kind and caring, smart and insightful, strategic and student-focused. They are administrators and teachers, parents and students, and I am proud to be among them.
Leadership is not a title. Lead from where you are!