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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Some Kids Won the Lottery When It Comes to Parents

By Peter DeWitt — November 12, 2013 3 min read
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If you are a teacher or school leader, you know that sometimes it feels as though there are children who seem to have won the lottery when it comes to parents. As a principal I see siblings walking into school hand in hand, and others who get hugs and kisses when their parents drop them off at school. Its elementary school, so they are not always worried about looking “cool.”

Perhaps the parents are no longer together as a couple but they still attend Open House, parent-teacher conferences, special events, and are heavily involved in the lives of their children. All schools have blended families, same-sex parents, and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. It doesn’t matter what the family looks like, just as long as they offer great support and love to the children.

This week, NBC’s Today Show is focusing on inspiring stories, which is apropos considering Veteran’s Day was Monday. Viewers are asked to go on Twitter, and Tweet out who inspires them using the hashtag #inspiredby. Everyone should be able to list a few people who inspired them in the past or continue to inspire them now.

Today Show anchor Willie Geist started the series of inspirational stories off by telling the story of U.S. Marine corporal Aaron Mankin. According to the Today Show site, Corporal Mankin’s face was badly damaged when his amphibious assault vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device in Iraq. Clearly, his children won the lottery when it came to parents. He’s definitely an inspiration.

Who is On Your List?

I have a list of inspirational people. Whether it was my mom and sister who both survived Cancer, my partner or a few coaches and teachers along the way, there are many who inspired me to keep moving forward. However, besides the adults who were around me, there are many students who inspired me as well.

There are students we have who seem to have absentee parents, which is something I didn’t necessarily understand when I first began teaching.Those students had very little at home but came to school every single day. They grew up in realities that I could not imagine, and a smile on their face inspired me to try harder. Some students inspire the adults around them just because they find the strength to show up every day.

For full disclosure, I won the lottery when it comes to parents. I’m the youngest of five and my parents were both hugely supportive of all of us. Unfortunately, my dad passed away when I was eleven but his influence is still very much with me all of these years later. Even after being gone over 31 years, my mom still gives him more credit for how we turned out than she ever takes for herself.

My mom was one of nine children, and she went back to get her GED after my dad passed away. It was one of his wishes for her. As I sat doing my sixth grade homework...or trying to get out of my sixth grade homework, she spent time studying so she could get her GED, which she did.

How hard it must have been to return to school after so many years away from it? How strong is she that even after losing her husband, she wanted to fullfill his wish that became her wish too? Thankfully, her graduating class from her high school get together and they invite her every time. We could learn a few lessons from that compassion.

In the End

My mom, and one of my sisters, are both Cancer survivors. They have always supported my career and pushed me to do better. They didn’t just survive Cancer, something that took my dad at a young age, they kicked its butt and now volunteer their time to support others who are going through Cancer. Even as an adult they inspire me, and I wish that all of our students had that kind of inspiration around them.

Over the years I have had children who were one of many children with multiple dads and some didn’t know who their dad was at all. Others had moms that chose drugs or alcohol over their own children. It was not my job to judge their situation but give them hope and the tools so that they did not have to repeat the situation they were growing up in.

And that is why great teachers are so important. They can inspire children who don’t have anyone around them who are offering support. Some children may not have won the lottery when it comes to parents, like I did, but they did win the lottery when it comes to their teachers.

Who inspires you?

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.