School Climate & Safety Opinion

4 Lessons for Leaders From Children

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — April 11, 2017 4 min read
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This week churches and synagogues fill with those who worship as Christians or Jews in this country and around the world. Here, families will gather around tables for dinners and share Seders. Faith traditions remind us that darkness and light co-exist and encourage with hopefulness that light follows darkness. So, too does the cycle of seasons. And, it seems this week that spring is in full grasp with its lengthening days and warming temperatures. Even in the Northeast, plants are sprouting and buds appearing. But, how do we hold hope the rest of the time? Well, for many faith sustains it. For others, it is more elusive. We have discovered over the past election cycle that it was getting more difficult not to get dragged down. The more hateful the language, the more distasteful the attitudes, the more troubling the policy, the more invisible the values, the more we were challenged to stay optimistic. A school is just a building without those human qualities living within it. We do know, however, that our business is one of hope and of optimism and of potential. So we force ourselves forward. Then, it was as if we were reawakened to the key that sustains us. It happened once, then twice and then we began to notice it everywhere. Social media was giving us moments of reminders by letting children speak. So we share with you, four of the lessons we have learned.

Brooke Blair from the U.K.

From England, we heard a five year old girl speak to the Prime Minister. She was strong and articulate without hesitation about what she saw and what needed to be done. She wanted Britain’s homeless people taken care of; she wanted them fed and housed because she had determined there was enough money but will was needed. Her fierce little voice and hand gestures caused us to recall how easy it is to overlook what is in front of us and accept things rather than push for change when we need it. So, her video was for Theresa May but all of us should hear her message. We can help if we do as she asks: respond to other human beings, especially those who need us most, with open eyes and open heart.

Jax and Reddy From Kentucky

Then, there were Jax and Reddy, two five year old boys in Kentucky who wanted to trick their teacher. They thought if they got the same haircut their teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. They apparently had no awareness that their teacher might have noticed that one of them was black and one was white. They were so excited. What a magnificent lesson they offer us. They hadn’t yet learned the barriers adults create and the ways we separate. They remind us that joy can be found in the sameness we share beyond the surface.

Sophia from South Carolina

More recently, this lesson was reinforced by Sophia, a two year old girl from South Carolina who chose a doll for herself. She had earned a reward and her mom took her shopping. She picked a doll who represented the career she has chosen...yes she is only a toddler but she wants to be a doctor. The doll was also a doctor so she had an immediate bond. But the store clerk questioned her choice because she was white but the doll was black. This two year old held her doll and asserted herself and her choice.

We are reminded that children see the world differently than we do. We suggest their eyes maybe better and more accurate than ours. Certainly, she saw profession, not color. We hope for a school that helps her become that doctor and helps her keep the eyes she has now.

The ‘Fearless Girl’ on Wall Street

Then, there was this “Fearless Girl” who came to Wall Street compliments of State Street. There she was just before International Women’s Day to remind the world that the power and strength and courage of women is rising though it might not be visible on corporate boards today. She stands before the bull whose symbol sculptor derides her as advertising, not art. But, she is inspiring and she is claiming her space.That’s what children can do. And each of these children has an adult in their lives who encourage their expression and their identity. Every child needs someone to do that. Isn’t that why we became educators, to be this person to children?

The Chorus of PS 22 in NYC

And, when we hear their voices we know we have been called to lead in the right profession. So, we submit the voices of the fifth grade chorus of PS 22 in New York City.

The 4 Lessons From Children to Leaders:

  • Overlook no one. We all matter.
  • Let us be uniquely who we are.
  • Help us joyfully see beyond the limitations that might be placed on us.
  • If leaders are creating the world of the next generation, make it be one inspired by the voices of these children. It is a source of hope and it is pouring forth exactly when we need it.

Ann Myers and Jill Berkowicz are the authors of The STEM Shift (2015, Corwin) a book about leading the shift into 21st century schools. Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

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