I feel really blessed to work with schools and districts around the world, but one of the favorite types of events I can ever do are the ones where I get to come “home.” As I write this, I just finished keynoting an event with the district where I first started as a teacher in my first year and two opportunities to intern there before my career even started. To address that group is pretty amazing, especially because I remember as I started in my career not being sure that I had the ability to teach in the first place. It was a humbling experience and one I don’t take for granted.
I received a very warm reception from the group, and although I knew some of them personally, I had never met the majority. But one interaction stood out to me. A friend I graduated university with, who I know reads these posts, called me after, and shared how proud he was of me in a phone call after the talk, to the point where he was brought to tears. He is someone I “grew up” with, and to hear the pride and emotion in his voice meant everything. I also know he was the one who advocated for me to speak in the first place, so it meant something extra to me that I felt his pride in the phone call. I didn’t want to let him down in any way, and he made sure to let me know that I exceeded his expectations. After the call ended, I just sat there and started crying because it was amazing to feel someone believed in me, even after all of these years.
That phone call meant everything. How many times do we have that feeling about others and not share it with them? Far too often, we celebrate strangers but downplay the efforts of those closest to us. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of this myself, and I am trying to be more cognizant of this.
I wrote about this idea specifically in “Innovate Inside the Box” and shared the following:
One way we can ensure our colleagues feel valued is to go out of our way to acknowledge them and the amazing contributions they make to our schools. As mentioned earlier, one of my biggest pet peeves in education is the idea that “you can’t be a prophet in your own land.” Why not? Why do we value the expertise of the educator on the other side of the world more than we do our colleagues across the hallway? Teaching is an insanely tough job. You know that because you’re doing it. The same is true for the person across the hallway, no matter how easy or hard they may seem to make it look. There is never harm in positively and authentically acknowledging the contributions the adults in our schools make. Don’t wait for someone to leave your building to appreciate them! Say good things about them now, right in front of them! As former NBA player Jalen Rose has said in the past, “People will bring flowers to your funeral but won’t bring you soup when you’re sick.” Don’t wait for it to be too late to share a kind message. You will be amazed at how simple, heartfelt words can improve relationships with your peers and change the culture and environment for the entire school.
Students notice the interactions we have with each other as adults and mirror them with their peers. The environment we create for one another as adults are emulated by students, so the environment we want our students to create for one another should be the norm in what we are modeling as adults.
Two reasons I write this.
1. I just wanted to share my appreciation for that phone call. It meant everything, especially because I know this same person does the same thing for his staff. I saw the comments celebrating this leader and how he lifts others. Education is about the elevation of others, and this principal does an amazing job of that to those closest to him. That is something I constantly aspire to be. The best people in my life have been those who have lifted me, and I can’t ever be thankful enough because I also know how the opposite feels, as we all do.
2. This is just a reminder for everyone reading this to take that opportunity to be that leader, educator, friend, administrator, person, etc., for others. We tend to wait until things get bad to authentically acknowledge the contributions of others, and sometimes, we do that too late.
This might seem a little morbid, but I saw this video recently, and although I can’t find the clip, in a conversation, someone asked the other person how much longer they thought their parents would be alive for and the person replied that they assumed about five to ten years more. They then asked, “How many times do you think you see them in a year?” to which they replied “one to two times.” Then he responded, “So instead of thinking they have five to ten years left, how does your thinking change if you realize you will only see them ten to twenty more times in your life?” For him, that changed everything, and it provides me so much perspective.
Time is short.
It is important to make the best of our moments with others because it is more common that we end up wishing for more time than we do hoping for less.
That phone call I received was a time that I won’t forget nor take for granted.