Some people who know me might be surprised to learn that when I was invited to speak to a team of educators in an outstanding school, it was somewhat daunting for me. I speak to many school groups including faculties, boards of trustees, leadership teams, parents and students. The topics range over a wide variety of subjects because of my previous experiences in all of those roles and because I have had an enduring career committed to helping others realize more of their potential. When this invitation came, it was with this proviso. The “talk” would be no more than ten minutes and preferably five.
“OMG, Susie, how am I going to do this and be sure it’s worth their time and mine?” Susie is my partner and office mate as well as my confidante and editor. We also share 7 children and 14 grandchildren. For the past 25 years she has been my primary cheerleader, a source of ongoing support and encouragement and when I share something I want to do or have been invited to do, I turn to her for affirmation and the go ahead. If she thinks it’s a crazy idea or proposal, she will say so openly without hesitation. She knows me better than anyone and I am grateful for her honesty, transparency and trust. We are blessed to be in a position where I can give back because of so much that has been given to us. That allows some of my work these days to be pro bono although I still have fees for a few projects.
The presentation was via a Zoom meeting on February 12 with a group of talented school leaders. The invitation came from someone who had been in a previous workshop and seminar several years ago where I was one of the presenters, thus the connection. When I asked her what she wanted, she said, “We want some of you.” She also said something about a theme of going to the moon. I thought quietly to myself “Wow! What does that mean?” I am not sure what I might have said to her at that point although it sounded intriguing enough to say, “Yes, of course I’ll do it.”
I made a few notes, no script, and I thought about what has been most valuable to me in working with others. My intention was to share what I believe inspires people and what ignites their passions for their work and provides fuel who they are. I remember saying that their HOS/CEO (Head of School/Chief Executive Officer) has a picture in her office of the school’s founder. The picture serves as a reminder of the ideals of the founder, and her “vision of progressive education where children learn by doing and not the usual exclusive concern with textbook knowledge.” Further, “to teach children to think for themselves, to recognize a problem and think it through, to develop their judgment, to decide for themselves, to accept responsibility.” I learned later that one of the questions at dinner that evening had to do with what pictures people had in their offices.
You can see some of my words, thoughts, phrases in the images in the illustration.* My hope is that what I said might resonate beyond that day and serve as a reminder for why we do what we do and that so much of that is because of who we are – people committed to helping others to learn, grow and change and help make things better. That’s the essence of any worthwhile endeavor whether in our work, in our families or in our communities.
*Thanks goes to Sophie Michaud for the Graphic Illustration.