Meet My New Hero

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I want to take a moment to honor a true hero.

You hear about military heroes receiving Medals of Honor and no doubt, they are fierce and courageous warriors to whom we are all deeply indebted.

Being that it’s BACK TO SCHOOL time, what about the 3 million teachers in America?

They too are WARRIORS who spend the majority of the day with your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, circumventing their stubbornness, navigating their short attention span, finding a way into their minds and if all goes well, their hearts.

I’m exhausted at the end of the day from one child. I can’t imagine a teacher dealing with 30 kids, all day long.

Yesterday I had a call with a fierce, brilliant public school teacher named Krislyn Petti. She teaches in a lower income district in Connecticut.

I could hear that she was already tired and the school year just started.

As it goes for any teacher, it takes a lot out of her each and everyday to give these kids lessons and nurturing, all the while keeping them in line.

Krislyn LOVES teaching. She is relentless! She is committed after her school day to non-profit work that heightens the effectiveness of the curriculum taught in her district.

But I could sense a disconnect with her community and culture.

So many Krislyn’s age are carving out careers in medicine and law, or climbing the corporate ladder with job perks like traveling and tickets to plays and sporting events. These professions have a certain glamour, there are social or financial benefits.

Is the work of a dedicated teacher less important than a lawyer, banker, politician, or doctor?

As Krislyn said, “Teachers surrender those perks for the chance to see a child with a lit up lightbulb above their head.”

Teachers obviously aren’t in it for the glamour. But they deserve something different, something better.

Krislyn said there is one thing me she would like more of.  She did NOT say a salary raise, or more public funding, or additional vacation days.  Her response:

More support from families.

Very important research shows that the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status but the extent to which that student’s family is able to:

1. Create a home environment that encourages learning.

2. Express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers

3. Become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community

Now look, I get it. If you have a full slate and are exhausted at the end of the day with little time to “dig in” to your kid’s life at school, you’re rolling your eyes saying, “thanks Dave, another thing to add to my to do list.”

But the important thing Krislyn added is that it is not the amount of family time that she sees makes a difference in kids, it is the quality of their time together.

There’s a hilarious episode of the tv show Modern Family where the character Claire Dunphy explodes when she tries to serve the family breakfast, only to be ignored by a husband adjusting his fantasy football roster on his iPad, a son playing video games on his Nintendo DS and two daughters e-mailing each other from across the table.

Sound a little too familiar?

If it’s just one single moment in your day to be super present, ask questions, listen carefully, get the family together…that is better than 100 distracted moments.

My friend once gave me some great advice. She said, “If you don’t listen and take an interest in the little things your kids tell you when they are young, they won’t tell you the big things you really want to know about when they are older.”

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