It is tattered and torn… taped to the inside of a 5th grade locker. Who is it from? Who was the lucky recipient? Why is this letter so important that it stayed in place for an entire school year? A year ago it was penned and now it is being taken down from the inside of the locker. This is what I learned about on the road this week…
Jackelyn Doyle is a young teacher at Cherokee Heights Elementary School in St. Paul, Minn. I remember when I met Jacquelyn a few years ago. She had a challenging first year (as most teachers do) and maybe, just maybe, wasn’t sure that this was the career for her. I am so proud of the teacher she has become. One thing I truly love about going in her classroom is the sense of community that she builds with her students. It isn’t just a room where students go for an entire year to work and learn; it is a class community built on mutual respect and care for one another. I have never heard Jackelyn call her class “students”; they are “friends”. And, on my visit to her school this week, I learned a very real example of how that sense of community among friends starts at the very beginning of the year.
Just by accident, I overheard a conversation this week with Ms. Jackelyn talking about what the students were finding when they cleaned out their lockers. She just happened to mention that one of them still had his letter that he had received from last year’s fifth grader. I stopped her to ask what she meant. “Oh, she said, my fifth graders write three letters at the end of every year; one to someone who has impacted their life, one to themselves and one to an incoming fifth grader.” She said it as if ALL teachers did this with their students… she looked completely surprised that my jaw had dropped and I was so excited! What an awesome way to welcome a fifth grader new to your class by having someone leaving the community tell about it. What an amazing way to have students be reflective and of course, to write!
My past seven blogs have been about each chapter in Leading with Intention (https://www.solutiontree.com/products/leading-with-intention.html). This week finishes the eight chapters and it is all about community and relationships. Chapter eight begins with the quote, ‘No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” (James Corner). We ask the question, which leader would you rather work with- a leader who tells you what to do, when to do it but says little about why to do it and the value of the work? Or, would you prefer a leader who takes time to build a relationship with you and understand you, and supports your understanding of why the work is necessary? Author, John Maxwell, in his book, The Five Levels of Leadership, describes leading based on permission versus leading from our positions. In order to reach that level of leadership, you have to gain the respect and confidence of others by gaining their permission to lead. Jackelyn Doyle embraces “leading with permission” as she builds respect and confidence with her students as she builds community in her room.
I can not write about community today without mentioning my NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. I have been a fan for a long time and this year is a great year to love the Raptors. I have often talked about their focus of GRIT over Given. They have proven that hard work, respect for one another and team work creates success. They have a community within their team, led by a strong coach who leads with “permission”. Nick Nurse believes in his players and often has stated that his first job is to get to know his players and build relationships. This year, the Raptors drew fans from all across Canada and far and away places in the world. They are a diverse team and demonstrated that building on each other’s strengths was more important than making it all about one player or another. There is a Raptor community that extends beyond the team and the city of Toronto. They have taken their “We the North” theme and created a sense of community among 37,000,000 people in Canada.
Community is built around common purpose. In our schools and districts, learning does not take place in isolation. Teachers work in professional community, learning together and figuring out what our students need them to do next. When students and parents are included in that community, we have effective schools. Jackelyn Doyle is a teacher who understands that relationships come before learning. I appreciate you, Jackelyn and so do your students.
Have a wonderful week and summer. This will end my blogs until the fall. Thank you for reading and staying with me.