5 Simple Lessons From a 10-year-old

Tobias, a 10 year-old Oklahoma boy, wrote a letter to a local TV station because he had a dream for his 11 year old brother who has Cerebral Palsy.

Tobias: running for his brother

He asked if they could spread the word that he wanted to borrow a large jogging stroller for a local 5k run that was coming up.

Tobias’s dream was to push his brother through the race, but their single mom could not afford to buy a jogging stroller.

Of course, when the news station spread the word, a sponsor quickly donated the stroller, and Tobias’s run and story were broadcast on the evening news.

When asked by a local reporter why this was so important to him, Tobias said, “When I run, I can be his legs.” Then he added, “I can be the legs, not just for him but for others too.”

Sometimes the simplest gestures can be incredibly moving. With Tobias’s example in mind, here are five simple reminders of how we can provide support to our teams:

1. Moral Support
A college mentor once told me, “Time spent equals relationship built.” So being present, attending events, stopping for conversations, letting people know when you are proud of them–all of these steps let people on your team know you are interested in, care about, and support their work.

When times get tough, it is a lot easier to reach for goals in an environment of support.

2. Listening
Whether you have student in need, a teacher dealing with a difficult situation, or a parent with a concern, author Stephen Covey’s maxim can be very helpful: We must first seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

Taking time to listen, helping find solutions, and affirming that a person’s concerns are important–each of these gestures can help reduce anxiety and often make a tough situation just a little easier to handle.

Much more could be said about the power of listening, but keep it simple. Stop what you are doing, give your undivided attention, and really try to understand the people who are bringing you their concerns.

3. Coaching/Training
There is some great training available for those interested in growing professionally. Whether it is a conference, a webinar, inviting a trainer, or hiring substitutes so that new teachers can spend time observing and learning from veteran teachers–all of us benefit from the opportunity to keep learning.

It is so beneficial to learn for teachers to learn from master teachers and to collaborate with teachers within their own subject areas. With the advent of webinars, opportunities to learn are more plentiful than ever.

As school leaders, we need to encourage and make these opportunities available to our teams. Not all of them cost money either. In our state, for instance, teachers who attend summer AP conferences are reimbursed by the state for the time they train. Take time to share from your own expertise too.

4. Resources
Whether it is science lab orders, new technologies, updated literature, or even furniture–your team members have items that will make it easier to accomplish your shared goals.

A site budget priority should first be to help teachers purchase needed resources each year. In the spring, we gather requests for purchase requests from all of our departments. Then we keep a percentage of our budget free for unforeseen needs.

When visiting with teachers throughout the year, ask them if there is anything they need that can support what they are doing. Whether it is a replacement bulb for a projector or an additional bulletin board, sometimes a simple purchase can go a long way to helping a teacher or staff member.

5. Donations/Grants
When you cannot meet all your needs through a site budget, don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Our district has a wonderful group of community leaders who started a non-profit foundation just for the purpose of awarding grants to local teachers who have creative ideas that may not fit into a normal school budget.

Be creative. You would be amazed how many local businesses or individuals are interested in helping teachers with needed supplies. For instance, last year we had a local church donate free copy paper to our English department. Every thoughtful donation like this goes a long way in the classroom.

You can also help teachers by making them aware of opportunities for grants. For example, if a teacher is interested in beginning a new AP offering, the College Board provides grant opportunities. Our curriculum director has been a real champion in helping teachers write proposals for needed funding to get new programs started.

As school leaders, providing support is one of our main responsibilities. Tobias and his brother teach a lesson we should all embrace as our own. We may not be able to literally run for others, but we can find ways to provide moral support, a listening ear, needed training or access to resources.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some more suggestions you have on ways to support others? Share your ideas with the rest of us!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker