Future Leaders: Leading Our Most Precious

Our Most Precious


If we want our students to be equipped to lead in the future, we need to provide them with teachers and counselors who are equipped to lead them today.

Story #1 :: A Bad Apple

Bad Apple“Sit down! Pay attention!” commanded one of my 8th-grade daughter Courtney’s teachers on the first day of the new school year. The entire class went silent. “I didn’t want to be a teacher. I don’t like my job…”

Apparently she went on to set up the rules for her class, but my daughter and her classmates had already tuned her out. She’d been inspired enough for one day.

When Courtney got home and shared this story with me, something inside of me snapped. I didn’t rush off to the school to confront the teacher. I didn’t email the principal. Instead of wasting energy on a lost cause, I vowed to find a way to inspire and equip teachers, coaches, counselors and parents to take better care of our most valuable assets — our children.

I guess even a bad apple can plant a good seed. Thanks, teach!

You may not have wanted to be a teacher, and you may hate your job, but you’ve taught all of us a valuable life lesson: Who we entrust our children to matters.

Story #2 :: The Wet Blanket

Put it into your own words. My nephew Anthony stared at his Spanish project and re-read the red ink. Put it into your own words.

Unable to decipher the teacher’s code, he took a deep breath, got up and approached her desk. “I don’t understand why I got an 80.”

“You copied your paper from the Internet. You need to put it into your own words and I will raise it to a 90.”

Anthony’s spirit was crushed; for good reason. He’s a straight “A” student with a heart of gold. He’s one of those rare young men who wouldn’t even consider cheating.

“But these are my words,” he replied.

Wet Blanket AwardThe teacher simply shook her head, signaling that she wasn’t buying it. His knees went weak as he made his way back to his seat. These are my own words, he repeated to himself.

Whereas I was unwilling to confront my daughter’s teacher, my sister who is gentle and sweet 99% of the time, lost her temper. Her maternal instincts kicked in and her little fingers went to pounding out an email.

She knew the truth. Anthony just happens to have sparks of genius in writing, math and music. A few weeks earlier he’d aced the NY State Regents test in Math.

Now, after following the teachers instructions, gathering a handful of facts from the Internet and writing an original paper in Spanish his integrity was being questioned. Actually, it was never questioned, nor was he. It was unilaterally judged; incorrectly.

“Mom, these are my words. If she doesn’t believe me I could read it to her translating it back into English.”

When I heard this story I thought, What would cause a teacher to treat a gifted student this way? Why would a teacher toss a wet blanket on a spark of genius?

In search of an answer, I brought these questions to an expert panel, my parents. My dad, a retired elementary school principal, and my mother who loved teaching 5th-graders for over 25 years. I couldn’t imagine either of them treating a student that way. As we discussed this disheartening incident my dad offered this insight.

“Unfortunately a kid with that much talent causes extra work for the teacher. They can’t treat them the same way.”

Wow! Really? Our brightest students are seen as a burden? Yo, teacher, please tell me, in your own words of course, that this isn’t the truth. And if it is the case, do your students a favor, take your wet blanket to a job where it could do some good. I hear the Forest Service is looking for some fire fighters.

Story #3 :: Role Identity Crisis

“You need to think about the environment that best suits you. Would you rather be at the beach, the mountains, or the inner city?” asked the man as he checked his watch for the third time since they’d entered the room.

“That’s a good question,” thought my friend. “…If we were looking to buy a condo instead of trying to figure out the best choice of major and ideal career path for my daughter.”

When Tony shared what he and his daughter, a junior at our local public high school, had experienced in their recent meeting with her guidance counselor, I cringed.

Although I understand the need to check the “fit” between a student’s interests and the geographic location of their college choices, it seemed like this process needed a little reverse-engineering.

I asked my friend what profiles or testing the counselor had done to help Lauren understand her unique abilities, interests, learning styles, etc.

“None.” He shook his head. “I guess he expects her to know.”

What! No wonder the guidance counselor was acting like a real estate agent or travel advisor. He doesn’t have anything concrete to work with.

Equipping Our Future Leaders

If we expect our guidance counselors to guide our future leaders into the right major, college and eventually their ideal job wouldn’t it make sense that we equip them with the best tools to play their role?

My heart breaks when I hear stories like this one. If Lauren and others aren’t exposed to testing, experiences and meaningful conversations with mentors that help them discover who they are, how can we expect them to know what to do? We can’t.

Despite having parents who were educators, loved me dearly, and poured their lives into mine, I had no clue what I was made (created) to do after high school; or college for that matter.

I followed some misguided guidance from a professor and became an accounting major.

I hopped from one job to the next after college, 10 in 16 years, before I finally discovered my unique ability and passion. Only then did I feel like I finally stopped going through the motions and found my life mission.

Save our Children

Today, I find myself compelled to save my children and yours from becoming restless wanderers in the marketplace. Recent studies indicate that over 70% of American workers are disengaged — going through the motions at work. But it doesn’t have to be this way if we change the way we educate, equip and encourage our children.

As parents, we pray for and dream about our children finding a loving spouse, a job they love, and a passion that makes them come alive each day. That’s why: Who we entrust our children to matters.

I hope these three stories have helped you understand one point:

If we want our students to be equipped to lead in the future, we need to provide them with teachers and counselors who are equipped to lead them today.

Joe Colavito is Vice President, Development and Delivery at Wells Real Estate Funds
He is an Inspirational Speaker, Storyteller, Author, and Coach

Image Sources: cchs.org

One response to “Future Leaders: Leading Our Most Precious

  1. Thankyou for sharing these three stories, they definitely all do have one conclusion as you have rightly pointed out. we need the right teachers for the right students. There is no doubt teachers out there with less ambition, less self confidence and smaller values than the students whom they are teaching.


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