I met Brad on a college campus where he was taking graduate classes in educational leadership. He told me about Mrs. Greenlee, the fifth grade teacher who taught him that leadership comes with responsibility.
Life was pretty easy for me as a ten-year-old. As the youngest of four boys, I got some credibility from my older brothers, all known as exceptional athletes. My oldest brother was the high school quarterback that year. I was tall for my age, and my sport of choice was basketball. Every day at recess, my buddies and I went straight to the court. I dominated those playground pick-up games.
Most of the kids in my class had been together since kindergarten. We had always been friends, but things started to shift a little in fifth grade. We began to sort ourselves into groups, and a hierarchy formed based on popularity. Marcus was always a bit different. He was small and wore thick glasses. He was awkward both physically and socially. The boys started calling him “Mucas”, and they made sure he never touched the basketball at recess. I did not actively torment Marcus, but I did sometimes laugh.
One afternoon as we were packing up to go home, Mrs. Greenlee asked me to stay behind. She told me she was concerned about Marcus because he seemed isolated and sad. She suspected that the other boys were teasing him. I was prepared to be scolded for laughing, but instead, she said something that surprised me. Mrs. Greenlee said, “I’ve noticed that the other students look up to you. They watch what you do, and they follow your lead. I wonder if you could find a way to include Marcus and help him feel more accepted.” I thought about her words all the way home.
The next day at recess, I picked Marcus to be on my team. When another boy chanted “Mucas”, I asked him to stop. I talked to Marcus as we walked back into the classroom. As I got to my seat, Mrs. Greenlee smiled at me. It felt good to do the right thing, and it felt even better to know that I made Mrs. Greenlee proud.
Brad’s story reminded me of the power of peer influence, and the way teachers can inspire students to use this power for good. Was there a teacher who tapped into your leadership potential? Share in the comments below.
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