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Leaders as Helpers, Helpers as Leaders

At my school, I simply call myself a helper.  I often say to students and parents, there are many helpers in our school.  This universal concept implies safety, community and support.  Moreover, it offers understandable, common schoolwide language for elementary students.  When students acknowledge me as a helper, it goes right to my heart.  It means they understand the essential nature of my role, and they know I am a safe person to help them.  Put simply, I believe we are in the helping profession.  We help students and adults grow to be the best people they can be, now and for the future. 

With credit to Pinterest via Shiseido USA

Teachers, secretaries, counselors, custodians, aides and parents – to name only a few are also everyday helpers.  The events of December 14, 2012 shook every helper in the most unimaginable way.  For me, the Newtown tragedy halted me in my tracks; and at the same time, called my leadership into action.  Like all schools, every helper in our schoolhouse and community worked quickly, collaboratively and instinctively to ensure the physical and psychological safety of our school and district.  Every helper was a leader.  On December 17 when we returned to school, so many said to me, “I am so glad we’re together.”  Hugs, handshakes and sentimental messages were widely exchanged among our community.  It meant everyone felt safe being together at school, and we wanted to unite as helpers and leaders, despite our trying to understand what could not be understood.  Indeed, there was a familiar comfort and safety in helping others for all of us.

This New Year when we return to school, I encourage us to remember this one valuable insight: leaders are helpers and helpers are leaders.  The two roles are inextricably linked.  Helping, which can be interchanged with leading is a simple, yet profound concept.  Never before in schools has helping implied so much.  Together, helping students, staff and parents will build resiliency that provides familiarity, strength and stability in our schools.  It also provides an interdependent and actionable way of showing love, care and support.  My New Year wish for all schools is that all helpers come together in small ways to make a difference within each community.  Together, we can foster the confidence and emotional security our children need, and reinforce that communities have many helpers, and helpers are always ready to lead.

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