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Somebody Needs You

Helping At-Promise
Students Achieve


This week, we introduce a new Education World columnist. Educator, author, consultant, and motivational speaker Larry Bell (see sidebar) begins this series of columns by sounding his keynote to educators everywhere: Somebody needs you.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

Well, my friends, I contend to all school administrators that if you want your teachers to be excited and enthused during these tough times of testing and accountability, then it is critical that you model what you want them to do.

It boggles my mind that there are administrators out there who, at the end of a long day, will meet with a teacher or the entire staff dead as a doornail, acting like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. It is unfair to teachers to do that. [content block]

Many of your teachers have been in their classrooms all day long with kids, some of who are giving them the challenges of their lives. The teachers are busting their butts with those kids, and now they walk into a staff meeting to see their woe-is-me leader? That used to really get on my nerves when I was a teacher.

When I was a teacher, my principal was terrific. Most of the time. I loved him dearly, but every once in awhile he would drop in after school looking and acting downbeat. One day I said to him, "You know, I was in this room today with 127 kids, and as hard as that was I don't need you to come in here all down. You need to fake it 'til you ache it." He'd just smile and pull himself up.

Ladies and gentlemen, the best way I know to get enthusiasm from somebody else is to model it -- whether you're always feeling it or not. That's your teachers' jobs in front of their students, and it's your job in front of your staff. You have to work at being enthusiastic until it is part of you. How can you expect students to be excited for school when their principal and the teachers are not excited? How can we expect students to be excited for curriculum when we act like we are bored with it? We've got to have that passion all the time. We've got to keep the fire lit. We've got to listen to tapes that lift the spirit, read books that lift us up and improve us, or read the Good Book and let it lift us up. We've got to hang out with positive people. We've got to be excited about the little things in life.

The real key, though, is this: We cannot ever lose sight of why we went into this profession in the first place. We must always remember that we do this for the students.

If the superintendent doesn't back us up, we're doing it for the students.

If the parents curse us out when we call them, we're still doing it for the students.

When we have colleagues beating us down and telling us that we care too much, or that we're trying to do too much, we're doing it for the students.

Most of us got into this business because we wanted somebody to need us. Well, if that was your reason, you got your wish. Somebody needs you. And you've got to stay excited and enthused for them at all times. Will it be easy? No, it won't be easy. But it's all right for life not to be easy so long as we're able to say, as Thurgood Marshall once said, "I did the best I could with what I had."

I have found in education that the best way to stay motivated and enthused is to remember why we chose this job. And to celebrate the little successes and share them with other people whether they want to hear them or not.

You know why?

Because somebody needs you.
Larry Bell