Leaders lead because their actions and their words inspire others. I don’t think there is one profile of leadership that works and, in fact, I’d say that we all have leadership potential. In education, for example, I am convinced that true education reform will be brought forth by moms and dads just like you and like me. Parents make terrific spokespersons and advocates for education because they have every reason to be engaged–after all, parents with kids in public school are the ones who will most feel the impact of education reform or another decade of the status quo.
I’ve met parents from all over Los Angeles with varying economic, religious and racial backgrounds and the one thing we all have in common is the burning desire to provide our children with an excellent education. Parents will do just about anything to attain a high quality education for their children–they will put them on a bus to a magnet school across town, they will make huge sacrifices to send their children to a private or parochial school, they will drive or carpool with two other families to a charter school, they will even move to another school district to ensure that their child is afforded the best educational opportunities.
I’m a mom with two daughters, a wonderful husband, a high energy dog and a home to care for. I have a lot on my plate, just like all of you do, but I will always make time to stand up and to speak out for what I believe is in the best interests of children. Eleven years ago when I began my career in education as a young teacher in Teach for America, I witnessed first hand the challenges in urban education. I worked in a 100% Title 1 school where my students’ families had to make heart-wrenching decisions as to which basic needs would be met for their families. My students came to school each day, though, ready to learn. My students gave me the inspiration and motivation to keep going, to spend my time and energy learning more about classroom management, curriculum, lesson design and the best ways to teach children to love reading. Now that I consult with schools, I am often in contact with adults more than kids. I hear from parents what their concerns are, what changes they’d like to see, what issues they feel are most pressing in their child’s school.
We are the leaders in the education reform movement. This is it. Parents who work full-time, part-time, moms and dads who stay-at-home with their kids. As parents, we have every reason to care, to vote, to send letters to our elected School Board representatives. Engaged parents are a powerful force when we work together as a team and speak up for our kids!
“Leaders are not, as we are often led to think, people who go along with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see, whether anyone is following them. ‘Leadership qualities’ are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. They include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, stubbornness, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head, even when things are going badly. True leaders, in short, do not make people into followers, but into other leaders.” — John Holt
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt