Five Lessons for Leading the Learning Journey

Back in the day, over forty years ago, (wow, I don’t feel that old) most of my elementary instruction consisted of dittos, basal readers, and/or workbooks.  I can still remember the manually run ditto machine in the corner of the main foyer of the school and when the dittos were copied, the purple ink still moist on the paper, had a noxious smell; when our classroom teacher sent us to pick up the dittos, for whatever reason my initial instinct was to smell that ink as I carried them back to the classroom.  But there was one teacher, (I bet we all have that one teacher) who dared to break the monotony.  My third grade teacher read aloud to us from a chapter book, one chapter everyday.  She read Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White.

Photograph:Charlotte's Web is a children's book by E.B. White with illustrations by Garth Williams.

Fern, the daughter of a farm owner and Charlotte, a spider, save the life of Wilbur, a farm pig, destined for death because he’s the runt of the litter.  As I reflected on writing my series of blogs, Leading the Learning Journey, not once, but over and over again, the fact that I can still recall being so enthralled to be sitting at my desk, one in the row of six students, somewhere in the middle of the room, surrounded by two rows of students on either side while listening to my teacher read to the class.   Mesmerized by the journey of the Fern, Charlotte, Wilbur and their farm animal friends, I continue to realize, the leadership and life lessons that my teacher implanted within me all those years ago. She dared to teach outside of the box, the lines, as she shared her passion for children’s literature.  I learned more than I could ever learn from a ditto.

5 Lessons for Leading the Learning Journey

Lesson 1:  Follow your heart!

Fern saw her father with an ax in his hand and she could not bear to let a runt pig get slaughtered just because he was small.  It broke her heart and Fern boldly provided her father with evidence to save the pig’s life.  Her father who allowed her to raise the pig, whom she named Wilbur.  Just like my teacher who dared to read a chapter book, Fern followed her heart.  Leading the learning journey requires the same devotion and commitment.  Leaders must follow their heart, their gut, their instincts to provide the culture and design that nurture communities of learning.

Lesson 2:  Dare to grow!

Wilbur was a runt.  He was aware of his destiny; as a runt, he was going to be headed to the slaughterhouse even after Fern successfully raised him.  Yet, Wilbur realized his will to grow and live.  Wilbur was anxious and afraid, but he forged on and he challenged the status quo and eventually became an award-winning hog.  Leading the learning journey means taking risks. As educators and leaders, we must embrace a growth-mindset and face educational challenges and our own short-comings to embrace life and our passions for providing education for all who cross our path in the learning community.

Lesson 3:  Share your talents!

Charlotte the spider was an excellent writer.  She used this talent to write words in her web that convinced the farmer and the surrounding community of Wilbur’s value and worth.  Wilbur skills and abilities surfaced and his life was saved as a result of Charlotte’s writing talent.  Leaders need to share their talents with those they serve.  Leaders who share their leadership create cultures that allow for risks, voice, and choice.  Some may refer to it as buy-in.  Leading the learning journey means growing more leaders which is the outcome of sharing leadership talents.

Lesson 4:  Support and inspire one another!

Although Charlotte ultimately saves Wilbur’s life, she dies of natural causes.  However, she leaves behind her spider egg sac and Wilbur devotedly carries it back to the old barn on the farm, after the he wins a prized medal at the county fair.  Charlotte supported Wilbur to ensure his safety.  Wilbur protects her legacy, her children.  And so it is with educators.  Leaders support and inspire teachers.  Teachers support and inspire their students.  Students support and inspire each other.  It is the web of support and inspiration which forms the community of learners.  Perhaps, leading the learning journey begins with that one teacher, that one principal, or that one superintendent.

Lesson 5:  Write!!!

The power of words cannot be underestimated.  Charlotte saved Wilbur’s life with words. My teacher inspired my journey simply by reading the words of children’s novel, which is renowned as a classic work of literature to this day.  So many educators blog, author books, write articles, and more, to share and serve a wide audience.  Leading the learning journey requires expression and reflection that the written word can so aptly provide to locally and globally.

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web



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