Leading Edge: Are You Ready to Make an Impact?
Do you ever wonder about the impact you make with others? As a teacher for over twenty-three years, that question crosses my mind often. As a member of the John Maxwell Team, I have the wonderful opportunity twice a year to participate in Global Youth Initiative or GYI. Every October and April, team members give back to the youth and youth serving organizations in their community, by hosting and facilitating free youth events consisting of book readings, Youth Impact Reports, the Leadership Game for Teens, and many other leadership programs and assemblies centered around leadership.
In his book Sometimes You Win-Sometimes You Learn for Kids, John C. Maxwell shows kids that there are times in life where they aren’t going to win, but how they always have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons from those experiences. As a middle school reading intervention teacher, I’m always looking for great books for students. Believe it or not, middle school students still like a good story and being read to, so when I saw the opportunity to a do a read aloud with this wonderful book, I jumped at the chance. The book was perfect for some of my GYI events that I had planned for the month of October, and it lead to great conversations with the kids about failure and the importance of learning from mistakes and moving forward.
You see, many kids today haven’t been allowed to fail. Someone is always there to pick up the pieces and fix things that might go wrong. If we never allow our kids to fail, how are they supposed to learn from those failures and move forward to achieve success on their own? Something interesting happens when kids aren’t allowed to fail and are always given trophies or awards for simply participating. They don’t ever learn how to react in an appropriate way once they face challenges later in life. The book talks about the importance of reflection and positive feedback. The middle school students in my care had a lot to say about this and were even sad for the younger generation behind them. They didn’t feel that this message about learning from failure was being taught or modeled at the younger grades.
As our conversations continued, something quite beautiful happened. The students themselves started discussing the possibility of taking the book to kindergarten classes in our school district and sharing the message with them. They were so excited and were ignited with a passion for serving and adding value to others. As an educator, this was heartwarming to witness, as middle school students often times have difficulty committing to something long enough to see it through. This was also an amazing gesture since these particular students were always self- conscious of their reading fluency. As a class, we discussed the logistics of our plan and they worked together to problem solve and figure out a way to make this project idea happen.
After a conversation with my school principal, he agreed to generously purchase enough books for each student and to secure a bus for the transportation. We reached out to an elementary school in our district and they agreed to let my students come to read and teach this valuable lesson to kindergarten and first grade students. I have never seen such passion and excitement in my students! The students worked hard for several weeks before the trip to be able to read the story fluently and to understand the message in order to have a conversation with the younger students. They were a part something bigger than themselves and for the first time, many were able to experience what it feels like to take something they learned and use it to add value to others. The elementary school principal was so impressed that he invited them back for a family and community engagement night where they will be reading and sharing the message of the book to those in the surrounding community.
It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes a small act can simply snowball into something much greater than anyone could imagine. My students were so proud of what they had accomplished, as many of them previously had a fear of reading in front of others and were secretly afraid of failing. What they didn’t realize was that in their quest to go out into the community to serve others, they were actually overcoming their fear of failing and applying some of the lessons from the book as they worked through the process. John C. Maxwell says, “Ordinary people with commitment can make an extraordinary impact on their world.” These students definitely made an impact on their world.
Kasey Brzycki is a middle school reading intervention teacher and a certified speaker, trainer, and coach with the John Maxwell Team. Kasey brings more than 20 years of education experience in the areas of special education, public education advocacy, and professional development training, as well as practical knowledge to her training work.
She is extremely passionate about personal growth and helping educators rediscover their why and purpose, as well as working with the next generation of teachers to ensure that teaching continues to be a sustainable career for future generations.