We pulled together about four tables in the back of a local restaurant, ordered appetizers and then got right to the business at hand — discussing our schools. I was surrounded by teachers who have exemplified what one would expect from an effective teacher — qualities such as passion towards our work, adoration for all children and acceptance of the mission field we call public education.
Sitting in the midst of us was our undaunted leader, Superintendent Lewis. He greeted us as he always greets his army of teachers, with a kind smile, an appreciative handshake and a mouthful of inspiration. As we shared our experiences, our desires, and our hopes, he listened with a keen ear. When teachers have the opportunity to bend the listening ear of our policy-making, goal-oriented change-maker, we speak, and he welcomes our candid honesty.
As often occurs, some specific schools became the focus of our conversation. These are the same schools many people in our large district discuss often and discuss with a certain desperation. This particular time, though, my ears perked up to the mention of one in particular, Dorothy Height Elementary.
I admit I don’t know too much about this little school over on Benning Drive, but after our time around the table with Superintendent Lewis, I certainly want to see what’s going on over there. As the conversation continued about the amazing changes occurring at Dorothy Height, I leaned over to one of my colleagues.
“Tell me more about this school.” She perked up, offered a big smile, and replied, “The principal over there is the guy who visited every single student’s home during the summer to introduce himself.”
She continued, “He’s also the guy who wears red shoes all the time with crazy socks. The kids love it so much that now a lot of the boys are wearing red shoes and silly socks to be like him.”
“That’s not all,” she excitedly said. “He’s the guy who also wears funky bow ties and has created this schoolwide theme of superheroes, which the entire school has bought into. It’s really neat over there. The entire school culture has changed, like … a 180 degree change!”
Her excitement certainly matched the conversation Superintendent Lewis was having with us. Growth. Excitement. Change. The entire school has shifted because of some red shoes, silly socks, and bow ties.
His name is Lamont Sheffield. With his superhero sidekick, Assistant Principal Meredith Adams, and a collection of teachers who use their superpowers every day, Dorothy Height Elementary is a topic of conversation for all the right reasons.
Who said one person can’t make a difference? Who said we can’t evoke change with one person at a time? If we could grasp what Lamont Sheffield has grasped and recognize that change happens when we assume the reigns of what exists in our personal sphere of influence.
Martin Luther King Jr. did it. His influence started with his church’s congregation. He guided them, taught them, inspired them. As his sphere of influence grew, so did the power of his influence towards change. Malala Yousafzai did it, too. Her influence began with a secret blog in the bowels of Pakistan’s gender war, where she wrote of a different Pakistan where girls could go to school. As her bubble of inspiration grew, so did the weight of her words.
Principal Sheffield may never lead an entire civil rights movement and change a country’s course of history. He may never win a Nobel Peace Prize and speak to the United Nations, but he is the guy who helped revolutionize an entire school full of anxious students and tired teachers.
Someday, at some point in my life, I want someone to say the same thing about me. She’s the gal who….
May we all strive to be known for the positive change we create in our spheres of influence.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.