Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Simple Principles

This past summer at an exciting conference of educational leaders from all over the world, I met an amazing person who taught me a thing or two about being a good teacher. Her name is Adora Svitak and she’s twelve years old. That’s right, she’s twelve. During the day she attends classes and in the evening, she gives classes - in front of her computer, using Skype and other connective technologies. Her students are both children and adults, people who need tutoring and people who simply want to share in her passion for writing. Adora Svitak was one of the keynote speakers at the BLC2010 (Building Learning Communities) conference this summer, in with the likes of anthropology YouTube-ethnography professor Michael Wesch! She was engaging, inspiring and right on the money. She spoke about the power of young leaders and reminded all of us that size and age are not pre-requisite conditions for leadership.

This past weekend Adora Svitak’s message came home to me in a new way. A chance walk through the park with my Schnauzer brought a pleasant surprise - one of my students volunteering at a David Suzuki Foundation gathering. “Hey Miss, what are you doing here?” (Students are always so surprised to see that their teachers are real people with dogs, friends and a life outside of school.) However, the surprise was mine! There she was, Mira, at a gathering of eco-warriors and Montreal city council members planning future strategies for a greener city and celebrating past achievements. No one accompanied Mira to this auspicious occasion- no peers, no posse, no special friends, not even a faculty advisor (because she was representing the school’s “Green Warrior” group). She was by herself, the only teenager in a large group of adults, representing her cause, her principles, her passion – respect for the planet, sustainable living and making an ecological difference. No one told her to spend her sunny Saturday with a group of adults she barely knew. No one had to. Mira is that kind of person; the one who is motivated by principles and who, by her actions, stands as a reminder for the rest of us, that change can be as simple as becoming conscious of your actions. Simple things can make a difference. Listen to her message.

Mira’s message, like Adora’s is simple; when you care about something, you make your actions count and 'walk the talk'. Adults need to remember this uncomplicated passion of youthful dedication to principles. Yes, of course, actions and commitments must be tempered by and with all sorts of other concerns. Things are never that easy. We cannot always do what we want….or can we? Mira’s presence in that park on Saturday was a timely reminder that sometimes dedication to principles is just that uncomplicated. What are your cherished principles? What guides your life? How are you living each precious day according to your principles?
Sometimes, it is good for the young to lead the way and remind us that where the heart is, there the feet will follow. As for me, I will continue to count my lucky stars that I have the privilege of mentoring these youthful leaders. And you, how will you encourage these young citizens?

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