“Well, all that sounds fine in theory. In reality, one person can’t really make a difference.”
I felt my cheeks flush, as I made direct eye contact with him.
“One person can make a difference, if that person is me.”
He rolled his eyes at that point, and we moved on to another topic in our parent meeting.
I wanted to argue with him. I wanted to list all of the “just one person” individuals that had made a difference. People like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr..
I didn’t say anything though, because I understood his skepticism. He had sat through years of meetings with other Gifted and Talented parents and administrators. Not much had changed. He had become frustrated with a public educational system that didn’t meet the needs of his kids.I was intelligent enough, and he wasn’t interested in learning about me or my experiences. In his mind, I wasn’t Norma Rae.
Start with the Why.
(Simon Sinek has a fantastic TED talk about this.)
I know that I’m not a famous leader. That’s not my point. Most people are ordinary. They become great leaders when they make extraordinary choices, despite obstacles.
It only takes one ordinary person with the courage and tenacity to follow through with something they are passionate about, and to make a difference.
Believing I could be the one person to make a difference is why I ran for the school board last spring. It was the first time in over 20 years that there had been a contested school board election. Most of our board members were appointed, because no one wanted to volunteer.
I didn’t know if I could win, but I wanted to show that it was important enough to me to advocate for my children and the needs of other gifted students in our school district.
I ran for the school board even though I had never won a campaign for anything else before. (Not even 5th grade class treasurer.)
I ran for the school board, because I wanted to bring greater awareness and funding to the special educational needs of gifted kids and advanced learners in our rural school district.
I ran for school board against a man who was one of the only parents with students on the board based on where my house is.
I ran against a man I respected, and thought did a good job. I wanted to show that the needs of our gifted kids were important enough to me to take a risk, and push myself outside of my comfort zone.
A couple of days before the election, I received a call from our part time district Gifted and Talented teacher. His position as GT coordinator was being converted to full time in fall so he would be able to primarily focus on the needs of the gifted students.
It was what I had asked and had been campaigning for.
I had been talking about how allocating financial resources to a full time position would benefit all the students, because a rising tide lifts all boats.
I borrowed my motivational quote and platform from John F. Kennedy. (Apparently he borrowed it from someone else.)
I had made a difference, as just one person.
I ran for the school board, and I lost.
I lost by a lot.
I’m afraid of rejection , and it stung.
I was disappointed that I lost, but I knew that what I had accomplished was important. The why behind my run for school board had been addressed.
Most parents are like me, and want to provide their children with the best educational opportunities possible. Sometimes, it requires facing your fears to make sure that it happens.
You might lose, or have things turn out different than you planned.
It is still worth trying anyway.
You can make a difference by starting a parent group. Maybe, you’ll do something more dramatic like ignoring the naysayer in your existing parent group, and run for school board.
Maybe, you’ll even win.
Last year, my triplet sons were part of a once a week, enrichment pull out program for 40 minutes. One gifted teacher divided his time between 2 elementary schools, a middle school and high school. He was under utilized by spending half of his time teaching basic math and study skills at the high school, though he was qualified to teach AP Physics or AP Calculus.
This year, my boys look forward to 4 days a week pull out for 40 minutes in a hands on environment with their teacher. They have studied logic and advanced math. They have written, produced and performed plays based on Greek mythology.
The enrichment class is their favorite part of the day. They are able to focus better, and share what they’ve learned with other children during the rest of their day. More than quadruple the number of children are being served by the new GT program.
The tide is rising.
One person made a difference, and that one person was me. It can also be you.
Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week – Name one thing that you will do this week to be the one person who makes a difference. Remember, one thing or a small change can make a big difference.
Bonus Points – If you’re a parent of school age children, join or form a parent group.
This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education monthly blog hop series.
To read more perspectives about forming parent groups. Please, click the graphic below.