About a month ago we had what we, for Indiana, consider a pretty decent snowstorm. Roads weren’t in great shape, sidewalks were a bit slippery, and the parking lot felt like an ice rink as I was walking in. Luckily, the roads were clear enough that all our students were able to get to school, and we had what felt like a pretty normal school day. In the afternoon, after dismissing our buses, I came back inside and was taking my jacket off when one of our people came in looking for some help. She had parked in a street parking spot across from school, and over the course of the day the snowplows had gone by and made it impossible for her to get her car out.
Now, as building principal, there are a lot of things going on at the end of the day. But in that moment, I made a decision. I walked down to our dock area where I knew we had a snow-shovel, grabbed it, and headed back outside. It would have been easy to delegate this task, maybe to a custodian, or someone else, but I believe that relationships are a powerful thing.
It took some digging, and then some pushing, but eventually we were able to get the car out. I gave the person a wave, she headed home, and I headed back inside the building to put the shovel away.
I’m not telling you this story because I need a pat on the back, or to brag about a good deed I did. I think all of us who work in schools (or really just about any position that deals primarily with people) know that there are times that someone might need help from us that isn’t really a part of our job description. It’s easy to find a reason why we can’t help in those moments – I have a meeting to get to, I have lesson planning to finish, etc. But think for a minute about how much helping someone might lift them up. And here’s the reality, when we do something that makes someone else happy, we get a little dopamine hit in our brain too, which makes us feel good.
It doesn’t have to be grabbing a shovel and helping to push a car. Maybe it’s providing some support to a colleague, or a listening ear for a student who is having a rough day. Whatever it is, take just a moment, think about how the other person might feel, and find a way to help.
If we model this mindset for our students, they will learn to look at the world in a similar way.
So here’s what I’m going to encourage you to do in the coming few days: Find a time when you can be the one to “grab a shovel” and do it. See how it helps the other person, and notice how it makes you feel as well!