Principals, Police Chiefs and Props

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Even though I’m a Floridian now, I still keep up with goings-on in St. Louis. I just figure if it makes the news in STL, then it probably effects the lives of some people I know and love.

So, last night I was listening to an interview with the new police chief, Daniel Isom. Being interviewed by Rodney Boyd on 97.1 FM, the podcast tracked Chief Isom’s entire career since he entered law enforcement 20 years ago.

Chief Isom comes from a family of educators; his mother a public school teacher and his father a school administrator. It seemed in his blood, so one of his assignments over the last two decades was being the top cop at the St. Louis Police Academy.

In the interview, Boyd asked Chief Isom if he ever sees any of the cadets he trained at the Academy. You could tell this question pleased the chief. With a big smile, he said, “Oh yes! And now many of them are moving up through the ranks themselves. When they see me, they’ll often share a story or something they remember about me from their training days.”

Being the kid of a teacher myself, I’ve seen first hand what an “interesting” job education is. The teacher sees the day to day changes in the students, but rarely does he/she get real kudos for the job they’ve done. That’s not real surprising because most of us don’t understand the powerful impact educators have had on our lives until many, many years later.

But the thing I’ve found about teachers is that they’re not the kind of people who need constant pats on the back. They typically do it for the satisfaction they’re helping kids and changing lives. Even if they never get the props for the lives they’ve touched, it seems enough just to know they’re doing something beneficial.

Back in the spring, I was in Columbia, Missouri to speak for a convention. Earlier that day, I took my old principal, Larry Luetjen, out to lunch. It was the first time I’d seen him in nearly 10 years, and 15 years since he could still hand me a detention slip!

If you’ve heard me speak, you’ve heard me tell some stories about Mr. Luetjen. He was, after all, the man who first said, “Change the things you can…and don’t worry about the rest”; a message I’ve parroted to audiences for the last several years. Taking my principal to lunch and telling him how much those words shaped my life was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I know Larry was touched by me passing along my gratitude, too…but that’s not why he did that job for so many years. He (and most every other educator I’ve ever met) simply do it because they know they’re helping to create a better world by educating students and molding lives.

And that, faithful reader, is something we all should admire.

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