Updated: Apr 10, 2020
As I sit at home researching EdTech trends, I am brought to remember what time of year it is and how all teachers are merely trying to survive until Spring Break much less implement new tools into their classrooms. I remember this feeling well. After 16 years in a middle school classroom, that sense of pure joy of Spring Break still comes even though I don’t usually get to take a break during this time anymore.
As I think about the many trials that a teacher endures during this time of year, I can’t help but be more than thankful for the teachers that molded me. Many teachers and leaders have influenced me throughout my education and career as an educator. There are several that come to mind when I think of great leaders. Senge, Cambron-Mccabe, Timothy, Bryan, Dutton, and Janis (2012) explained, that “an organizational learning initiative in schools cannot rely on any single leader, no matter how effective or charismatic; such learning needs to be grounded in a community of leaders” (p. 21). I found this to be very accurate during my career as a middle school teacher. I spent all my classroom career at the same middle school, of which I saw several administrators come and go. During these transitions, it was the community of teacher leaders that were the guiding force for the students, parents, and teachers that kept the culture intact.
During my first few years as a teacher, I was blessed to be under the guidance of a master teacher, Mr. Brickell. Mr. Brickell had many distinguishing qualities that made him stand out from other teachers and leaders. He was a germaphobe which made his position as a middle school teacher and a wrestling coach quite interesting. He also had a fantastic way of commanding respect while being fun and approachable and never taking himself seriously. I don’t think Mr. Brickell would ever consider himself a leader. He had no desire to be a leader, he would rather be in the background just doing what he loves, but he made a significant impact in the lives of many students and teachers- and most definitely in mine.
Mr. Brickell taught me all the things that a new teacher needed to know: how to effectively talk with parents, how to discipline students, how to deal with other teachers that drive you crazy, how to keep the passion when you think you will never make it, and most definitely how to hold on until summer break after that coveted Spring Break. Mr. Brickell taught me several things that I have taken with me during my journey to becoming a leader that I reflect on many times throughout my day. Many of these things have molded me into the educator and leader I am and helped me to have the love for education that I have today.
Mr. Brickell’s ability to enjoy every day no matter how stressful things might be is what gave me a new appreciation for many things. He was the first to ever explain to me that “education will kill you if you let it- that’s why you don’t let it. You pick your battles- most of them aren’t worth fighting anyway.” I have taken that message with me every step of my career. I grew to have incredible respect for the love that Mr. Brickell had for the students and the way that he could create enthusiasm and excitement in students that never seemed to be interested in learning. The enthusiasm and love for students that Mr. Brickell taught me gave me hope in some of my most stressful years. I will always remember the laughing, the fun, and the never-ending love for learning.
Grogan (2013) stated “[c]ollaboration within the school among different professional groups is at the heart of a positive organization culture” (p. 265). Mr. Brickell was most definitely the heart of the culture at Cousins for many years. His attitude was contagious. His care and love for students has been witnessed through his dedication and the time he spent with students and colleagues continuously. His attitude and passion created a learning culture not only for his students but for everyone around him. The entire school had a culture of family and community that you can only find in a safe and open environment such as one that Mr. Brickell cultivated.
I learned many lessons from Mr. Brickell- too many to list. I reflect many times throughout a week, and many of those reflections bring me back to an experience that includes Mr. Brickell many years ago, as a beginning teacher. One of the most impactful lessons he taught me was the importance of having a passion for what you do and never allowing anything to kill that passion. He is one of the greatest leaders I have ever had the pleasure of learning from, and I will forever be grateful for the many lessons he shared. Anytime I start to overthink things I think of Mr. Brickell and remember that I must “pick my battles.” As the quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery says, “If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" (Roth, Ditkoff, Gruenberg, Vadeboncoeur, & Jacob, 2011). Mr. Brickell did just that. He taught me to long for the immensity of the sea and for that I will forever be grateful for his incredible passion and leadership.
Grogan, M. (Ed.). (2013-04-29). The Jossey-Bass Reader on Educational Leadership (p. 18). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Roth, P., Ditkoff, M., Gruenberg, B., Vadeboncoeur, V., & Jacob, S. (2011, January 4). 50 Awesome Quotes on Vision [Web log post]. Retrieved October 26, 2016, from http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/archives/2011/01/50_awesome_quot_1.shtml
Senge, Peter M.; Cambron-Mccabe, Nelda; Lucas, Timothy; Smith, Bryan; Dutton, Janis (2012-07-31). Schools That Learn (Updated and Revised): A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Dr. Melissa K. Jackson,
Educator, Servant Leader, and Instructional Technology Innovator