The Law of the Picture

I love to read books about leadership and education and recently I finished reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. It is a great book about the most important aspects of leadership. One law that was mentioned in the book was called the “Law of the Picture,” meaning that people do what they see. This is a simple concept to grasp, but is so important to us as educators.

While reading the chapter, I came across a poem that I immediately marked as something that I wanted to write a Monday Memo about. The poem was quoted by legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, who said he heard this poem back in the 1930s and never forgot it.

“No written word, nor spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be. Nor all the books on all the shelves, it’s what the teachers are themselves.”

I think every teacher knows that we teach way more than just content matter at school. We teach students about life. We have to prepare students for the “real world.” That is a difficult task, especially when you have a long list of standards you have to teach. So how do you go about teaching students how to interact with others, act appropriately or show responsibility? The answer is simple – you show them.

Last Tuesday, I co-taught a class at Butler University with one of my mentors, Dr. Jack Parker. We taught the class about vision, mission and beliefs. One of the things we always tell the graduate students is, “beliefs that are lived out in our daily lives are our values.”

Let me give you an example. I believe students should pay attention in class. I think this is important if we want students to learn the material we are teaching. I also know that I struggle paying attention at meetings, especially if the meeting goes long. I am not used to having to sit and focus for that long of a time period. As a teacher though, if I want my students to stay focused and on task, I have to make sure I am living that expectation in my life. I have to consciously make an effort not to check my phone or get distracted by something else going on. I have to be the role model. The phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work as an educator.

If we want our students to act respectful, we must first show them respect (whether they deserve it or not). If we want our students to be punctual, we must first show them that we are always on time. If we want our students to follow directions, we must make sure that we are following directions as well.

What is it that you believe is important for students to do at school? Are you a good example of what you expect of your students? If not, what can you do to change yourself?

I leave you with two additional quotes from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

“To do what is right is wonderful. To teach what is right is even more wonderful – and much easier.” ~ Mark Twain

“Leaders tell but never teach until they practice what they preach.” ~ Featherstone



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