I love a good book. In complete honesty, I will typically pick a fictional novel over nonfiction any day. I’m constantly reading for pleasure via my Kindle app. Don’t get me wrong, I also read a lot for professional growth, but it’s usually in the form of articles or short blog posts. I will read a professional book on average, one every couple of months. I choose from a wide variety of leadership and education-specific books for that purpose. Some are more enjoyable than others. I learn more from some than others. And then there are the rare finds that I enjoy, learn from, and deeply connect to that stand out in my mind. Everyone Needs a Mrs. Bailey: A Memoir by William D. Sroufe is one of those books. I took it with me to my family’s lake house yesterday and read the entire book in one afternoon. It was that good.
Dr. Sroufe began the book detailing his childhood – the abuse, the neglect, the transience – and the teachers who made a positive impact along the way. I have read this quote by Nicholas A. Ferroni before, “Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t come to school to be loved.” This was Dr. Sroufe as a child. He did anything he could to avoid being home. School was a safe place. He had several teachers that showed him kindness, but it is Mrs. Bailey who stands out to this day for her encouragement, her belief in him, and her genuine caring. Every child, regardless of the home environment, deserves teachers like Mrs. Bailey who build authentic relationships with their students. He writes, “…the key to success in working with children is to set high expectations with compassion and understanding while building relationships with them.”
I’m a firm believer in the value of relationships and relational leadership. This one teacher changed the trajectory of Dr. Sroufe’s life. He is now a successful superintendent, where he also believes in relationships first. In the various roles he has held as an educator, he, in turn, has gotten to be a Mrs. Bailey to countless children over the years. I am sure, he has extended that encouragement, belief, and caring into the staff he works with, as well. It really doesn’t take a lot to make an everlasting impact…a kind word, a quick phone call, a true smile. As educators, we have a choice on what kind of impact we make on a daily basis. We can build up or we can tear down. Make the right choice. Be a Mrs. Bailey.