But Salome Thomas-El has a gentle reminder of the most effective form of communication:
“People will forget what you do. People will forget what you say. But they will never, ever forget how you made them feel.”
Principal El, as he’s known, would no doubt give a nod to Maya Angelou, who is also credited with this quote. But Principal El has lived the quote in his own way, by eschewing more lucrative career opportunities to remain an education leader in an inner city school.
I’ve heard Principal El speak twice—both times at United Way events—and his message is consistent. He calls upon all adults, and especially parents, to commit themselves to children’s success in school. And success sometimes means allowing kids to fall flat on their faces.
“Smart is not something you are,” he says. “Smart is something you can become.” And the process of becoming means experiencing failure—a very different mindset than the one plaguing so many schools today, where protecting self esteem is more important than raising up intellectually and morally strong young people.
The work must stretch across the spectrum of a child’s life, says Principal El—from birth to adulthood. And it takes careful, thoughtful planning.
“A vision without a plan is a hallucination,” he says.
“Stop praying for a lighter load and start praying for a stronger back.”
Principal El’s commitment to educating children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is well documented in his book, I Choose To Stay. Of particular note is his use of chess to impart strategic thinking skills in his students—creating a series of championship teams composed of middle school students.
Interestingly, Principal El is a communications major. It shows in the way he connects with people and his Sunday morning preacher turns of phrase.
But what most impressed me was his insistence that the most effective form of communication is one that involves a personal connection with others.
We smartphone-laden, Twitter-tweeting, blogger-pitching Web geeks would do well to pay attention.