Associate Professor of Education Kathleen Lutz was awarded the Max H. Lavine Award for Teaching Excellence at Opening Convocation on September 10, 2010. As recipient of the prestigious award, Kathleen gave the Opening Convovation address, leaving her audience with a number of messages, including to not be afraid to "lend a hand," and "be in the moment." Kathleen's speech is found below.
Good morning and welcome to all of you new students, and greetings to my fellow members of the CSS learning community. Whether it’s first grade or college level, there is always a sense of energy at the start of the year that is infectious.
After the Lavine Award was announced, a former recipient said, “Now you get to worry all summer about what you’re going to say” I have to admit, this speech has caused some sleepless nights. I kept thinking, I need to be prophetic, significant, to deliver a wise message to you as you begin this exciting journey. But, because I have a tendency toward being a pragmatist about life and its curves, in the end, I decided on a simple message (just four little words) and to make it short - always a crowd-pleaser.
The four-word phrase I’d like you to remember is “the power of one”. With the horrific tragedies we’ve seen throughout the world in the last few years, it’s easy to question, how can one person help? What kind of an impact can one person have? But, one person can indeed have a big impact, an impact that we often don’t realize we’ve made.
Years ago, a middle school teacher, trying to keep her students engaged during the last days of school, came up with this exercise. The class was given a list of all the students in the class. They were directed to note positive descriptive words that came to mind about each of their fellow learners. The next day they were given the words that students had used to describe each of them. While the teacher knew the students enjoyed the activity, she didn’t give it too much more thought than to plan to do the activity again the next year.
A number of years later, the teacher was saddened to hear the news that one of her former students had been killed in the war. When the teacher attended the young man’s visitation and funeral, the parents pulled her aside. After receiving their son’s personal effects, the parents found a paper in his wallet. It was obvious that this paper had been folded and refolded many times. The paper was the list of descriptive words, that resulted from that long-ago assignment, the words that fellow students had used to describe him. The parents wanted the teacher to know what an enduring impact this list had obviously had on their son; one could assume that given the paper’s wear, these words had provided affirmation and/or comfort when he needed uplifting.
Actions demonstrating this power don’t have to be grandiose. It can be something as simple as a smile. A quote from an unknown author makes an important point… A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home. Our lives have gotten so harried and filled with unending demands that we often forget about this simple pleasure.
When people greet one another in passing, one often hears, “How are you?” or a similar question. Most of us expect to hear a positive response and most of us are so conditioned that we give this positive response even if our life is falling apart. The faculty and staff recently heard a speech by(Dr. Eric Jolly. Dr. Jolly has made great contributions to math and science education as well as playing a significant role in the Society for Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science. This inspirational gentleman shared a similar Cherokee social greeting; the English translation is “Are you full of joy?” If the individual is not full of joy, the receiver should help that person find joy. Dr. Jolly’s main message was that we should invest ourselves in the present moment – a good reminder for all of us. As Dr. Jolly said, “we’re all in this together; we’re all teachers; and we’re all learners.”
Each year, we focus on one of the Benedictine values. This year’s focus is on community, specifically a community of learners. Each of you has unique gifts and perspectives to bring to this community; you’re all important members. As you begin this journey, I’m confident you’ll find that one instructor who ignites your passion to learn, that one special friend who is always there for you, that one class that fills you with excitement or promotes deep and thoughtful reflection, or that one statement that energizes you into action.
You’ll find many opportunities to lend a hand…this may be to help someone out physically, to be a good listener, or perhaps be that one voice speaking up for values – the one with power speaking up for the one without power.
Now I’m not suggesting that we all become Pollyanna and sing the Glad Song (probably dating myself here). And certainly there will be times when you just can’t help someone out. But there will be many opportunities when you can lend that hand. Last week on my way back from lunch, I walked past the handicapped parking near Mitchell. A fellow faculty member had a dead battery. I told her that she could get a battery charger at Somers and went on my way –the first week is always busy with meetings and course preparation so my mind was on that. . I was definitely not in the moment. A few moments later I saw the instructor again in Tower returning from security who couldn’t help her. Then it clicked (sometimes I’m a little slow) and I said I had jumper cables and would bring my car around. Now, anyone who knows me well knows how much I appreciate parking in Mitchell and that I’m usually lucky, especially with my parking skills honed MANY years ago in the parking lots at San Diego States so I did think, darn I’ll probably lose my parking space. When I returned with my car, Rudy, one of our great facilities’ guys, was there helping. Once he assured me it was red to red and black to black, he went on his way. We got the car started and I went on my way – serendipity, a parking space opened up What was it, about 15 minutes that this took; certainly time I had. I happened to see this instructor the next day and she thanked me again. But, if I hadn’t, I didn’t need the thanks; I knew I’d made someone’s day a little easier.
Not only does it feel good to give someone a hand, there has been research on the benefits and results of doing good for others. One of the findings is that when one focuses on others rather than oneself, greater happiness results. In addition, some of the research talks about the ripple effect – how one small act of doing good can inspire and motivate a big change. An example of this rippling is Alex, a little girl who was diagnosed with cancer when she was one. She appeared to be in remission and had physically achieved milestones, like walking, that the doctors had said would never happen. When she was four, Alex told her parents she wanted to have a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research to help doctors find a cure. She continued to have her lemonade stand each year. Sadly, Alex lost her battle with cancer when she was 8. However, this simple little lemonade stand to raise money to benefit other children, has evolved into a national organization that to date has raised more than $20 m.
This “power of one” doesn’t apply to you only in the act of giving. About October, students start arriving to class looking overwhelmed and/or exhausted. Many of you work in order to be in school, many have children at home, and many of you carry heavy course loads, and some of you do all three. At some point, and in varying degrees, I know most of you will reach a point where you need that helping hand. This may be needing some extra help with a class, getting sick and missing class, having unexpected difficulties, or finding yourself struggling to get through a day. I tend to be rather independent – friends and family prefer to call it stubbornness; it’s not always easy for me to ask for help. But, in recent years I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help or seek out support from others. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. When one holds in the needs, the walls that evolve can certainly offer protection. But, this can also keep you from feeling great joy. Reaching out gets you needed assistance and provides others with the joy of giving.
In conclusion, as Dr. Jolly said, be in the moment; remember we’re all in this together. I wish you all a wonderful Scholastica experience, a successful year, and many opportunities to experience the power of one.
Kay has 29 years of elementary education experience. For 20 years she taught grades 1-5 in El Cajon, CA, and the next 9 years taught grades 4-6 in Vancouver, WA. In addition, she also taught at the Clark Community College in Vancouver for 4 years. Kay has been a mentor in a state "teacher-helping-teacher" program and a staff developer in the areas of reading, writing, literature, math and integrated curriculum. Kay received her Ph.D. from Capella University, MN, in 2006. She received her B.S. and her M.A. in education at San Diego State University. Kay also has a California Life Teaching Credential and a Washington State Standard Teaching Credential for K-12. Kay teaches courses in the ECI program, the GTL program, and the undergraduate program.