I just heard a fantastic story and I had to share. I’m in the Sierra Mountains, doing a training with Where There Be Dragons before heading to Cambodia to lead a development education course and the Director, Susie Rinehart, just shared this story with me that she said I could share with you.
Susie showed us photos of when the 80 year-old Jane Goodall recently came to visit her daughter’s school. Susie was even more excited to see her than the students were, as she remembered how influential Jane Goodall’s story had been in her own childhood. When she was in 5th grade, the teacher showed a short documentary about Jane’s work using one of those film reel projectors. Susie was mesmerized.
“I want to do that with my life! I want to be like Jane Goodall!” Susie swore to her teacher when the film was done.
“Well, what do you think you need to learn in order to be like Jane?” her teacher, Madame Spear, asked young Susie.
“Well…. I’d have to learn to sit still! I don’t think I could sit for that long watching animals!” Susie decided.
Her teacher gave her an assignment, setting up an experiment to give Susie the practice in “sitting” she would need in order to become the next Jane Goodall. She was told to sit by the water fountain with a notebook and pen, tracking each time someone came to the fountain.
For three school days she sat there, writing down the name of each student that came for a drink, noting their behaviors and keeping a time log. After 3 days she returned to her class and told her teacher she was giving up. Being Jane Goodall was WAY too hard, and sitting by the water fountain was way too boring!
Susie might not have become a gorilla tracker, and rather than stillness she cultivated a love of motion, running ultra marathons around the world. But what she did learn from the impressive Madame Spear, was how to be a great teacher. Susie went on to help direct a school, and is now the director of an exceptional global education travel company.
And there she was just a few months ago, eager as her 11 year old self, about to go meet Jane Goodall, and tell her her water fountain tracking story herself. And what did the wise Jane say, when she heard Susie’s story? She smiled and laughed and then said:
“And how did the people react when they saw you sitting by the water fountain?”
“They acted funny,” Susie said. “They looked at me or behaved differently when they were drinking from the fountain.”
“Well, then you certainly didn’t sit there long enough,” said Jane.
And I, for one, am so glad Susie didn’t, and Jane did. Both are certainly doing what they were designed to do – and making the world a better place for it! I wonder which teacher Jane Goodall would look back on who inspired her, as I’m sure there is at least one. Here’s to exceptional teachers inspiring young people to go out and teach exceptionally.