At a Public Charter School in Philadelphia over the weekend, it was necessary to unplug the filter of a 75 gallon fish tank. Due to the inevitable and most unfortunate human error, the filter was not re-started as it should have been so this morning, when the teacher arrived, the big beautiful fish that have been a part of the culture of the school for years, except for the algae eater, were gone.
Tamara is now a smart, happy 3rd grader at this school. She has been a student there since kindergarten. When she arrived at the school, Tamara was disruptive, violent, and uncommunicative. By a series of good fortune, astute observation, and a caring educator, Tamara was given charge of making sure that the fish were well cared for, starting with feeding the first thing every morning. That simple act of responsibility given to her in kindergarten and continuing to this day, helped transform this young lady from an asocial, belligerent child to, by dint of her consistent responsibilities with the school pets, a position of leadership. Right about now, Tamara will be at the classroom door where the teacher will let her in and walk with her to the fish tank where there will be no fish to feed. There will most likely be heartache and tears both on the part of both Tamara and the teacher as they commiserate over their mutual loss. They will share this bond of sadness and then, if she is true to form, the educator will use this as a powerful "Teachable Moment" for Tamara. There will be so many opportunities to explore and practically demonstrate how leaders act in situations like this. There will be opportunities to use Higher Order Thinking Skills, and of course, there will be the necessity of determining next steps to lessen the impact of this tragedy on the student body, the faculty, and the admin team.
My guess is that, before long the fish tank will be up and running with new fish in the tank and Tamara will get back into her routine of care and feeding, a little older, a good deal wiser, and farther along in her accidental development as a citizen/leader.