Be the Candle or the Mirror

Be the Candle or the Mirror

At the May Day Tournament this weekend, I had multiple. opportunities to speak with our parent community. You might say a hobby of mine is discovering where we are pleasing our students and parents and where we can focus our efforts to improve. I relish the opportunity to speak directly with the parents. Some deliver feedback in frank tones, while others may dance around the issues a bit.

The most common refrain from parents this weekend: how diverse, motivated, and exciting our team is to be around for their children. Parents spoke about individual coaches, the team as a whole, and the 'culture of positivity, support, and warmth' that their children have come to love (and expect!)' One parent even said, “If all of my daughter’s teachers in school were like the LearningLeaders coaches, then I’d consider myself the luckiest parent in Shanghai!"

Delving deeper with one parent who manages a professional services firm, we also spoke about the challenges of working with such a switched-on team. We both agreed sometimes it can be exhausting (in a good way!) to keep up to date with the tremendous flows of ideas, creative contributions, and solutions proposed to various problems by everyone on a team. Again - we both agreed its a good challenge to have! If our team is generating ideas thoughtfully and at a rapid pace, our organization and ultimately our students will be the direct beneficiary.

A corollary to this challenge is that the more people who propose ideas, it’s likely there are more who are disappointed or who become impatient when their ideas are not implemented immediately! I think we’ve seen this at LL as well, when two, three, four, or more people all have ideas of how something needs to happen. Naturally, we may differ in the solutions or methods used to arrive at their conclusions. We may differ in the background or context behind the issue as well. It’s a natural challenge and one that is impossible to avoid if you have proactive and excited team members. At professional service firms similar to the one this LearningLeaders parent manages, it was shared this challenge is not a small one.

During this conversation, I couldn't help but think of one of my favourite quotations. Edith Wharton said, "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

Wharton is best known as the first woman in the United States to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. She also must be one of the most prolific authors in U.S. history! If I’m not mistaken she published over three dozen books in as many years.

There are days when we must act as the candle. There are days when we need to be the mirror. Not every day can we expect all the the attention and light focused on us. By helping reflect and magnify the energy, brightness, and positive change in the world that others can provide, we are still contributing massively to making our communities stronger.

The candle, lest we forget, also consumes itself through the production of light. The energy produced in the form of illumination comes from the candle’s wax. I’ve often heard the profession and vocation of teaching described as being a candle: consuming itself but illuminating the path for others.

Reflecting the light of others isn’t a weakness. It’s necessary for groups and movements and organizations to reach their goals. It's also necessary for individuals to allow others around them to shine. Especially for those as accomplished, motivated, and cerebral as those on our team, let's please remember that on any given day and at any given moment we can make a choice: to be the candle or to be the mirror.

Both are of equal value. Both illuminate the path. Both brighten the world.