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It’s back to school time, and whether or not you have children, you’re affected. Traffic gets more intense, stores are more crowded. If you have kids, you face schedule changes, struggling to get them up in the morning and another year of making sure they’re equipped to learn. For many people, it’s an achievement just having their kids physically prepared with clothing, shoes, backpacks and binders, notebooks, pens, and pencils. I know we don’t always think of it this way, but for the next several months, parents will be served by teachers, administrators, counselors, janitors and the “lunch lady.”

Let’s approach this school year from a different perspective and think about how to be servant leaders during it. I’d like to view this time through the lenses of three of the servant leader behaviors. Practicing them will allow you to bring servant leadership into your community. Having well educated, caring citizens is of benefit to us all.

Serve first. Are there things you can do to help your child’s teacher? Just ask, even if you only have a small amount of time to give. Don’t have children? I know a group of women who bring treats into a school once or twice a year just to acknowledge school staff, even though their kids are fully grown.

Build trust. Wouldn’t it be great if we approached teachers as partners in raising our children? This year, let’s try to extend trust first to our teachers. After all, they often spend more waking hours with our kids than we do. Let’s go into every encounter with the school staff thinking about how we might add value. 

Live your values. I know a number of servant leader parents who give an important message to their kids each day. As they prepare to enter school in the morning, their parents give them an assignment. “Find someone to help today” or “Who will you help today?” is the message. 

Children are always watching adults. Whether or not we have kids, we have a responsibility to plant the seeds of serving, building trust and living our values with the generations to come. The outcome will be communities grounded in dignity and respect.