Teaching and Leading: 2014 and Beyond


Have you ever asked individuals who work for newspapers, which teacher(s) inspired their love of reporting or newspapers and what the teachers did that affected them so profoundly? As newspapers prepare for NIE Week, March 3-7, 2014, they should consider producing a column or promotional feature that includes photos of staffers at the newspaper and quotes in which they pay tribute to their teachers. One well-known newspaperman did just that, paid tribute to a well-respected teacher in a newspaper column. Thomas Friedman’s official website describes him as “an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist—the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books.” (http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/about-the-author) His online biography includes an excerpt from a column about his 10th grade journalism teacher, Hattie Steinberg. She inspired his love for reporting and newspapers. He wrote the column when she died in January 2001. He explains hanging out in her room in the 1960s, “... we enjoyed being harangued by her, disciplined by her and taught by her. She was a woman of clarity in an age of uncertainty.” Now, Friedman writes columns for the New York Times, which are syndicated. One recent column, “Why Mandela was unique” was given this headline in a NC newspaper: “The kind of leader we crave.” The column, which I read Friday, December 13, 2013, drove me to newspaper archives to read all of the stories published in newspapers about Nelson Mandela. Note that newspaper archives encourage all readers to conduct research. Using “key word” searches through their electronic editions, readers can locate stories about people who make a difference in local communities, regions, states, nations and the world and learn how and why those people chose to do what they did. Newspapers in Education invites readers to focus on LEADERS and LEADERSHIP in “collaborative conversations” held at home and at school. Access LESSONS to use with your newspapers.


About Mandela, I found stories and comments that described him as a global leader, concerned with people around the world, not just South Africa and as someone who credited Mahatma Gandhi. Other stories focused on Mandela’s work with de Klerk to bring about peaceful change and avoid violence in South Africa. Other stories contained laudatory remarks offered by leaders from the United States and North Carolina. Even local writers weighed in through letters to the editor. Reports included timelines that laid out what happened to Mandela over the course of his life. Using detailed reports of his life, readers could focus on growth and change in Mandela, as well as continuity and consistency. Characters in any good story grow and change as well as maintain their focus. And Mandela’s was a powerful story. Readers in homes and classrooms could discuss how Mandela, a world leader, affected and is affecting actions and views held in their local communities and state. Students could also compare comments made online about his life and death with those published in newspapers and discuss differences, particularly between unsigned, anonymous comments and signed comments. I “read like a detective” all available texts about Mandela to answer the questions Friedman raises. Exactly why is Mandela unique? What is the “kind of leader we crave?” What are the implications for teaching and learning and civic life? To prepare to vote thoughtfully in the future, students could develop their own rubrics on leadership based on texts they read. Below is a “text-dependent” rubric/ checklist developed from Friedman’s column and the book he quoted heavily, whose author recommends the movie, Invictus. Rubric/ Checklist: “The Kind of Leader We Crave” _____Made all feel comfortable in the country (paragraph 3) _____Chose not to uproot the nation’s cherished symbols (graf 3) _____Showed restraint and generosity (graf 3) _____Rejected what he called “selfish thinking” (graf 3) _____Challenged his own base, not just the other side (graf 4) _____Led all citizens to do something big and hard and together, not just those giving up power (graf 4) _____Challenged his base to do hard things; didn’t advocate taking easy path (graf 4) _____Asked his supporters to avoid revenge (graf 4) _____“Trusted his people with the truth” (graf 5, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____“Did big things by making himself small” (graf 6, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____“Created a hopeful space for doing the hard work involved in making transition” (graf 7, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____“Seized really big moment (opportunity) for making change…” (graf 8, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____“Did not make himself the hope; made himself smaller than the moment” (graf 8, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____“Transcended the past, elevated people,” working with de Klerk, who was the South African leader when apartheid ended and shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela (graf 9, quoted the book, “How” by Dov Seidman) _____Led by moral authority (not formal authority of position) to inspire, elevate others and enlist all in shared journey (graf 11, conclusion) Much could be added to the above list, drawn from other stories: Mandela and de Klerk chose non-violent means. Mandela displayed his humanity, showing his sense of humor and speaking of his loneliness. He said he was too slow in responding to the AIDS/HIV epidemic. He used his negotiation skills to bring about peaceful change from apartheid and helped craft the new constitution, but, early in his life, he protested, made political arguments and explained rather than denied the aggressive measures the ANC took to bring about change. He was imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years and called a “terrorist” by world leaders. He never knew what the future held. He continued to champion justice, calling on fellow citizens not to blame people from other countries (xenophobia) for the poverty and difficult circumstances of their lives. Mandela organized world leaders (The Elders) to work for peace and justice however they could.

  • Aimed to reduce violence or killing/harming people
  • Maintained “humanity”
  • Admitted mistakes
  • Negotiated effectively
  • Stood up for or maintained his beliefs
  • Took risks
  • Did not deny the difficulty of people’s daily lives
  • Continued to champion peace and justice in his home country/ advocated for restraint
  • Worked with other world leaders in support of peace and justice

If you keep a news journal or personal diary, record what you learn about leaders and leadership each day you read the news. Be sure to cite sources (title, author, publication, date, page numbers). Look back on what you record and create a rubric of your own. The coming year, 2014 will challenge all leaders to help us face and deal with challenging truths.   Prepared by NC Newspapers in Education, December 2013, sandynie@unc.edu (919) 843-5648.