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  • Writer's pictureRobin Bruebach

Defining Moment: 30 Second Shift

During the summer of 2005, I was given the opportunity to attend Harvard’s Principals’ Center with a colleague. There were so many amazing speakers, but a 30 second activity changed the way I saw education and leadership in the most profound way.

I believe it was Roland Barth that asked:


Please stand if you believe that there will be students in your school who will not achieve grade level standards this year.


We all stood.


He asked us to sit down and then asked:


Please stand if you are willing to go and tell your boss that you have already determined that some of your students will not succeed this year.


We sat. Silent.


I don’t remember ever having been moved so profoundly from a 30 second activity. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I would predetermine that some of my students would fail.

But in the moment, I was forever changed.


The next several weeks were spent reflecting on my beliefs, values and opinions about learning, students, teachers and growth. From this reflection, I redefined my vision and mission of who I was as a leader and teacher. Next came the reframing of actions that would lead me to making sure every student had the opportunity, support and motivation to succeed.


I didn’t know it then, but that 30 second activity would create for me the process of reflecting, refining and reframing. It helped me to continue to grow, use my mistakes as points of learning and never predetermine the outcome of another person’s life or my own.



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