Leading By Example in Today’s Challenging World


Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne

Friends & Family of Move This World,

My mom has been working in school systems for 30 years, and each August there remain a few constants- Maryland crabs at the Crossroads Pub, increased traffic by the high school at 7:30am, the beginning of baseball postseason, and the rising anxiety of a year of unknowns. New beginnings are inevitably jittering, and we will always encounter unknowns in any situation. It’s up to us to muster the inner fortitude to navigate those challenges and transitions.

For my mom, these unknowns were typically along the lines of:

“Will I be able to help my students in meeting their goals this year?”

“Will my two daughters continue to be happy, healthy and safe?”

“Are my colleagues going to get the support they need from me?”

“Are my students going to get along with their peers?”

I had the privilege of growing up in a tight-knit, safe community that rallied behind its school. My mom wrestled with these worries, but she didn’t have to wonder whether my sister and I left for school every morning in fear, unlike many children today.

Violence and racism are in the spotlight across America and the world, and it’s critical that we make clear our commitment to compassion, wellbeing and inclusion for all students and educators in our schools.

We can’t learn when we’re afraid. It’s natural to be fearful when we sense fear around us. Increased levels of stress affect our ability to be present, to process information, and to make sound decisions. Without coping mechanisms, stress affects executive functioning, makes us more forgetful, and creates a cycle of fear and anxiety. Individuals who are low in resilience are at risk for experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, and interpersonal issues.

It’s urgent that we band together as a school community to appreciate diverse perspectives and experiences. If we are to cultivate the safe learning community we dream of, leadership must embody empathy so our children can learn by example.

The process of healing and nurturing a supportive school environment has to do with creating a safe space; leading by example; and developing emotional competency; and depends on reflecting and acting, which involves identifying shared values and differences; instilling courage; and enabling action.

As we and the people we love go back to school this fall, let’s remind one another that we all deserve the right to feel safe and supported in every moment of our lives, especially while we teach, learn and grow into empathic, engaged citizens of the world. I am optimistic we can learn from the challenges we’ve faced, and proceed with renewed perspectives, repaired trust, and intentional hard work this school year.


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