What becomes a legend most?

After spending the morning thinking about what kind of impact I — homeschooling mother, writer of obscure things — might have on the world, if any, I found in my Facebook feed a tribute to someone who made an enormous difference for so many people.

Todd Kolod was an early childhood educator: he taught preschool, and he taught parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers about surviving and thriving in those first five years of parenting and beyond.

The article describes him as a legend. How does someone go from preschool teacher to legend? Or rather, how does someone stay at preschool teacher and still become a legend? I can’t imagine it happens often.

Growing up as a strong student, ambitious and motivated, and now being part of an education community, I know that growing up to have a career in preschool education isn’t legendary. Smart kids who become successful adults are professors, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs; girls who want to be mothers become preschool teachers.

Many of the families in Todd’s classes were successful in just that way. And then again, many of them weren’t: the Rondo site where Todd taught drew from St. Paul’s poorest neighborhood and its richest. Parenting is a great leveler: no matter where you came from, you were there because you needed those other parents, and Todd made that kind of intentional community happen.

He did it over 30 years, which means he must have reached thousands of families. Some children who by now are having children of their own.

I loved finding this story, because it reminded me of those sweet years when my own children were in ECFE. They were too young to remember Todd now, but I remember those days, even though they seem far far away. And it’s a great story of someone who could have been an unsung hero.

When I think about people who’ve done “great things” with their lives, or just people who have done well-known things for which they are paid large sums of money, I’m not inspired to do great things myself. I’m inspired to get on Facebook and give up on great things, because it’s too late, or I’m not important enough, or I lack the skills.

When I remember Teacher Todd, though, there’s something about the humility and the calm he brought to every encounter, with every parent and every child, that makes me want to try harder and do better with what I’ve got.

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Filed under education, grown up life

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