Steve Heisler

Teacher Author Speaker


"Every single child wants to be successful. The problem is, if they can't be successful at being successful, they'll be successful at screwing up. Our job as educators is to change the latter to the former."    

- from the The Missing Link by Steve Heisler

How Courtesy Leads to School Success

A popular story currently Facebooking around, (in it Winston Churchill's father pays for Sir Alexander Fleming's education after Fleming's father saved young Winston from drowning and then Fleming’s discovery of penicillin saved Churchill), is simply false. According to the biography, Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution, Fleming himself declared this "a wondrous fable.”

While this is a fairly innocuous story I can’t help but feel that, at its core, these sorts of fantasy stories diminish the extraordinary nature of the ordinary. It makes us feel like we can forgo everyday kindnesses and courtesies because in some made up internal drama we’ll pay back the whole world in some extraordinary moment. It ends up, sometimes, being an excuse for allowing us to be self-centered and even boorish. I’ve actually had a conversation with someone who excused his business illegalities and venalities by assuring me that, once he made his fortune, his foundation would assuage all his sins. Still waiting for that foundation, by the way.

In real life ‘good’ looks much more like this:

     One morning Joseph K. awoke in a bad mood but because his partner said something nice and encouraging he left the house in a slight better mood so when the clerk spilled K’s coffee he responded gently rather than angrily and the clerk appreciated the understanding, and carried on her day with good humor and kindness so that everyone who came in to that store left feeling a little better than when they walked in and several even remembered the thank the drivers who let them in the traffic line and those drivers went home that evening feeling grateful and appreciated for their simple courtesy and read with their children, rather than taciturnly watch television, and then all those kids got on the honor roll at school.

Ok, so I got a little dramatic too, but seriously, can we please start circulating celebrating simple decency and courtesy, at least once in a while?