Everybody Needs a Nonni

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Back in November I presented a TedX Talk entitled “Our Schools Should Teach Kids How to Fail”.  This was an amazing experience all the way around, from developing the concept and going through various re-writes with an amazing teacher of mine, Lynn Mitchel; to rehearsing my Talk numerous times in front of my sons (who both could have gone on stage that night and delivered); to the connections with the staff at the host location, West Broward High School, especially the organizer, Horace Buddoo; to meeting the students who were part of the production crew at the school; to the feedback that I received that night.

The best part of the event was that my wife and my parents were in the audience.  Getting to present in front of them was such a source of pride for me.  I really rely on my family for energy and support as I push forward with changing the way we view education.  I have received a lot of feedback from family, friends, and strangers this past week.  My favorite response came from my Great-Aunt Helen, who is the matriarch of my mom’s side of my family.  I have so much love and respect for her so hearing from her meant a great deal to me.

Aunt Helen showing her pride in me really made me feel a connection to someone who wasn’t there the night of the Talk, someone who will never see my accomplishments, but someone who continues to drive me and motivate me.  That person is Nonni, my grandmother who passed away over seven years ago.  Nonni and I had a special bond.  She always used to say that we were connected by our souls.  Whenever I think about her, I remember how she used to look me in the eyes and tell me that I was going to do great things.  She said it so much that I started to believe it and continue to do so to this day.  Nonni never got to see me become a principal, as she passed away about six months before I was promoted.  But I know that I am living up to her ideal and that I am constantly trying to do more and be more because of her belief in me.  I also realize that I’m not done yet, that there is so much more left to accomplish.  Nonni’s faith keeps me pushing myself.

So this brings me to the title of this blog post, Everybody Needs a Nonni.  My wife, Susie, and I were talking about Nonni’s belief in me and it led to an amazing conversation about someone having so much confidence in you that it completely drives you.  Susie then made the profound statement in the title of this post.  It is so true.  Everyone truly does need a Nonni.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a grandmother who expresses pride in you, but someone in your life who fully believes in your capabilities.  Nonni’s faith in me was so overwhelming that I don’t think that I had a choice but to become the person that she believed I would be.

So I wonder, do you have a Nonni?  Do you have a person whose belief in you is so strong that it compels you to think beyond your current state?  Or are you that person for others?  Is there someone in your life that you have expressed total confidence in, someone who needs that support?  If not, can you think of someone who you can do that for?  I think about those who don’t have that type of person in their life and wonder what that type of belief could do for them.  How many of our students need that one voice to be on their side.  Can you do that for at least one person who needs it?  Can you be for a child or a colleague what my Nonni was for me?  The opportunity is out there.  Go take it!




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