Are You the Hen or the Mouse?

Every day, I try to spend time reading books to my daughter, even though she is a baby and may not be fully appreciating the experience. After all, there are a multitude of benefits of reading to your child – even at eight months old! Anyways, the purpose of this blog post is not to talk about the benefits of reading. Most educators know this already. Instead, I want to share how a simple, children’s story has made me reflect on education and our roles within it.

Recently, I read “The Little Red Hen” to my daughter and found it to be a very relevant story to education and adults. (As a side note, many children’s stories have some excellent lessons to share with us!) During this story, the readers are introduced to the hen who lives with a cat, dog and mouse. During the story, the hen is preparing to bake a cake by sowing and cutting wheat, grounding the wheat into flour, then mixing and baking the cake. As she is doing all of these things, she constantly asks for the help of the cat, dog and mouse but, at every turn, they refuse to help her. At the end of the story, she asks one more time for help – but this time, she asks for help in eating the cake. All of the animals quickly volunteer! However, the hen shuts them down by telling them that she is going to eat the cake because she has done all of the work.

Interested in reading the whole story? Watch this video:

As you can see, the purpose of this book is to teach children “the virtues of work ethic and personal initiative.” Yet…this is also a great book to teach adults the same ethics and virtues.

So, let me ask you this…Are you the hen or the mouse?

Are you the person that puts in the work? Or simply benefits from the work of others?

As I reflect on my 12 years in education, I can look back and see many hens and mouses. I’ve worked in departments and schools where 90% of the work is done by 10% of the staff. I’ve watched as all of the work has fallen on the shoulders of a few individuals, yet everyone is happy to take the credit. I’ve watched as those individuals have become overwhelmed, stressed and tired because they feel alone. I’ve watched as educators put in the minimum into their lessons and departments because it “wasn’t their job” or someone else would do the work for them.

On the other hand, I’ve also been blessed to work in departments and schools where people work together in order to do “what’s best for kids”. I’ve worked in departments where educators collaborate effectively by brainstorming and delegating tasks to each other. I’ve worked in schools where everyone participates and is eager to help with on-campus events. I’ve worked with people who always give credit where credit is due.

My challenge to you is to reflect on whether or not you are the “hen” or the “mouse” and how this affects the teachers, staff, and students that are around you. I want you to reflect on your departments and your school and how these roles have an impact on student achievement. And, if you are ever so brave, maybe even read this story to your department or staff to get them reflecting on their roles.

Finally, I want to leave you with this last thought. While I do appreciate the work ethic of the hen, I do not find the behavior of “it’s all mine” to be a positive reaction. It may be our initial reaction in a situation like that but, remember this:

As educators, we entered this career to teach, inspire and motivate children.

Even if you are the hen, do not lose heart and do not become the type of person that carefully guards all of the things that they produce because others did not help you. This type of reaction will not help our students, it will only harm them. It may be a big ask, but continue to give yourself and your talents to these teachers and students.

So, again, I ask…Are you the hen or the mouse?

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