I once shucked corn with my feet in front of 200 middle schoolers. One day, I made the misadvised decision to become a leader for middle schoolers. I approached the leadership position with naivete, which was met with more life-lessons than 17 years of education could supply. I will admit, ten- to fourteen-year-old kids have quite the unconventional way of teaching, the lesson plan odd and definitely not glamorous.
My basic training instructions: make the kids feel welcome and want to play the games. Sounds simple, except the kids weren’t allowed to know the games in advance. These self-conscious middle schoolers were not inclined to participate.
As cars pulled up, kids lept out of the backseat of their mothers' minivans and Cadillacs(some requiring more of a shove), their fear and apprehension palpable.
I found my first target, Ellen, a girl isolated from the group, obviously despondent regarding her forced attendance. Excitedly, I attempted to register her for the game. She shut me down immediately.
After much cajoling, I finally evoked: “Fine! Give me the paper.” I had succeeded as a leader… or so I thought. The game was announced: a race to shuck corn the fastest with their FEET. To my surprise, Ellen seemed eager to see who would be chosen. A name was pulled. Heather.
I eagerly scanned faces to discover my name twin. No twin. It was me. Then I saw it. Ellen’s face couldn’t hide her glee at having conned me. (I guess I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.) Shocked, I walked to the front, removed my shoes, and decided if I was going to do this, I was going to win. And I did.
Ellen was shocked both at my willingness and odd talent for rapid foot corn-shucking. This was a humbling lesson for me. I learned that sometimes you have to lead by example. Ultimately, you don’t have to be the most qualified leader in the room. You just have to be willing, even when willing means shucking corn with your feet.