Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Lion In The Classroom

Experience is one of the most powerful teaching tools that we have to offer to others and yesterday we all learned many lessons at our weekly Rotary meeting. There are people that you meet during your life that you will always remember the stories they told about the life they have lived. Jack Binstead is someone whose life has impacted countless people and continues influence more and more people every day.

Jack spent 27 years as an English teacher at Overbrook High School trying to bridge the educational gap that still exists in many of our urban schools today. In his decades in the classroom he experienced the highs and lows few experience in their chosen profession. He recalled the countless students who have gone on to become authors, artists, singers, professional athletes, politicians, CEOs, and even a movie star which was tempered by the fact that, during his career, he experienced the loss of 45 students who didn’t live to see graduation.

Unfortunately, all too often the tragedy of 45 commonly outweighs the success of hundreds and is used to generalize the students that attend this and similar schools. It is important to remember that greatness is not limited by race or the economy; it is determined by desire, passion, and education. What we need are teachers that can kindle desire, inspire passion, and motivate students to value education. Jack was one of those teachers in the classroom and is still one of those teachers outside of the confines of academia.   

Jack’s passion for education is evident when he talks about the many students and experiences he had at Overbrook and his passion for service shines through when he speaks of his long tenure with the Bala Cynwyd – Narberth Lions. Whereas his served a community of students for many years, his focus on service now extends to the entire community. Similar to Rotary in many ways Lions are a service centric organization that follows a simple principle, “Whenever a Lions club gets together, problems get smaller. And communities get better.”   

Locally and internationally there have been many instances where both organizations have worked together to improve communities and help solve common problems. Just as when you enter many towns throughout this country with a Rotary and a Lions sign along the road, we work together in each community. Sometimes it takes a Lion. Sometimes it takes a Rotarian. Sometimes it takes a Kiwanis. Sometimes it takes a Mason. The most important thing is that we get people involved, we work together, and we all do what we can to solve some of the problems facing our local communities and the international community.

In this drive to do good we have to be open and we must communicate. This is not a batter of “I’m better than you” or “this is better than that”. We are all different organizations but we can still have a common voice and in order to accomplish this we have to remember that communication is key, the effectiveness of which all comes down to what you say and how you say it. This is one of the tenants that Jack taught to his students and it is something that we should all keep in mind as it is something that can easily be forgotten.

Simply put, don’t use your words to segregate service, use them to unite a community. Rotarians, invite a Lion to speak at your club. Lions, invite a Rotarian to speak at your club. Learn from all your experiences and find ways to help each other as well as the community and objectives you have in common. Remember, it’s all about “service above self”!