Just Like Roosevelt

This is the third post in a four-part series around our Sticky Core Values. This blog is co-written by Katelyn Callahan, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and 4th grade teacher, Brittany Starnes, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and 1st grade teacher, Jan Kane, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and Music teacher, Natasha Greis, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and 1st grade teacher.


In the opening lines of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown shares the origin story behind the title of her book about embracing vulnerability. On April 23, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered what is now known as “The Man in the Arena” speech in France.  Roosevelt points out that those who are “in the arena” fighting every day, devoting their time to a worthy cause, and living through failures are the ones who deserve to be recognized. It is the people who know that to achieve greatness, sweat, blood, and shortcomings are a part of the journey. We should pay no attention to the critics who are waiting to point out when others fail, because they are only waiting on the sidelines. They are not the ones showing up committed to dare greatly and let themselves be seen.

man in arena

Brown refers back to this speech later in her book, as she writes about understanding and combating shame. She tells us “Just like Roosevelt advised” we are going to make mistakes, face criticism and disappointment, when we choose to dare greatly. It is how we react to these difficult times that determines our next steps. Just like Roosevelt, we at Taylor Mill Elementary recognize that we are the ones in the arena. Our staff walk into that building every day committed to inspire passionate learners, create a community of leaders, and challenge ourselves to exceed expectations, because we know that is what’s best for our Taylor Mill geniuses. There are times of disappointment. We walk out sometimes feeling defeated. New things are tried and failed. Do we have critics waiting for these shortcomings, ready to pounce? Absolutely.  

However, these things don’t bring us down.  At Taylor Mill, we choose to tell shame to move on, because we know that is not what defines us. Our culture is one that dares greatly, embraces failure, and is driven by courage. Just like Roosevelt, our value is not found in the approval and recognition of those on the sidelines, because we are coming back into the arena every day, ready to fight and do everything we can for our kids. 


Brittany’s Story – Many years ago I had a student who “I wished I could take home.” This was a student who didn’t have the best home life and had the ”typical sad story.” The one who had it hard and didn’t make it easy on me as the teacher. The one I worried about constantly and wanted so badly to reach and make a difference with.  I wanted desperately to do more for him but realized I had only a small amount of time as I could not actually take him home with me. Every year since then, it seems I get introduced to a similar student who “I wish I could take home.”

Since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take all these kids with me, I began to make it my mission to love these kids as if they were mine every day. I couldn’t settle for just being a nice teacher, but I had to love them and love them fiercely and, in particular, the ones that make it hard to love, the kids that push you away and make you wonder, “Am I making a difference?” This meant I had to come to work ready each day to have my heart broken. I had to pour my heart into these kids and with that comes vulnerability and opening myself up to hurt. To truly love and reach those students who seem the hardest to reach came failure and criticism. It meant failing over and over again. It looked like hours of preparing and thinking of new ways to teach and approach these kids only to have these students not respond, or to respond negatively. 

I heard criticism, skepticism, and negativity for what I was doing. I heard those voices from those who weren’t in the arena, those that didn’t believe in the impact one can make by simply showing love and kindness. They didn’t see that I didn’t need to have that same kind of love and kindness returned. What I needed was to love unconditionally because that’s what love is and that’s what those kids need. The tears and frustration have been there, believe me, but they have been worth it. It is worth all of it when a child realizes they are important, valued, intelligent, worthy, and, of course, loved. Since then, I have decided to do something even more daring. I decided I could take these kids home. I could do the very thing I wanted to do so many years ago. So, I became a foster parent. My heart broke for these kids in a unique way and instead of thinking of all the reasons not to do something, I thought about what would happen if I could take that kid home.  I can’t “save them all” as some would say but I can love them all. Each and every kid that walks in my door at home and at work, I can love. Each kid I see walk down the hall, no matter what grade level, I can love. I might not be able to do it all but I won’t ever stop trying. I won’t ever stop daring greatly.

Natasha’s Story – As a staff, we are in the arena together every day. Consciously or subconsciously knowing there is always a risk for failure and critics there waiting to point out those mistakes. At Taylor Mill, we don’t let this possibility stop us from doing what’s best for our kids. If you walked down our halls or listened to a collaboration meeting, you would hear new ideas buzzing from our Taylor Mill leaders that we’ve tried and had great success with and ideas that were total flops. Even when the critics show up, you’ll see a team cheering each other on or helping brush off skinned knees from a little stumble, but never letting each other get “knocked out.” You’ll hear giggles, applause, support, and the determination to try again. What you won’t hear is backing down. You won’t see a leader afraid to try again over and over. You won’t hear any regrets.  You’ll certainly never hear a leader say, “I’m sorry for trying,” because we don’t apologize for daring greatly. 

Jan’s Story – At Taylor Mill we work very hard to do exactly what Roosevelt suggested in his “man in the arena” quote. We set goals for ourselves and for our students. We have to be brave enough to make mistakes, learn from them and try again. I actually love when I make a mistake in my classroom because my students see that it’s ok. I just acknowledge it, sometimes even laugh at myself, and get right back to what I was doing. We try to figure out where we want to go and identify the limitations holding us back from achieving our goals and then do whatever is necessary to defy the negativity and meet or even exceed our initial plan. Taylor Mill is all about positivity. From administrators to students and everyone in between we cheer each other on so we can all be the best we can be.


What does our core belief, Just Like Roosevelt, mean to you? How would you add to this story? We’d love to connect! Share your thoughts or reflections and tweet and tag us (@TME_tigers, @k_callahan4, @brit_starnes, @Mrs_Greis88, @JanKane21) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

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