#609 The Heroic Teacher

Meet Mrs. Kristie Kuehnast

A couple of +1s ago, we talked about the fact that we can TEACH willpower. We also talked about the fact that, unfortunately, very few school administrators and/or teachers are actually thinking about the importance of this.

Today I want to talk about one teacher I know who IS teaching this stuff.

Her name is Mrs. Kristie Kuehnast. (Pronounced “keenest.”) (Find her online here.)

I first met Kristie at our Hero Training 101 weekend workshop. I was blown away by her awesome. Then, a couple months later at the end of the school year, I received a package from her.

Inside the package, I found a thoughtful thank you note from Kristie, a picture of her 5th-grade class smiling and waving at the camera and THIRTY handmade cards from each of Mrs. Kuehnast’s students.

I don’t keep a lot of stuff, but this package is one of my prized possessions.

Each little handmade card had a “cover” that featured, as one student wrote in pencil in the corner: “Stuff that Brian Johnson has taught me that changed my life.” (Misty.)

Each young Hero wrote the titles of his or her favorite nuggets of wisdom from the +1s (and PNTVs) Mrs. Kuehnast shared with them each day (apparently after they ran a mile b/c that “helps them focus better”). The card I’m looking at as I type this has these titles artfully splashed across the cover: “Needs work” + “Win or Learn” + “Growth Mindset” + “Exercise” + “Quiz Yourself” + “OMMS” + “That’s Like Me!

Inside that particular card is a well-drawn little guy with his hands on his hips and the words “Power Pose” above his head. My virtual 11-year-old friend wrote, “Dear Brian Johnson, Your +1s have inspired me and helped me so much. Now I quiz myself every day and say needs work when I make a mis-take. I also powerpose and I love it.”


How I wish someone taught ME this stuff 30 years ago. And, how honored I am to be a part of this young man’s life.

I share this story because I think Mrs. Kuehnast is amazing and that we need more inspired and inspiring teachers and role models like her.

Yuval Noah Harari agrees with this (obvious truth). In his newest book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, he walks us through his perspective on, as the title of his book suggests, 21 of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

One of the big challenges? Education.

He tells us that the future is changing so fast that we’re all going to need to constantly reinvent ourselves. And that we need to reinvent our educational systems that are supposed to be preparing us for the future.

He puts it this way: “To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and learn to feel at home in the unknown. Unfortunately, teaching kids to embrace the unknown while maintaining their mental balance is far more difficult than teaching them an equation in physics or the causes of the First World War. You cannot learn resilience by reading a book or listening to a lecture. Teachers themselves usually lack the mental flexibility that the twenty-first century demands, since they themselves are the product of the old educational system.”

Plus: “Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, learn new things, and preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.”

Mental Flexibility. Emotional Stamina. How to Flourish.

<- Those are important lessons that are *considerably* harder to teach than physics or history.

So… Today’s +1.

What are YOU teaching your kids (or nephews/nieces/grandkids/etc.)? (And yourself?!)

Here’s to remembering the most important lessons while checking the box on all the stuff we think is most important!

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