Never say never.
Mike Johnson never envisioned himself as an educator. Though he was raised in Scotland by parents who were teachers, Johnson entered education unconventionally as an 18-year-old at Maine’s Camp Wigwam. Introduced to working with kids from a recreational stance, Johnson became fascinated by kids’ problem-solving skills. He went on to pursue his master’s in teaching, become a STEM teacher and marry a teacher. Now, Johnson is the always approachable associate headmaster at Corbett Preparatory School.
Though Johnson’s life shook when the global pandemic struck, it didn’t crumble, safeguarded as it was by his family, colleagues and mindset. COVID didn’t diminish Johnson’s growth mindset, it solidified it. Change, Johnson suggests, is the best thing COVID provided a sometimes-rigid education system.
“I believe in the power of an Olympian mindset,” Johnson says. “I’m committed to constant improvement. When an ecosystem is stimulated, there are waves and disequilibrium. When the dust settles, things take new shapes. The pandemic forced dialogue about doing things differently—about impactful change.”
Mindset saved him and enabled his nonjudgmental support for others. “People need space for talking about all the tough stuff happening. “Be there for people and be there for yourself.” Akin to securing one’s own oxygen mask before helping others, grace with self and others is restoration’s key during a time when many are experiencing brokenness.
Keeping family life strong with wife Sarah and children Jasper (5) and Sailor (3) has energized Johnson. “We’re a team, and we have an intuitive sense about what the other needs.”
Johnson believes that good parents are, first and foremost, good partners. They don’t ignore the small stuff, and their most fascinating conversations take place between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.—just them, present in the moments. Increased time at home taught Johnson the beauty of acknowledging things seemingly small to him but significant to his children. “When Sailor wanted to sit on the sidewalk and watch a lizard for 20 minutes, we did it. I learned we didn’t actually have to go anywhere.” While the pandemic presented moments of fear and uncertainty, it created opportunities for clarifying blurred lines between work and play. “I’ve learned to listen—to be present. That goes beyond limiting screen time. It’s about making moments with our kids.”
Years ago, in a Chicago bar, Johnson and Sarah used the iPhone’s notes app to document shared visions. A marriage of good headspace and hard work have brought their visions to fruition. “In the end, it’s not about accomplishments. Life isn’t linear.”
A life buttressed by mindfulness never debilitates. Committed to presence, we enjoy contentment. Contented, we mindfully share all of our tomorrows, with our precious communities, always and forever.
Feature image: Mike Johnson with wife Sarah and children Jasper (5) and Sailor (3)