Perception: In the Eye of the Beholder

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By: Dr. Rodney Johnson--


Last Saturday, I participated in the first annual youth leadership kickoff conference at a local school district. LEAP…which is an acronym for Leadership, Education And Prosperity, offered to students the opportunity to hear and learn from presenters who spoke of leadership, what it takes to become a leader, and how leadership manifest itself in the youth of today. While I was only there as a vendor, when the time came to introduce my company and how we support educators and education, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to get on my soap-box. 

My experience has taught me that the characteristics of leadership are non-traditional. First of all, contrary to popular belief, Leaders are not born. LEADERS ARE MADE. Leaders are shaped and molded by their personal experiences, the optics of perspective, the events that shape personal history, and how they express their personal narrative.

During the question and answer session of the conference, many students asked questions that were framed poorly or presented awkwardly. More importantly, language miscues seemed to be accepted as OK by peers and adults alike. Well you know me! When I had the opportunity to speak to the group, I pointed out what no one corrected … “one of your peers asked a question in which he ended a question with… AT.” If I was a visitor who was new to your campus, what perceptions would I draw! My perception would be, without really knowing you, that you were a poor student who did not learn the rules of grammar. I would also perceive that teachers and your school lowered the bar and expectations for higher achievement are not enforced. The perception of someone new to your school would also lead them to believe that your school tolerates and accepts mediocrity by not enforcing quality in education. Where does perception end…and negative stereotypes begin?

A Thin Line Between Perception and Stereotype

That lead me to ponder how stereotypes manifest themselves through perception. Did the perception of that youngster’s undisciplined uses of language perpetuate some negative stereotype that continues to plaques minority youth? On a larger scale, does stereotype influence the perception of a man? Tomorrow, we will vote for the President of the United States of America. Our current president has experienced a level of disrespect that no other president has had to endure. Stereotypical caricatures by racially motivated fringe groups, questioning President Obama’s birth-place, challenging his academic record, and his academic accolades were only due to affirmative action infest the narrative. Setting the bar extremely low… a congressman (Joe Wilson) shouted “You LIE” during a televised Joint Session of Congress in 2009. In 2010, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said on television…”My Number One Job is to Make President Obama a One Term President.” For 4 years, NO Republican has supported any of President Obama’s agenda. Republicans have been total obstructionist. They are not disrespecting the Office. To them, a man’s color justifies disrespect…REGARDLESS of the Office. This level of disrespect has NEVER been witnessed before. “Does a perceived stereotype JUSTIFY how you can treat a man?” Especially if this man is the President of the United States? And perhaps a more profound and troubling question for the rest of us. If the President is subject to this level of contempt, what level of disdain can the rest of us expect? Today’s students MUST understand; EDUCATION is the key to equality in America. Do not let the perception of you…feed a misguided stereotype! 



Dr. Johnson formed EducationWise, LLC in April of 2010. He is committed to connecting to community outreach efforts for at-risk youth and is constantly recruiting high quality professionals to serve charter and public school systems. Dr. Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and his masters from the University of North Texas. He earned his doctorate in May 2005 from Stephen F. Austin University.

Dr. Johnson brings more than 30 years of educational experience to EducationWise. Ten years as a high school math teacher and over 20 years as an administrator in both the elementary and high school level. He served as a teacher in Richardson ISD and Dallas ISD before moving into administration in Dallas ISD. It was in these early years that informed Dr. Johnson’s philosophy relative to teaching and learning for all students, especially underrepresented groups. In 2003, he continued to serve public schools as a high school administrator in Alief ISD…a suburb of Houston Texas.

For the past three years, along with becoming a business person, Dr. Johnson has continued to sharpen his skills as an instructional leader and teaching and learning expert working with principals and teachers in low performing school districts. In addition to serving as Executive Coach and Pedagogy Facilitator for a major school turnaround company, Dr. Johnson also served as the Mentor Program Coordinator in2011 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.

For more information or to contact Dr. Johnson: and the website is

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