Faced with sniffling kindergarteners who can barely sit in their chairs, it can sometimes be difficult to see them as responsible adults 12 years hence; even high school kids, much closer to adulthood, often undermine themselves with goofiness or obduracy.

But when I talk with highly successful educators, they often tell me that even when they are dealing with frustrating behavior from kids being kids, they try to imagine their students in the future, holding jobs, being parents, and even making decisions that might affect the educators themselves.

“I was at the hospital and the phlebotomist was someone I taught years ago,” a principal told me once as a way of showing me how she had seen her students grow into responsible positions with power over her.

In the Huffington Post this week, I talk about my recent experience serving on a jury, where I wondered whether the old-fashioned notion that teachers are civic leaders still permeates through the teaching profession and the general public.

Seems like a good research project for someone.