Teach & Serve
No. 38 * May 4, 2016
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 37 – Cool It
- Teach & Serve No. 36 – Do I Engage the Mission Every Day?
- Teach & Serve No. 35 – We Should Be Aware of Confidentiality, But Not in the Way One Might Think
- Teach & Serve No. 34 – Good and Great; Life and Death
May the Fourth and Other Teachings from a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Even in the privacy of our own homes, if we’re out there on the computer or on our phones, we are On.We are On continuously. Perpetually. All the time.
It’s May the 4th and, as a Star Wars fan (I cannot truly say “life-long Star Wars fan” as the movie came out when I was seven), I decided to use this edition of Teach & Serve to mention some of the lessons Star Wars taught me and the ways it inspired me as a teacher. I have often apologized to The Cinnamon Girl, my wonderful wife, because I don’t know if she realized, when we married, that I am in a perpetual state of story, that tales of heroines and heroes move me and that I cannot and do not want to shake heroic myth.
I took every class in my English major that related to heroes and myth. I found a way to work Star Wars into conversation, into essays, into my academic work. I was an undergrad in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Though it is hard to imagine now, back then Star Wars wasn’t particularly hip. Neither was I. That’s easier to imagine.
In my early years teaching, I was assigned British Literature classes. Brit Lit was not my specialty or focus in college and I knew I needed to find a way in for myself, a way to love the subject matter so I could convey some passion to my students. The way in? Star Wars and the Hero’s journey. Long before teachers world-wide began talking about Harry Potter as the paradigm, Luke Skywalker was Gilgamesh, was Beowulf, was Odysseus, was King Arthur. The Force was with me.
When the initial preview for The Phantom Menace was released, my school had just spent a bundle installing Smart Boards in every classroom. As a teacher, I was just mastering the technology. As a Star Wars geek, however, I knew what to do with it: stream that preview on the giant smart board time and time again. And invite friends. I really have no idea how many times I and other like-minded nerds watched that thing. More than a handful to be sure…
I wrote about what Star Wars means to me on the day The Force Awakens was released. I’ve never written, though, about the lessons Star Wars taught me. So, in no particular order and off the top of my head, here are Ten Lessons from Star Wars I brought into the classroom.
- “There’s always another fish” – Qui Gon Jinn was a wise Jedi, indeed and his metaphor is spot on. Just when you think you’ve caught the biggest catch, there’s another one coming. Just when you feel you’ve lost the greatest opportunity you’ll ever have, another shows up.
- “So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view” – Teaching English afforded me and my students many things… what it rarely afforded (outside of grammar rules) was absolutes. Obi Wan was right.
- You can be princess and warrior – Princess Leia was royalty and beautiful along with being tough and savvy. Not a bad role model for young women and I told them so when I taught them.
- “Already know you that which you need” – Yoda knew what good teachers now – the process is not about information transfer, it’s about awakening what is already
- We need mentors who don’t coddle us – Obi Wan and Yoda didn’t coddle Luke. Qui Gon Jinn didn’t coddle Obi Wan. They all loved their charges, let them know that and also held them accountable, just like good teachers do.
- If you want to succeed, you have to believe – Remember when Luke didn’t believe he could use the Force to lift the X-Wing? That was why he failed.
- Choose peace – Jedi do not use the Force for attack, but to center themselves, to connect to those around them and to learn.
- Don’t get cocky – Thanks Han. Enough said.
- Beware of “always,” “never” and other absolutes – “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” so we shouldn’t. Ever.
- Know what you stand for and stand for it – Yoda sums up a mission statement as only Yoda can: “Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.”
On today, of all days, what else is there to say?
May the Fourth be with you.