Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.
Teach & Serve IV, No. 2
August 15, 2018
These songs send me into a new year on the most positive of notes… pun intended.
At this point, putting together a mixtape to celebrate the start of a new academic year is tradition. Four years ago, my good friend and educational leader Sean Gaillard (author of the recently published The Pepper Effect – great reading for any and all Beatles fans and educators!) introduced me to the idea of #OneSong which developed into the idea of a mixtape which morphed into the concept of a playlist. For the last few years, I have put together a playlist to lead me with energy, optimism and enthusiasm into the upcoming school year.
This year, the tradition continues. A reminder of the criterion: songs make the playlist give me all the feels and/or the lyrics of the song resonate with me. Overall, the selections move me, inspire me and send me. They send me into a new year on the most positive of notes… pun intended.
I return to the playlist all year long, adding, deleting, updating. If you were to review last year’s list, you would see some of the songs remain from the ‘17-’18 edition. Most have changed. All motivate.
Here is this year’s playlist (and HERE IS THE SPOTIFY LINK if you wish to jam to it!):
This is a holdover from last year and more appropriate to me this year than last as I am in a new job at all new school trying to learn hundreds of new names. I do not know how well anything in this song fits the school year except the idea of being faced with classroom after classroom of students with names I have to learn – and they all seem to have the same one! And this song rocks!
As I begin a new job, I am energized by changes in attitudes and latitudes!
Very few things make me as happy as the beginning, the start of something new. And, when the newness wears into the familiar, it is good to remember that, every day, we can say “good day, sunshine!”
It is not just students who, ideally, come to school with heads full of dreams. It is the adults with whom they work. I know that, as I approach this year in particular, my head is full of dreams – dreams for the next few months, dreams for our students, for our faculty and for our families. And every dream – ever one of them – is GOOD.
I want my love to open the door all year long… and for the entirety of my life.
Seeing Hamilton last spring was not life changing – but it was close. This powerful anthem speaks powerfully to the idea that we must seize the moments that can change our lives. This is a good mantra for us and for our students. Rise up, indeed.
Another Hamilton song that features the important message that each moment, each step, each time could be our last. Sometimes we have to let go, say goodbye and know that we are doing things one last time. Such a critical message. None of us is bigger than the work. None.
This song has made the list for 2 out of the last 3 years for a reason: I think our students do not even know they want us to help them find that for which they are looking…
Is there a more rousing movie theme – ever – than the theme from Superman: The Movie? I don’t believe so. This anthem never fails to inspire me. It is a holdover from ‘17-’18.
What are you listening to this fall?
The way you behave should be a model to those you teach.
Jean-Baptiste de La Salle
Teach & Serve IV, No. 1
August 8, 2018
Hopefully we are rested. Hopefully we are ready. Hopefully, we are excited.
Let us embrace the moment because this moment – the start of the school year – has power.
You cannot hold back the sea and you cannot hold back the beginning of the school year.
Those of us involved in education are ramping up, feeling the itch, sensing the inevitable. In the coming days or weeks, we will embark on the opening rituals of the 2018-2019 school year: meetings and planning, cleaning and decorating, organizing and implementing. While we may now be stealing the last few moments of summer vacation or time in our buildings without students, we know that those moments are, at this point, fleeting and running out on us.
Hopefully we are rested. Hopefully we are ready. Hopefully, we are excited.
Let us embrace the moment because this moment – the start of the school year – has power.
In his work When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (which was suggested to me by a wonderful friend and colleague and which I highly recommend) sociologist and scientist Daniel H. Pink writes about when people do things, when they are most successful at doing things and when they should do things.
Particularly salient to those of us in education at this time of year are his thoughts on temporal landmarks defined as dates that have significance and that draw a line between what is past and what is to come. Building on the work of researchers Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, and Jason Riis, Pink says of a temporal landmark: “This new period offers a chance to start again by relegating our old selves to the past. It disconnects us from the past self’s mistakes and imperfections, and leaves us confident about our new, superior selves.”
Wow. That is a very interesting way for us to consider ourselves as we start this new school year.
Last year, and the years prior to it, are in the past. We can, as appropriate, disconnect from them. It is not that we forget them, we simply leave them behind in favor of this new year. We use the temporal landmark of the beginning of the school year to set goals, to dream, to let go of our past “mistakes and imperfections” – which we all have.
This is a good thing.
Even better is embracing the confidence that comes with starting a new. Better still is envisioning ourselves as we start this new year as superior to who we were last year.
One of my favorite things about being in education is that our time is broken up into manageable segments. I have not, until this year, however, thought about these segments as temporal landmarks. It is such a powerful way to reflect and to project.
As we start this new year, let us reflect on who we were last year and learn from those reflections. Let us take into this year all that was good in us last year. Let us be confident as we stride into 2018-2019. Let us know that we are better – we are superior – to who we were last year and let us start this year compassionately and confidently.
The temporal landmark of these last summer days leads us to wonderful possibilities of a bright, new year. Blessings as we begin!
Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.
Teach & Serve IV
Coming Next Week
August 8, 2018
Next Wednesday, Teach & Serve returns for another year. To get warmed up, presented again are my fifteen favorite teachers from fiction!
No. 15: Mr. Miyagi
Mr. Miyagi comes in at 15 for his dedication, his care of his students, his ability to push his them beyond limits both physical and mental, his understanding that good education requires balance, his desire to only want the best for his students and his most obvious bad-assery!
No. 14: Batman
Bracketing the fact that a Robin (Jason Todd) died on his watch (does Batman get points because Jason came back to life?), one has to admit that training teenage boys to become world class crime fighters is quite an accomplishment. Batman has taken at least seven young people under his wing and taught them almost everything he knows. At the end of the day, he even loves these students as all good teachers should.
No. 13: John Wheelwright
The narrator of John Irving’s classic A Prayer for Owen Meany (this bloggers favorite book), John Wheelwright learns that what he loves best in life, after his friend Owen, is to read. Wanting to share the gift with others, Wheelwright becomes a teacher and a good one at that. Irving himself was a teacher and the classroom scenes he writes ring very true.
No. 12: Sarah Simms
In the New Teen Titans comic book and later on the television show Teen Titans Go!, fans are introduced to Sarah Simms, a young woman who dedicates her life to working with students who have suffered some kind of amputation. Written with deep compassion and care by Marv Wolfman in the comic book, Sarah comes across as dedicated, concerned and real-world. She’s a great model for teachers everywhere.
No. 11: Lydia Davis
On Fame, the incredibly dedicated and talented Ms. Davis (played brilliantly by the brilliant Debbie Allen) told her students (every week on the opening credits voice-over) “You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying.” Her students paid. And they loved her for making them work.
No. 10: Ralph Hanley
Mr. Hanley managed to keep his students out of trouble while saving the world as the Greatest American Hero (how has this property gone without a reboot?). Mr. Hanley balanced the life of a superhero, boyfriend and teacher, seemingly like he was walking on air. His most important lesson was that his understanding that one person can make a difference … believe it or not, it’s just him.
You know you want to hear it… click HERE for the Mike Post theme song!
Oh, and a quick bit of trivia… Ralph Hanley’s name was originally Ralph Hinkley, but that surname was changed after the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley, jr.
No. 9: Ben Kenobi
Speaking to his students Anakin and Luke Skywalker with nuggets of wisdom so compelling and thought provoking, we can ignore the fact (can’t we?) that his first student went on to almost destroy hope and freedom in the galaxy. Connected to an inspirational greater power, he inspired his students to discover truth, and also had the ability to do and not just teach – take that, haters!
No. 8: Gabe Kotter
Thomas Wolfe said “you can’t go home again, but former Sweathog, Gabriel Kotter broke the rules when he returned to his alma mater to teach. As someone whose career followed a similar path, I find in Mr. Kott-air’s dedication to his work fruit for the journey of being an educator. Never one to back down from a challenging situation (such as 1970s television would allow to be broadcast), Mr. Kotter endeared himself to his students and to American TV viewers.
No. 7: Ms. Norbury
is there another teacher in fiction who can match Ms. Norbury’s sweet sarcasm? The best of a crop of questionable educators, Ms.Norbury spins her love of a well-turned phrase into timely advice for her most troubled students. She has self identified “pusher-ness” – she pushes people – and she knows (at least she thinks she knows) when to use it. She also has an incredible likeness to Liz Lemon. Anyone else notice that?
No. 6: Professor Ross Gellher
Ross Gellher has undying commitment to his subject matter and while his desire to educate all around him, no matter how much they don’t want to learn, can annoy his… er… friends, his enthusiasm in all circumstances, never-say-die attitude (he gets fired from positions and keeps coming back), thumbing his nose at rules by dating his students all mean we should never forget that… he’ll be there for you.
No. 5: Professor Charles Xavier
“Professor X” as his students call him became a teacher out of a sense of duty: he wanted to help others like him. He wanted to teach others to live full and happy lives despite whatever personal limitations they might feel they have. He wanted to teach that all people are beautiful and worthy of respect. He wanted to spread love. Crazy stuff from a comic book character but it makes sense when one considers that the character has been said to be modeled on Martin Luther King, jr.
No. 4: Professor Robert Langdon
Professor Langdon challenges norms and the status quo as good teachers should. Engaging and a lecturer and brilliant as a writer, Langdon travels the world to research his subjects and is willing to put himself at the center of controversy to make his points. Dedicated to uncovering the truth at all costs, Langdon is an example of dogged pursuit in academia.
No. 3: Doctor Henry Jones, jr
Does anyone on this list make education more exciting than Doctor Jones? Armed with vast experience, his practical, real world application of his subject matter, his dislike of reptiles, his ability to survive every calamity (including nuclear explosions and Shia LaBeouf), and his ability to use knowledge to battle evil makes him a lock for the top five on this list.
No. 2: Jane Eyre
Passionate, committed and caring, Jane Eyre is a wonderful teacher. She believes in the power of education, knows that being disciplined and expecting discipline from her students is critical and embraces the idea that love conquers all. She teaches by example, has a stalwart moral compass and educates all around her – adults as well as children.
No. 1: Mr. Glenn Holland
Glenn Holland surprised even himself when he discovered his calling was a life in education and discovered, as many of the best teachers do, that no matter the subject – in his case music – teaching is about challenging students to learn so they can live better and fuller lives. Mr. Holland consistently makes good choices even in the face of temptation, reaches out to those in need, inspiring his students and, eventually, finds his compass doing so. He is certainly one of mine.
EduQuote Will Return This Fall!
Let’s do what we love and do a lot of it.
– Marc Jacobs
Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 20
Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.
Today marks the final edition of Superheroic Leadership. Hopefully, you have enjoyed some of the reflections here… and please revisit any you wish below!
in the fall of 2018, Superheroic Leadership gives way to A Journal of the First Year which will contain stories from my first year as a principal of a high school.
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 1; Superheroic Leadership
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 2; What’s So Funny about Truth and Justice?
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 3; All the World’s Waiting for You
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 4; Take the Short Way Home… It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 5; Know Your Team
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 6; Leading from Your Gut
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 7; The Old Order Changeth
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 8; Let Go of Your Conscious Self
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 9; Jedi Hubris
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 10; Where No Man Will Go
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 11; Spock Knows His Ship
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 12; The Roots of Steel
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 13; Power and Responsibility
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 14; X Marks the Spot
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 15; You Will Return
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 16; Who Has Everything
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 17; 1000 Reasons
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 18; Avengers Forever!
- Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 19; Favorite Fictional Teachers
Teach & Serve III, No. 41 – You Changed My Life
May 23, 2018
This is the final edition of Teach & Serve for the 2017-2018 school year. Teach & Serve IV will begin next fall on 8.8.18
At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”
Late May in schools is rife with many emotions. Teachers and administrators are ready to bid the year farewell and to get to summer vacation. Late May brings with it the promise that an opportunity for rest and recharging is not far away. Certainly there are some obstacles yet to clear what with exams or grading final projects, cleaning out of classrooms and turning in of reports, packing up materials and checking out of buildings.
Though the end is nigh, there are still things to do.
Our students have things to do, too and they normally do not accomplish one of the most critical tasks of the end of the school year. With varying degrees of seriousness and success, they approach their final projects and tests. They clean out their lockers. They sign their yearbooks and they say their goodbyes. But they typically leave out something very important.
Multiple summers down the road, when water has passed under bridges and calendar pages have turned, many former students realize they forgot something back in the spring months of their school days. At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”
It is not entirely fair to expect students living in these late May moments to understand what has occurred in their lives. Some do. Some know the debts of gratitude they owe. Some are able to articulate this to their teachers. But the vast majority have not the breadth of knowledge, the introspection or the reflective capacity to get it.
They have not lived enough life and that is okay. As educators, we know that our students are not finished products. They have more to learn.
And so do we because, in the late May morass, we are just as likely to forget to acknowledge to ourselves that we have, in fact, changed lives.
Working in schools is not like painting a wall. Teachers do not get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant. Teachers do not get to see the results of the hours of preparation and the early mornings and the late nights. Teachers do not know the seeds they are planting as they are dropping them in fertile ground. Teachers do not always know the affect they have until long after they have had it.
At this moment, I know full well that many of your students are not paying attention to you in class, are pushing every button you have, are just as ready to be away from you as you are from them. I know that many of us are just as ready for summer as our charges are. I know that there is much to accomplish and much to do. I know this. But I know something else, too. In late May teachers need this critical perspective and I would like to provide it.
Please allow me to remind all the teachers and coaches and administrators and educational professionals: you have changed lives these last nine months. Please allow me to remind you about something that is profound in our work:
You have changed lives.
Treasure giving that gift, even if those who receive it are not always able to acknowledge that they have.
Medical Services Week
I’ve never met a person who does not want a safer world, better medical care and education for their children, and peace with their neighbours. I just don’t meet those people. What I meet, over and over again, as I travel around, is that the essential human condition is optimistic – in every one of these places.
– Eric Schmidt