Teach & Serve III, No. 3 – From Small Beginnings Come Great Things

Teach & Serve III, No. 3

From Small Beginnings Come Great Things

August 23, 2017

The beginning of school years is a time to think big, to dream big, to reach out and make goals and stare bravely into the limitless sky.

In Cleveland, OH in the mid 1930’s, two young men, sons of Jewish immigrants to the United States, dreamed they would collaborate on a newspaper comic strip that would be distributed far-and-wide, that would be popular and that would make them financially secure.

 

In Chicago, IL in the early 1970’s, a young woman found confidence in herself as she danced in the chorus of a production of West Side Story, found pride in herself listening to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr and found strength to think big as she looked to the Space Race and dreamed of being an astronaut.

In Pakistan in the mid 2010’s, a young woman wanted something very simple: she wanted to learn and she wanted other girls like her to be able to learn as well. She dreamed of a country and a world that would support her, would shelter her and would teach her.

What are the dreams of the young people sitting in our classrooms as we begin this school year? What are the dreams the adults on our teaching staffs, in our faculty rooms and offices and in our classrooms have at the beginning of this year? What are the dreams that you have for your work at your school? What are your hopes? Your aspirations? Your desires?

The beginning of school years is a time to think big, to dream big, to reach out and make goals and stare bravely into the limitless sky. It is an exciting time to be an educational leader and, when we can rise above the detail work that goes into getting any new year off the ground, we ought to take the time to think about what we want to accomplish, what we want to do and what we want to become. We ought to take time to think about how we can nurture those around us, how we can foster their dreams, how we can empower.

The temptation might be to think too big, to bite off more than we can chew. It is the fall. We are excited. We are energized. We are thinking big!

Perhaps it is enough to know that the dreams that surround us, the sparks in our students and our colleagues, the impulses that arise in our communities – precisely at this time of year – may simply be seeds that, if fed and watered and encouraged, will eventually blossom into good and great things.

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster wrote and drew and drafted the character that eventually became Superman, they did not start with the idea fully formed. Rather they had a series of concepts, they discussed them, they encouraged each other. They made history.

When Mae Jamison developed her talent and unleashed her confidence, when she embraced the challenges she faced and grasped the stars becoming the first African American woman to go into space, she altered society’s perceptions. She made history.

When Malala Yousafzai advocated for her own education, she was beaten. Then she advocated for the education of all young women. She was tortured. Then she gained world-wide notoriety and her cause gained overwhelming support. She got her education. She got it for her sisters. She made history.

These ideas started small. They were dreams. They were personal.

They changed the world.

Imagine what might be happening in the minds and hearts of those with whom you work. Imagine the potential in your students and your colleagues especially right now, in these early stages of the school year. Imagine the collective small dreams that might break big if given the chance.

And give that chance. Give every chance.

Help change the world.

After all, that is our business in education, is it not?

EduQuote of the Week: August 21 – 27, 2017

Safe at Home Week

Those who make conversations impossible, make escalation inevitable.

– Stefan Molyneux

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Teach & Serve III, No. 2 – Playlist 2017-2018

Teach & Serve III, No. 2

Playlist 2017-2018

August 16, 2017

… time to put together the mixtape that will be the soundtrack for the upcoming nine months, the backbeat of the days and weeks and months ahead.

It’s that time of year again: time to put together the mixtape that will be the soundtrack for the upcoming nine months, the backbeat of the days and weeks and months ahead.

In Teach & Serve Volume I a couple years back, I wrote about #OneSong, stealing the idea from my good friend and esteemed educator Sean Gaillard. The playlist is more than one song… it’s a concept album for an entire school year.

How do songs make my playlist? They land there for one of two reasons.

First, I like how they make me feel. In the fall as the year begins, I am searching for energy, excitement and enthusiasm. You won’t find too many ballads on the playlist, but you may find some instrumentals.

Second, the lyrics resonate with me, move me, inspire me and send me a message.

I listen to the playlist all year, adding to it, deleting from, adapting it like any good teacher should do.

Here’s this year’s edition:

What are you listening to this fall?

EduQuote of the Week: August 14 – 20, 2017

Do everything possible so that liberty is victorious over oppression, justice over injustice, love over hate.

– Ignacio Ellacuira, SJ

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Teach & Serve III, No. 1 – Teach Boldly, Again!

Teach & Serve III, No. 1

Teach Boldly, Again!

August 9, 2017

Teachers, your students want to be engaged. Inspire them. Be bold.

The beginning of the beginning is ramping up in schools all over the country. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a teacher or administrator knee deep in preparation, cross checking lists of all that needs doing in these opening days and preparing for these early moments of 2016-2017 as best you can.

May I please make a suggestion? No matter what you do in these initial days, no matter the pressure you feel, the demands you take on, the time crunch you suffer, no matter what you do in these days, do it with as much positivity as you can. Go about your work with energy. Greet students and colleagues and families with smiles. Celebrate the beginning of the year. Be bold in your embrace of all the possibilities it brings.

Let boldness be your home base this year.

Teach boldly. Administrate boldly. Coach and direct boldly.

Let that be your rallying cry: teach boldly.

Students respond to boldness. Colleagues are searching for it. We hear that schools should inspire. They should challenge. They should dare. How do these things happen if we ourselves are not bold in our individual rooms and days and works?

Shouldn’t we want to be bold? Wouldn’t we rather be bold than be… well, what’s the alternative? Timid? Reticent? Fearful?

Those aren’t the descriptors for which our work in education calls. None of them are even close.

Be Bold. Be resolute. Be heroic.

Teachers, your students want to be engaged. Inspire them. Be bold.

Your colleagues want to hear what you have to say. Engage them. Be bold.

Administrators, your staffs want to be led. Animate them. Be bold.

Make this year a year for boldness, for courage, for fearlessness.

Your students, colleagues and staffs need this from you. They hurry from class-to-class, assignment-to-assignment, meeting-to-meeting and running that gauntlet is both daunting and draining. When they come to you, when it’s your class, your assignment, your meeting, you can give them what they’ve come to expect, most often a kind of dull proficiency. You can give them reserved professionalism. You can give them cautious platitudes. They won’t be shocked if you do. They’ve seen this before; they know how to respond.

But you have the opportunity, the responsibility to do more and be more. You can animate. You can inspire. You can engage. While they may not know it, your students, colleagues and staffs are thirsting for this. They are thirsty for boldness.

Teach boldly. At the end of the day – at that end of the year – teaching boldly may be the only kind of teaching that truly matters.

EduQuote of the Week: August 7 – 13, 2017

National Smile Week

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.

– Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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EduQuote of the Week: May 29 – June 4, 2017 (FAREWELL EDITION – See You in the Fall!)

You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown — only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.

– Captain James Tiberius Kirk

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Teach & Serve II, No. 42 – We’ll See You Next Year!

Teach & Serve II, No. 42 – We’ll See You Next Year!

May 24, 2017

This concludes Volume II of Teach & Serve with a look back over the offerings for the 2016-2017 school year.

Look for Teach & Serve Volume III, No. 1 on August 30, 2017!

I thought I would include, again, my favorite video find of the year. It makes me smile every time I see it!

 

EduQuote of the Week: May 22 – 28, 2017

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

– JK Rowling

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Teach & Serve II, No. 41 – Graduations

Teach & Serve II, No. 41 – Graduations

May 17, 2017

So, yes, our students leave us but we, in large part, do not leave them.

The sun is out with more regularity and throughout more of the day. The trees and grasses are greener. The flowers are budding. There is, if you listen closely, more melody of birds in the air. Spring is upon us and summer is not far behind.

For us in the work of education that can only mean that the end of the year approaches.

Rapidly.

Though there are things standing between us and the end of the year, some of them pleasant, some of them hurdles, some of them variable from school-to-school, there is a universal: graduation.

Typically, and appropriately, graduation is viewed primarily as a student event, a moment (or long series of moments strung together in what can seem to be an interminable chain depending upon who your school conducts its festivities) during which the senior class is honored, their names are called and their last steps as members of our student communities are taken. It shines the spotlight on the kids as they leave us and that is a very good thing.

It signals something of an end and a speaker is likely to remind the crowd that these particular groups of students, their families and their teachers will never occupy the same space again.

I used to mention sentiments like that when I spoke at graduations. They were true words.

But, it is important to remember at these times as the names are read and the stages are crossed and the parties are thrown, that the experiences our students have had at our schools go on. These graduates are who they are because of what has happened to them and what they have done in the years at our schools.

The students leave us and, if we are honest with ourselves, it is hard to remember each of them in sharp detail. Our work is predicated on assisting groups of kids to go, it is based on mentoring them away from us and, though the best among us are excellent at recalling the majority of students they have taught (I have never been great at this in all honesty), the fact is one group graduates and another comes in.

So, yes, our students leave us but we, in large part, do not leave them.

They can point to interactions we do not remember. They can identify as critical moments incidents we might recall as insignificant. They can recall the paths we led them down when we did not even know we were pointing them in any direction at all.

That is a heady realization. There is a responsibility in the work we do. We have responsibility for every interaction we have with a student.

This is not a responsibility we should ever take lightly. If we do underestimate it, it is time to look for another vocation.

The reality is that most of those who work in education, who work as administrators and teachers, understand this responsibility and, more than that, they embrace it. They love students and that is why they are in the work.

An old and overused adage goes like this: “A teacher was asked: ‘what do you teach?’ The person inquiring wanted to know what subject the teacher instructed. ‘Students,’ the teacher replied, ‘I teach students.’” We have heard this one before and, while it is worn, it does convey a truth.

If we are in education, the students are entrusted to us are far more important than the content we convey.

Graduations should serve to remind us of the awesome responsibility we have. Graduations should be a celebration of the work that we do. In as much as they mark the accomplishment of our students, let them also mark ours as well. Let them serve as reminders of the good work we do and let them challenge us, as we look to the summer sun, to review, revive and return in the fall ready to serve once again.