Thank You, Mr. Rogers.

This blog post is dedicated to the loving memory and inspiring legacy of Mr. Fred Rogers. I also dedicate this to mothers and fathers everywhere who heroically defeat the evil nightmares of their children. 

Vivid, haunting nightmares were uninvited guests to my childhood slumber. All of the seemingly light clichés associated with nightmares plagued me during my pre-school and kindergarten years. I literally tossed and turned in addition to waking up screaming. Of course, I was blessed to have my Mom and Dad nearby willing to chase monsters away or to say a little prayer with me to soothe my frayed nerves.

During one particular series of horrid nightmares, I was unwilling to go back to sleep. My mother had attempted every tried and true trick with me and nothing was provoking any kind of sense of well-being me. With her the quick and sound thinking of her intuition, Mom placed on the “Pinocchio” Record Player that I shared with my older brother a Mr. Rogers record. The record was called a “A Place of Our Own.” It was a compilation of songs from his PBS series which I devotedly watched everyday. I was his neighbor and he treated me with kindness, respect and love.

Mr. Rogers and I had many adventures together to the “Neighborhood of Make Believe.” I learned how crayons were manufactured through the magic of the pre-You Tube resource that was “Picture Picture.” I developed an appreciation for Jazz due to the melodic stylings of the John Costa Trio providing a hip soundtrack for our television adventures. All were invited in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. You could be of any color, race, religion, gender, background and there would be no judgement. The Neighborhood was a vision of the way the world needed to be: “A Place of Our Own” where we echoed the better angels of human nature for all.

The record of Mr. Rogers’ soothing voice and songs of affirmation, unity and love did the trick for me as a child. The nightmares soon dissipated and I was able to sleep peacefully. Mom saved my world again and would continue to do so.

The lessons of Mr. Rogers stayed with me throughout my youth and I carried them into my adult and professional life. Early on as I grew into a young adult, Mr. Rogers and his Neighborhood Trolley stood as symbols for nostalgia for me. They were old toys that I had placed in the attic of my memory and I would gaze at fondly from time to time. It wasn’t until later that a deeper significance reached me in a more profound way.

Fast forward to my time as young High School English Teacher in the throes of a being a newlywed. I have found the love of my life, Deb, and we are young teachers bent on teaching all the children of the world. (We still are, by the way.) My wife and I suffered a miscarriage during her first pregnancy. I am helpless and grieving. My wife is suffering and I am desperate to take the pain away from her. Later that night, I had a dream I was walking through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe with Mr. Rogers and he is comforting me. In the distance, I noticed my father. He beckons toward me and picks me up in his arms. The world makes sense again and I am at peace. My wife wakes me up to tell me that Dad is on the phone to check on us. He is there to let me know that the world is not going to end and that all would be right. The divine timing of his phone call and that dream has never left me.

A few years later, I am driving home from school exhausted and dejected. For whatever reason the day was rough and I was questioning the universe and my choice of employment. Deb and I are now the proud parents of a newborn daughter. I stagger home to pick up a copy of the newspaper. I noticed that Mr. Rogers is retiring from his broadcast. The article goes into detail how Mr. Rogers wanted to take time to relax and focus on other projects. I also noticed that Mr. Rogers was a devoted letter writer and wanted to explore correspondence via e-mail. The article detailed that best way to reach out to him via e-mail.

I remember tossing the newspaper aside and stepping over to our home computer. My fingers formed words on the keyboard to a man whom I never met but his presence had been with me for most of my life. I wanted to thank Mr. Rogers for his selfless career of accepting others and promoting the power of imagination.

That didn’t happen. I remember crying as I wrote because I simply thanked him for helping me get rid of my nightmares. I shared with him how I was now a father, husband and teacher. I thank him for inspiring me to be the best in all of three of those important roles. Most importantly, I thanked Mr. Rogers for being a profound influence in my life and how I hoped to do his legacy justice. I shared with him how Deb and I would tell our baby daughter, “You are special.” This line is one of the cornerstones of Mr. Rogers’ message of love and understanding.  I remember signing it, “Your friend, Sean.”

Within hours, I got a reply back from Mr. Fred Rogers. It was my hero and inspiration taking the time to read my thoughts and respond in a sincere, loving way. As he thanked me for me my kind words, Mr. Rogers shared his appreciation of the strengths I had as a person. Most importantly, he told me that my daughter was lucky to have a father like me. Here was man whom I never met me giving the honor of a deep compliment.

The email is something I still cherish today and I occasionally re-read it when I need a little inspired reminder of my purpose.

This upcoming year marks many commemorations for Mr. Rogers due to the 50th Anniversary of the airing his beloved television show. We have a United States Postal Stamp, an upcoming documentary and even a biopic starring Tom Hanks all carefully etched with dignity and love for the audience.

The legacy of Mr. Rogers continues to live on in repeated viewings of his Neighborhood and acclaimed spinoffs like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” Future generations will carry on the basic human values of love, respect, unity and kindness that colored Mr. Rogers’ vision for a better world.

I remember when I first learned of Mr. Rogers’ passing a few years after I received that e-mail from him. I was teaching at Bedford High School in Massachusetts and hurriedly preparing for class in the library. I accidentally bumped into a colleague who was listlessly wandering around the stacks. Noticing the sadness in his face, I asked him what was the matter. His words are eternally carved in the soundtrack of my wife, “Mr. Rogers died today, Sean. We lost the greatest educator of the 20th Century and we haven’t done a doggone thing.”

I paused in stunned silence. What I would like to say is that I rushed back to class and took time for a moving tribute for my students. I was truly at loss for any kind of action and I simply carried on with the day.

Mr. Rogers’ legacy of kindness still resonates within me every day. I aim to connect and relate in a sincere way with others as he did. I stumble and often miss that trolley ride to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Through it all, I am honored to carry on in his heroic footsteps as an educator and servant.

I think of the song, “Many Ways to Say I Love You” which is on Side 2 of “A Place of Our Own.”  A song I used to sing to my three daughters when they were babies. A song I used to fall asleep to when I was a boy terrified that the world was going to end:

 There are many ways to say I love you.

Just by being there when things are sad and scary.

Just by being there, being there, being there to say I love you. 

You’ll find many ways to say I love you. 

You’ll find many ways to say I love you.

You’ll find many ways to understand what love is. 

When I hear these lyrics, I realize that I was loved the whole time during those childhood nightmare episodes. Now, as I am older, I realize what both my parents and Mr. Rogers were teaching me the whole time: The message is Love and we have to both give and receive it. When we do that the world will always be a better place.

The world is truly beautiful place because we all get to share our special gifts with each other.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you, Dad.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

 

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In Celebration of The Fifth Beatles in the Schoolhouse

Imagine being in Billy Preston’s shoes. It is January of 1969 and Winter reigns relentlessly. A cold, gray air seeps into the ethos of London.

You are a 22 year-old prodigy keyboardist touring the world with the legendary Ray Charles. The Genius of Ray Charles has a gig in London and you decide to pound the British pavement. Your footsteps take you to Apple Headquarters, the current nerve center of The Beatles. Before you wander too far into the epicenter of Beatlemania, an old friend of yours you met years ago during a performance stint in Hamburg, Germany grabs you by the arm.

This particular friend, who turns out to be George Harrison,  asks if you have some time to sit in with his band. Recording sessions are being filmed for a future documentary film that will highlight the band’s return to public performance. Malaise has taken over these sessions. The band is arguing and emotions are mixed for their impending concert.

Immediately, you agree to join the band for these sessions. Later, you sitting in with The Beatles on electric keyboard. The band is attempting to get back to its roots in an intentional way by regarding live without studio trickery. Your contributions are welcomed. The band is happy to have an additional member dwelling within their musical inner sanctum. The new songs are coalescing and The Beatles “as nature intended” gather their vision to the rooftop of Apple Headquarters to perform in public one final time. Billy Preston is invited to sit in with his smoldering keyboard on that rooftop. His keyboard stylings add a funky soulfulness to The Beatles.

Billy Preston’s musical support is welcomed and invited by the rest of the band. It resonates so well with The Beatles that he is given credit on the “Get Back”/”Don’t Let Me Down” single. Billy Preston is the first musician outside of The Beatles to receive this level of credit. It’s a testament to the freshness and faithfulness of his support. No Beatles song at that time or since then has credit been extended at that level.

In the wake of the Beatles break-up over the years, Billy Preston was identified by fans and critics as “The Fifth Beatle.” His musical services resonated so well with the band that Preston was called upon at various intervals during the solo years of the former Beatles. That is how is supportive resonance and musical mastery was appreciated by The Beatles. He was more than just a hired gun called in to add uncredited flourishes. His contributions were valued because he made the band better and added value to the collective vision.

Every band has some version of a Fifth Beatle. This person is not necessarily an official member of the band, but she or he adds a certain value-added dimension. The same connection extends to any team, organization and a Schoolhouse. Each individual has gifts and talents that provide a missing necessary ingredient of goodness.

In a Schoolhouse, we have various professional teams and groupings ranging from departmental, grade level house, administration, leadership, etc. Teams are solidified with each member of the team fulfilling a certain role. Sometimes the team needs an added ingredient to ignite collaborative action or rekindle the vision. The tragic trap of some Schoolhouse teams is the failure to not see beyond the membership when a certain block of stagnation arises. We prone ourselves to inertia and resentment if there is an unwillingness to change or move forward.

What if we had the foresight like George Harrison during the “Get Back” Sessions and faced the honest truth that a new voice was needed? Consider it akin to “having another set of eyes.” Pulling in that needed emollient takes leadership and courage. It is also vital to be in tune with the gifts of others in the Schoolhouse. Most importantly, everyone in the Schoolhouse must remember that everyone plays. We build our strength in serving and empowering kids by the doing the exact same for each other in the Schoolhouse as educators.

Who are those that stand as “The Fifth Beatle” in your professional life? Who are those educator bandmates that add soulfulness and support to the core of your band? Who are those individuals like Billy Preston that humbly add a new depth to the collaborative framework of your Schoolhouse?  Let them know that their role is pivotal to the strength and flow of your team. Invite accolades to shower on these individuals from others in an intentional and sincere way.

The inclusion of the value-added unexpected can always stir a team to fresh heights in the Schoolhouse. Adding a new element from an either unsung colleague in the Schoolhouse is a game changer for transforming the tried and true into something more meaningful. Take a note from The Beatles and add the unexpected but needed contribution from an unsung hero in your Schoolhouse.

Band on a Rooftop

The moment is joyful.

Four friends on a Saville Row rooftop on a cold, dreary London afternoon. They are locked in the synergy of sound blissfully ignoring the staid norms of some of their brokerage firm neighbors. An electric keyboard is melodically dancing in time as a new addition to the brotherhood from various angles of Liverpool, England.

It is a band on a rooftop.

Playing songs that will sparkle the edges of an inspirational canon, The Beatles are immersed in the moment of musical empathy. Smiles surround their sounds as a film crew captures what will be their final live performance. The band did not designate this as their finale. It is only the conclusion to a documentary film.

In the midst of songs like “Get Back” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” the previous weeks of what John Lennon called “…the most miserable sessions on earth,” The Beatles embraced the love forged in their shared words and music. The past moments of arguments, tension and detachment are gone. One would never sense that this was a band mired in recent disarray. The band is live again performing for people on a rooftop. They have drafted a young keyboard player named Billy Preston to sit in with them on a project that was designed for them to “Get Back” to their roots of being the band they once were. Forgetting their differences and disagreements, The Beatles are reborn doing what they do best—sharing Music for the world. The Beatles were performers and they discovered their natural habitat on that London rooftop after a nearly three-year absence from live performance.

The moment is sincere and filled with love. A love that bonds these four friends together in love for Music and each other. A love that transcends the inertia of negativity and dissent. A love that will eternally echo in the film and recording captured on that wintry afternoon in 1969.

Many lessons can be gleaned from The Beatles and their final live performance in our universal Schoolhouse. We hit many peaks and valleys as Educators. Doing the noble work of serving our students is not always easy. Plagued with doubts and divisiveness, we sometimes embrace the dour nature of our collective beings and permit that to dull the spark in the Schoolhouse. We are human and we have our moments where passion is dimmed. We sometimes lose our way in the labyrinth of the status quo. These moments occur at varying levels for some of us.

It is vital to embrace the joy we have as Educators and blissfully get back to our intentional roots. We call those things out that led us towards the path in our Noble Profession and a synergy will arise. Teaching is in part a collaborative pursuit. Collaborating with teachers is like playing in a band. Bands are not always perfect just as school faculties are in turn sometimes the same. If we intentionally toss aside the disillusion that may weigh us down and get back to our core as Educators, then we can enjoy a joyful rooftop moment like The Beatles did.

Find that colleague in your Schoolhouse and invite them to jam on the rooftop with you. Our students benefit from the Music that we play together as Educators in the collaborations we actively foster. Cast aside the fear or doubt that may hinder the invitation to collaborate. Stay tuned to the key of the core that inspires you as an Educator and play your loud, raucous sound on many rooftops.

One way to aim for that rooftop moment as Educators is to embrace the impromptu like The Beatles did. Here are a few impromptu ideas:

  • Host an impromptu dance party for colleagues at the end of the week. The power of a “Soul Train” line is a fun way to bond and connect.
  • Create a Flipgrid where colleagues can share a favorite song, fond teaching memory or inspiring movie.
  • Make a Mix Tape or Playlist where you invite teachers to share upbeat songs.
  • Invite teacher colleagues to a common area in the Schoolhouse for a free-form brainstorming or moonshot dream sharing session.
  • Host an informal jam session if there a teacher colleagues who actually play Music!

The Beatles final performance on that rooftop was a swan song of joy. As Educators, we do not have to settle for the last gasp of a swan song or negativity-plagued semester. Our quest to inspire the young minds in our care is never-ending. We can aim for that rooftop moment of joy and leave a positive educational canon that inspires kids.

#EduCowbell

“More Cowbell.”

The catchphrase originated with a classic “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken. A wonderful and exaggerated spoof of “Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” the unforgettable skit centers around a rock producer’s demand for more intensity in the percussive stylings of a single cowbell player. Will Ferrell’s unfettered and unhinged dancing as he beats the cowbell is the stuff that comedy legends are made of. “More Cowbell” has filtered in and out of our modern-day lexicon as a call to amplify energy to any given situation. I believe it is more than just a witty watercooler catchphrase.

If you think about the cowbell and its usage in Music, it does serve as a rally cry of sorts. It’s like the message in the beat of the cowbell is saying to the listener: “Okay, we are ready to take it up a notch. Let’s follow the beat of the cowbell.” Certain cowbell songs resonate to the great effect like “Low Rider” by War, “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Got to Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye and “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles. The cowbell means dynamic business in the symphony of its beat. It is more than time-keeper to rhythm. It is an inspiring echo to make it happen in the context of a song. Simply put, the cowbell means it is time to move that groove on the dance floor.

What if we took the infectious intention of the cowbell to the Schoolhouse? I am a firm believer in sustaining the vital organs of a school’s culture. As educators, we need that rhythm to stir us to the beat of supporting our students and each other. What are those things that provide a source of uplift to engage in dynamic actions? How can we bring “More Cowbell” to the lexicon of our daily Schoolhouse lexicon?

Let’s take the cowbell and add it to the relentless rhythms of the Schoolhouse With the gifts and talents embedded in the artistry of educators worldwide, we have many #EduCowbells to call upon for inspiration. The synergy of the #EduCowbell dances in those collaborative conversations we have that flip the script of the status quo. Perhaps, the #EduCowbell is in excitement generated in a new exploration in the classroom from an activity like #BreakoutEdu, Mystery Skype or Flipped Classroom.  The beat of the #EduCowbell may be found in a visit to an #EdCamp. It may be beating during a moment found in the simple kindness of a compliment with a student or colleague.

We all have a beat that is integral to the rhythmic momentum of the Schoolhouse. An #EduCowbell can take on many forms and permutations. The #EduCowbell is that element that simply excites you and invites others to amplify their game.

Share the gift of your beat and bring more #EduCowbell to our world-changing enterprise in the Schoolhouse. Hit that #EduCowbell with relentless, unabashed joyful passion. When we bring the beat of our passion to the Schoolhouse in a sincere way, it is truly contagious.

How will you bring more #EduCowbell? Your Schoolhouse Band awaits the addition of your sublime beat to inspire greatness.

Resonance Matters

He was partially deaf in one ear but he could hear symphonies of unheard music.

He loved the art and science of vocal harmony even though he experienced the torment of an abusive father.

His music inspired and challenged The Beatles to create their magnum opus, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

He was called one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century by Leonard Bernstein.

His music served as a soothing and inspiring salve for millions even though he spent years of agony immersed in drug abuse, therapeutic misdiagnosis and mental illness.

He completed his “…teenage symphony to God” after a twenty-seven year period overcoming demons of doubt and despair regarding his own musical genius.

His records have sold in the millions and dominated all kinds of Pop Charts.

He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Fame, honored by the Kennedy Center for lifetime achievement in the Arts, received Grammy Awards and other numerous accolades of prestige.

Brian Wilson, co-founder of The Beach Boys,  was a pioneer in Rock, Pop and Classical Music and he received an “F” in his high school Music class. The song was called “Surfin.'” In 1961,  it became the first single for The Beach Boys. It was a moderate hit and served as the joyous, harmonic template for a canon of songs that inspired millions. Its origins were branded a failure.

Recently, Brian Wilson visited his high school alma mater of Hawthorne High School in California. His grade on the assignment was changed by the current principal from “F” to “A.” The visit made global headlines and reverberated throughout social media. (You can read an article about the visit HERE.) I surmise that his appeal was playful, good-natured and mildly tongue-in-cheek. The opportunity for a world-famous alum to visit an alma mater more than likely uplifted everyone’s day in that Schoolhouse.

Imagine the “F” having a different type of effect on the young Brian Wilson. What if that grade served to stifle his dreams for musical expression? Imagine Brian Wilson quietly folding up his musical tent and discreetly placing his  sketches on a forgotten shelf in a closet. What would have been an ignition for glorious dreams is lost in the forgotten ether of defeat. How would the landscape of musical innovation reign differently if we did not have impact of Brian Wilson’s chords, notes and harmonies?  Imagine a world without a deeply moving songs like “Good Vibrations,” “God Only Knows” and “Surf’s Up.”

Simply imagine a world without the resonance of Brian Wilson’s music. His compositions are eternally carved into the soundtracks of many lives. Songs are like old photographs lovingly placed in cherished scrapbooks of memory. Brian Wilson’s songs have been the backdrop for awkward first junior high school dances, weddings, stadium singalongs and even funerals.

Grades in the schoolhouse serve all kinds of purposes. We may even disagree with the means and ends of grading procedures. There is much philosophical and intensive discussion on the purpose of grades, assignments and tests. Regardless of our stance in the grading debate, we cannot permit grades to determine the destiny of the students we serve. This is where the sincere belief and positive schoolhouse culture collective fostered by teachers and administrators must connect in service of our students.

In music, “resonance” is that deep, sustaining reverberation in sound. Brian Wilson was very much in tune with this as he arranged multi-layered, complex harmonies for The Beach Boys. He respected and valued the sustaining power of resonance in his music.

Educators have a resonance as well. It’s not musical in this case. We have a significant impact that reverberates through the lives of our students. Resonance is not only shaped in the sincere, positive tone of our voices but also in the dynamic and sonic-filled experiences we foster for our students and teachers. Resonance is an eternal etching in the positive activities and ground-breaking, creative assessments we articulate for our students and teachers.

Resonance is the impact we bring to the Schoolhouse. It is our passion-fueled belief that our impact matters. That resonance is fueled by the choices we make as educators. We make the choice between being the architects for either a positive or negative resonance. The sublime aim is for our resonance to uplift, inspire and challenge students and each other in the Schoolhouse. We must be intentional with the resonance we weave for others. Our impact does matter and make a significant difference in the lives of others. That is the key in which we must play as educators in the universal Schoolhouse band.

Thankfully, Brian Wilson did not allow the resonance of a failed musical assignment to determine the trajectory of his destiny. Our joyful obligation as educators is to intentionally thread our resonance in support of the positive. The Schoolhouse is a catalyst for a symphony of dreams for our students. Think of the possibilities that our educational resonance will compel for our students to do great things for the future. Our resonance matters.

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Mystery Tweet: In Celebration of Random Paths & Sharing the Passion

December 26, 1967 is a date that rings for some fans and critics as being the nadir of The Beatles trajectory as a band. The BBC first aired their romp of film known as “Magical Mystery Tour.” Even though the film gave us timeless classics from the band like “I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill,” universal critical pans followed upon its airing on British television. “Magical Mystery Tour” is typically viewed as an overindulged home movie created in the psychedelic haze of Summer of Love. It is a largely loose film that details the whimsical misadventures of a group of passengers on a wild bus ride. There isn’t much of a plot and the final product shows just that. “Magical Mystery Tour” came in the wake of a year in Beatles history that spawned three major musical quantum leaps for the band:

  • “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane”: The Double-A Sided Single that signaled a paradigm shift for the band
  • “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: the masterpiece album that changed the way we view modern music
  • “All You Need Is Love”: their live worldwide performance signaling a new global anthem of peace in the middle of the 1967 Summer of Love

More than anything in the repertoire of The Beatles, this silly pet project of a film has changed my life all in part to a simple post on Twitter one year ago.

Enter December 26, 2016 and I am conducting my annual tradition of viewing “Magical Mystery Tour” at home. A sense of well-being had overcome me. I was taking time to indulge in my passion for my favorite band. I am free in the peace of being an unabashed fan.

Although I have a loving family, they are not the hugest fans of The Beatles. They love their music but they are very patient with this rabid fan. My closest friends who are just as passionate as I am are spread over the globe so I am usually alone in this simple tradition of playing the film.

At this moment, I am feeling the need to share. Why not? It’s the day after Christmas and I am immersed in the peace of Winter Break. It’s Boxing Day in England and I think it would be neat if my Twitter post fell on welcoming eyes across the pond.

It is important to proclaim our passion for what we love. There are many reasons why this is so. Passions must spread, echo and resonate. That resonance of passion can compel others to join in the synergy. It can also serve as an invitation for others to share their respective passions. The music of The Beatles has done that for me as an individual and educator on a myriad of levels.

There are many paths to choose to proclaim this passion for a seemingly failed effort of a film by a band I cherish. I choose Twitter for this occasion.

The simple tweet I posted showed a pic of my DVD Copy of “Magical Mystery Tour” perched on my couch. It captured a moment of a fan sharing his unbridled geekiness for a band. No one was tagged or mentioned–just a few words sent out “Across the Universe.”

This post fell across the feed of Nicole Michael of 910 Public Relations. Nicole is a lifelong fan of The Beatles. She  represents Beatle authors and artists. She sends out a reply and then a conversation follows. The conversation serves as a catalyst for a blog and radio series celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” album by The Beatles. Writing the blog ignites the courage in me to pursue the recurring dream of writing a book. A proposal is sent to the truly amazing Dave and Shelley Burgess of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.  A dream book combining my passions for The Beatles and Education is now upcoming for 2018 thanks to their sincere and heroic support.

I am blessed by the genuine support and belief of these particular individuals.

The courage inside of me led to a tweet…

A tweet led to a conversation…

A conversation sparked belief, collaboration and action. 

Twitter is not an omnipotent salve and it is not the moral of this blog. There are many positive attributes associated with Twitter. It is an important pathway for dynamic action that works.  I find it being a helpful resource and digital Sherpa for connections. It has led me to many new friendships, positive personalized learning experiences and sincerely rich experiences. The courage to post and share one’s passion is the catalyst. As educators, we must be relentless in igniting our courage and supporting those who do the same.

We have so many positive educational hashtags out there like #LeadLAP from Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess or #JoyfulLeaders from Bethany Hill. These hashtags not only uplift but they compel other educators to share positive, creative and innovative practices in the Schoolhouse. This proactive sharing compels multitudes of positive action in service and support of the Schoolhouse. Twitter is one pathway that works for some and there are a host of others that coincide in ways that spark others to action.

The Beatles had the courage to make a zippy, goofy film filled with amazing music. They withstood the barbs of confused fans and angry critics in the wake of the release of “Magical Mystery Tour.” In the aftermath of that film, The Beatles gave us more life-changing music like “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “Here Comes the Sun.” Their final studio albums recorded after “Magical Mystery Tour” serve as the template for the band’s lasting legacy still resonating over 40 years after their breakup. The band believed in their vision and collaboration and ignored the condescending words of negative criticism.

The lesson of the seemingly failed effort of “Magical Mystery Tour” reverberates today for all educators. We are told to hold fast to tried and true traditions of instructional practices. We sometimes allow the status quo to cloud our vision and stifle our passion. It is easy to follow the proven path in the Schoolhouse and it may yield acceptable results. Does it truly add to the nobility of our profession? Can we add to the move of doing what is best for our kids, colleagues and communities? Are we changing the world if we subscribe to the proven, well-worn rut? I submit a resounding affirmative to those questions and I am living proof of that response.

We can change the world as Educators with the courage we all possess and the collaboration we all share.

It is necessary to embrace the courage to be whimsical and share the passions that inspire us. Imagine the possibilities of passion-sharing and one is left with the sparks to change our world.

I am grateful for the courage to share on that fateful day last year. Most importantly, I am grateful for the connection experienced in sincere individuals like Nicole, Dave and Shelley and many others. One step forward sparks so many life-changing moments and new friendships.

Here’s to your next act of courage and the resulting world-changing effect posted in a Magical Mystery Tweet!

 

 

When Paul and Ringo Visit the Schoolhouse: Insert Dream Here

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are greeting students with me at the front door of Lexington Middle School. In the distance, I see a cadre of roadie carrying instruments and equipment to our auditorium. This unabashed Beatles fan is simply floating. Students and teachers are smiling and waiting to catch a glimpse of my guests. These two gentleman are musical icons and have decided to serve as artists-in-residence at my school. Students will have the opportunity to take a master class on musical composition, production and performance with Paul and Ringo co-teaching. Teachers will later hear a talk from Paul and Ringo on creative collaboration. I am beaming and proud that our schoolhouse is the site for this Beatles reunion. 

A principal has to dream. 

A principal has to share and invite dreams in the schoolhouse. 

Dreams ignite infinite possibilities. History has demonstrated the transformational magnitude of a simple dream. The Wright Brothers dreamed of soaring into the sky. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a beloved community where all individuals were accepted and empowered regardless of skin color. Susan B. Anthony dreamed of a world where a woman’s right to vote would never face an incredulous response.

As a child, I would stare into the night sky and imagine myself darting around distant galaxies. With a “Star Wars” Comic Book tucked under my arm, I envisioned myself as a Jedi Knight effortlessly saving Princess Leia and the universe. Those childhood fantasies fueled the momentum to transform dreams into realities as I became older.

All of my dreams became realities for all kinds of reasons: positivity, grit, discipline, resilience. Out of all of those things, I would offer that physically voicing the dream out loud proved to a pivotal and primary spark. I remember reading The Great Gatsby in high school and deciding that becoming a high school English Teacher was a dream I wanted to pursue. That dream became true and I was privileged to share my love of the written word with so many students. Stating dreams out loud proved to be life-changing on the day I met my wife. I knew that the person who would become my wife was the dream I had been waiting for all my life and I made sure to share with the nearest person when that moment happened.

As a principal, I have witnessed the sheer joy of dreams transforming a schoolhouse. Experiencing that joy with teachers and students has proven to be a reminder of my leadership purpose. Motivating and inspiring dreams for students and teachers in a positive schoolhouse is embedded at my leadership core. Nothing beats seeing a teacher literally dance in the hallway when a student achieves a new height in either mastery, creativity or growth. Watching the shared vision of a school take flight on the wings of students and teachers is akin to that joy as well. These kinds of things started with a dream. Moreover, the dream had to be vocalized, echoed and shared relentlessly.

The schoolhouse is sometimes too burdened with data walls, deadlines and other manic distractions on such a level that dreams are not given a fair space to dwell. It is essential for school leaders to model the sincere, unabashed vocalizations of dreams for the schoolhouse.

Many schools are either gearing up for a new school year or already knee-deep in the daily routine. Regardless of the time frame, it is not too late for principals to flip a faculty meeting or morning memo in order to devote time to sharing a dream. Simply starting a conversation with a colleague or student or parent by asking the question, “What is the dream for our schoolhouse?” can shift the mundane distractions of the daily grind into infinite realm of possibility.

Sharing our dreams is a courageous movement. When our dreams resonate, we sometimes have to face negative resonance. The pallor of disbelief is a readied default from naysayers. Connecting our students to an awareness of their amazing impact on our future is a necessary chord to strike without hesitation in the schoolhouse. As educators, regardless of role and title, we are called to relentlessly encourage our students and each other to dream.

When I greet the entire team of teachers and staff I am honored to serve, I plan on opening our gathering with the following:

“My dream is for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to visit our school and co-teach a few classes. What is your dream for our schoolhouse? Let’s share our dreams. Insert dreams here at Lexington Middle School.”

Looking forward to seeing your dreams transform and enhance the realities in your schoolhouses! I will save you seats when Paul and Ringo visit.