“That’s it. I’m not a Beatle anymore.”
-George Harrison after final live Beatles concert circa 1966
Within a sea of mania, the concluding chords of “Long Tall Sally” resonate throughout a summer evening over Candlestick Park in San Francisco in August 1966. A band leaps from the stage into an armored vehicle, driving away knowing that this is their last live concert. Putting aside a string of hit albums, Number 1 singles and worldwide fame, The Beatles quietly walk away from an established run towards gold-plated success.
It had been a tumultuous tour for The Beatles. The triumph of Beatlemania had been marred with controversy during this tour: the inadvertent snubbing of Imelda Marcos in the Philippines, John Lennon’s misinterpreted comments on Christianity, and an adversarial press.
This malaise had crept into the band. They were struggling with keeping up the demanding pace of recording, appearances and simply being Beatles. Having tasted the fruits of innovative exploration with albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver, the band was anxious to explore and collaborate more in the studio. Live performance had become perfunctory for them. The screams of fervent fans in packed stadiums drowned out any chance of The Beatles hearing themselves play. Those adoring screams also did not fill the void the band was feeling.
The Beatles stood at a vulnerable crossroads in the summer of 1966. They knew that in order to survive they could not remain on the well-heeled track upon which they were staggering. A radical change of scenery was needed. After Candlestick Park, the band pressed pause on the mania and walked away from being Beatles. John Lennon went to Spain to co-star in a film. Paul McCartney composed a film soundtrack with Producer George Martin. George Harrison traveled to India to study the sitar under the mentorship of Ravi Shankar. Ringo Starr stayed home with his growing family.
Here’s an Essential Question to ponder: Do you walk away from a proven formula of success, wealth and adulation in order to embrace individual or collective growth?
As educators we are given many rallying cries to kick aside the status quo and leap headfirst into the sea of change. There are many reasons for this rally cry for transformation within our profession. I will not rewind the tape on the more eloquent tracks laid for the need to manifest a transformation in education for our kids, teachers and families.
How do we encourage each other as educators to walk away from those practices which only produce a slight indentation of positive results? There are classroom practices which are usually disguised as best practices but they produce nothing to inspire and compel our kids.
I can chant, dance and weave dazzling words around this, but this movement to change starts with me in the schoolhouse. My words are meaningless unless I provide sincere and sustaining action as a principal and lead learner. It starts with me modeling what I expect. It starts with me putting action behind the belief that I hold for our kids and the future. It starts with me crafting a bridge of support for other teachers wishing to innovate. Simply put, I have to hold myself accountable. Embracing The Pepper Mindset like The Beatles did can lead to building a culture of collaboration, creativity and innovation in the schoolhouse.
The Beatles walked away from a successful practice which generated undying fame and a mountain of riches. Touring was their collective bread and butter and it was a proven formula for securing fame and profit. The band quit touring because they felt that they could not grow as musicians among other reasons. Furthermore, they quit touring because they were intentional in seeking to innovate and infuse a paradigm shift on recording techniques. What followed musically from The Beatles continues to resonate and inspire. Following their halt to touring in addition to seeking individual time away from the band, The Beatles produced the double A-sided single in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” This landmark single was followed by their magnum opus album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
One could argue that this quantum leap in music for The Beatles could not have happened if they continued in the chaos they were mired in circa 1966. The classic single of “Strawberry Fields Forever” b/w “Penny Lane” stand as two of the brightest jewels in The Beatles canon. Both of these songs weave in a tapestry of sound, surrealism and innovation. A new and exciting direction in music had been forged by the courageous move to walk away from touring.
As a principal, I certainly wish I had a song like “Strawberry Fields Forever” in me to perform for our teachers to inspire global change and innovation. Although I am not one-man band, I can certainly reach in that creative direction by holding myself accountable to model change even more. There are plenty of ways of doing that by modeling a classroom activity for teachers or providing real-time access to meaningful professional development. I can even flip a faculty meeting in order to model personalized learning. That type of meeting could even include desks being ditched with an #EdCamp theme.
Most importantly, it is key for any principal to tune into the gift of collaboration. The Beatles harnessed this gift and brought out the best in each other for the love of Music. Tuning into the gifts of others leads to an authentic synergy in the schoolhouse. Coming together for the common good of serving students is necessary in building a positive school culture.
There are many paths we must take to model this change for meaningful action in service and support of our kids in the schoolhouse. A catalyst for change sometimes stares right back at you squarely in the face.
Walking away from formulas in education requires courage and vision. Walking towards a new path requires support, modeling and encouragement. Our schools deserve the bold, creative leadership in service and support of kids.
The Beatles leave with us a powerful lesson in having the courage to walk away from a successful pattern for the need to innovate. This crossroads will be explored in the next radio episode of “The Pepper Mindset” with co-host Lanea Stagg of Recipe Records. We welcome Jude Southerland Kessler, author the John Lennon Series, and Terri Whitney, author of Any Rhyme at All. Radio broadcast details are found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/recipe-records-cookbook/2017/05/17/thepeppermindset–part-3.