Part I: Not Another Meeting Or When the Principal Is “New Kid in Town”
This is not a typical School Improvement Meeting in our Schoolhouse.
There is no deep data dive or spreadsheet review.
There is synergy.
There is collaboration.
I am seeing teachers lean in closer and wrapping their pens around words that will take our school to the next level. We are building a vision together and I am smiling.
We are pouring over our newly-minted Core Values and determining next steps for the collective writing of our vision statement. It has been a long journey in my first year in our schoolhouse as the new principal. This is my third principalship and I am aware of the sensitive minefield that denotes change for a school. I want to be deliberate, sensitive and compassionate in my steps as a servant leader principal. I desire for the vision seeds being planted here collectively to resonate and stand the test of time like the my beloved Classic Rock Bands.
My mind drifts to the Eagles and their recent reunion efforts with a new line-up. I want our vision statement to resonate like the collective vision of the Eagles. I want it to echo like lyrical guitar solos on “Hotel California.”
Tears are peeking out of my eyes and I am doing my best to hide them. It is a joyful moment and I imagine Glenn Frey sitting next to me with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder. He is nodding in approval and says, “You done good, man.”
Part II: Frozen Eagles in Hell
“Hell Freezes Over.”
Don Henley’s curt response to the press when an inquiry about an Eagles Reunion would surface. Occasionally, I would hear this piece of trivia bookended by a radio disc jockey after I would hear “Hotel California” or “Tequila Sunrise” on one of my beloved Classic Rock Stations when I was a kid. I would often wonder why bands like the Eagles would break up within the marrow of bitterness.
Then, that would get me to wondering why other bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin or The Kinks or The Who would fade away due to discordance, tragedy or intra-band animosity. I idolized the golden era of these bands and I would want the dream to continue.
Occasionally, there would be ill-fated attempts at reunions by these bands. Some of these reunions were simply embarrassing and the reunited members knew it. Something was missing when they attempted to re-kindle the sonic magic of past musical glories. I remember pouring through well-thumbed copies of Rolling Stone Magazine looking for any signs of reunion magic with my beloved Classic Rock Bands. I would take the bait and wait with fan-obsessed anticipation only to face letdown due to missed notes and sloppy performances by some of these reunited bands.
Part III: Vision Echoes into Infinity
The previously mentioned phrase morphed from a dismissive comment to the name of a reunion album by the Eagles. It was released fourteen years after their acrimonious dissolution as a band. The album was a huge commercial success but it also served as a catalyst for a true reunion. Somehow the band figured out a way to create new music and balance it with a seemingly never-ending tour where greatest hits were revisited. The members of the band carried on in dignified fashion with even a new studio album of freshly minted original music released in 2007. Looking at their new live performances, it was evident that they were having fun again. It was wonderful hearing those harmonies blend again from the lips of Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Seeing Joe Walsh make his lead guitar sing a symphony of solos over “Hotel California” was a revelation. Timothy B. Schmidt adding solid and stately bass lines added to the musical proceedings.
During this band renaissance, the Eagles did face various levels of animosity from within–one of the band members was tossed out and a legal battle ensued. In spite of that, they carried on as a band.
The death of a founding member did not stop the Eagles. With Glenn Frey’s passing 2016, it seemed as if the band would cease its operation. This is typical when a pivotal founding member of a band passes away. The energy of the band cannot persevere. The band fades away into myth and memory. The Eagles had a brief spark in what was billed as a grand finale at the Emmy Awards later that year. Don Henley stated that out of respect for Glenn Frey that the Eagles would turn one last page and close its book at this final performance. It was a stirring and fitting final chapter for a band that withstood so much and inspired many generations of fans.
The Eagles did not close the book on themselves after that performance. A new lineup was announced with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, son of Glenn, filling in and carrying on the mantle. This new chapter of the Eagles’ story was inspiring. It revealed a new testament to a band that had given so much. This revelation showed that the vision of a band when shared and centered around love is infinite. With the addition of two new band members, the Eagles are moving forward to a new height. The sincere and sacred nature of their collective vision is preventing them from declining into caricature or quick cash-in selling out for profit.
As I reflect on this latest incarnation of the Eagles, I am swimming in the meaning of what vision stands for in the schoolhouse. How can we create a vision that is able to sustain itself amidst tribulations, setbacks and letdowns as the Eagles? The Eagles created that music that had a clear thematic and lyrical thread. Songs were created with loving care. The band felt kinship with an audience that grew up with them over the course of a couple of generations. They felt a responsibility for the music.
Imagine a schoolhouse having that same collective drive for a vision. The vision resonates at such a level that it goes beyond a pretty font on school letterhead. The vision is so forthright and pure that it becomes more than an unattainable dream. Educator collaborators know that the vision will sustain itself beyond their time in the schoolhouse. They know this because there is a respectful awareness of the impact being made on students. There is a loving care that sustains that school vision in such a way that students, teachers, administrators and families will go to battle for it. The vision will withstand any false or negative perceptions. It becomes both iconic and organic. The vision is not fixed or static. The vision becomes the DNA of the school and serves as a lasting, growing testament.
A vision has to be more than just mere canned words. It has to echo and dance in the synergy of the schoolhouse. The vision resonates in the beliefs of all in the schoolhouse. One feels it in the urgent joy of the first steps in the building. The vision lasts and lingers in the tenor of the gatherings in PLCs, school assemblies, faculty meetings. It is rings loudly in any school milestone. It withstands the voluminous snares of those dejected days that do happen. The vision pulls a principal out of the doldrums of doubt and serves as reminder of the purpose to do great things. The vision is the catalyst to change the world for students, teachers and families. It is the spark that will light up dreams for the future.
Take a page from the Eagles and build a vision for a school that will both inspire and stand the test of time.