#143DayEdu: A Day of Kindness in Education in Honor of Mister Rogers

#143DayEdu: A Day of Kindness in Education in Honor of Mister Rogers

By Sean Gaillard and Jennifer Williams

A renaissance for kindness has surfaced within the last few years as a vital component of a schoolhouse’s culture. Educators in classrooms all around the world are finding ways to slow things down a bit and take notice of acts of kindness and goodwill — prioritizing relationships and making memories together along the way.

Fred Rogers, children’s broadcasting icon, promoted kindness for 31 seasons in a simple and sincere way on the television masterpiece, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” In honor of Mr. Rogers, the state of Pennsylvania has designated May 23 (the 143rd day of the calendar year) as #143DayinPA. This stands as a tribute to homestate hero, Fred Rogers, and his favorite number. “143” is numeric code for “I Love You.” We thought it would be fitting to extend the 143 culture of kindness to education with the #143DayEdu hashtag.

#143DayEdu

Using the #143DayEdu hashtag, we are encouraging all educators to share examples of kindness happening on May 23. To join in on the fun, simply use #143DayEdu to promote acts of kindness and compassion happening in the schoolhouse. You are also invited to join us this Thursday, May 23 at 8:30 – 9:00 p.m. EDT for a special Twitter Chat where we intend to promote positivity and celebrate the enduring legacy of Fred Rogers.

Here are the questions and times for Thursday night’s Twitter chat. To join, simply head over to Twitter by clicking HERE at 8:30pm ET and watch for the Qs from @smgaillard and @JenWilliamsEdu.

  • Q1: Thinking back to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, what are some of your fondest memories of the show? (8:35 pm ET)
  • Q2: What lessons can we learn from Mr. Rogers that we can apply to the classroom? (8:40 pm ET)
  • Q3: How did you promote kindness in your school recently? (8:47pm ET)
  • Q4: What are some ways we can finish the school year promoting kindness with our school communities? (8:53 pm ET)

Pass It On

As we prepare for #143DayEdu and the #143DayEdu Twitter chat, we invite you to consider this quote on kindness from Mr. Rogers along with these related resources. Please feel free to share the invitation for a Day of Kindness — pass it on! We look forward to this special week and the opportunity to celebrate you — just for being you!

Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.

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Traveling Wilbury Dreams with The #EdWriteNow Band

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There’s a wonderfully poignant moment in the “Handle With Care” Video by The Traveling Wilburys. Here is an amalgam of rock heroes huddled around an old-fashioned microphone suspended microphone harmonizing. In the video clip, smiles are abounding between the musicians as they knowingly take satisfaction that they are to onto something that is simply cool and transcendent. It’s a beautiful spot for a band that is hiding in a seemingly anonymous humility. It is pretty easy to pick out George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne in this line-up of musical goodness. These are music icons stepping away from myth and pretense joy-filled that they have found a collaboration that soars.

Five friends playing music and taking joy in each other’s company. That is in essence the definition of a supergroup. Friends coming together bound by some mutual purpose or common bond for the pure love of music. The Traveling Wilburys fall under the category of supergroup.

When I got the noble nod from Jeff Zoul to join the second configuration of the Education Write Now Writing Retreat, I was purely overjoyed. In fact, I did hear the strains of “Handle With Care” in the distance. I would have the opportunity to collaborate with a supergroup. This was a supergroup composed of friends and colleagues from my PLN. We were joined our passion for Education and our task to write a book in two days was nothing short of Nirvana for me. Jeff and the band he was putting together for Education Write Now, Volume II was made up of educators that I greatly admired. One could even say that I was a longtime unabashed fan of all involved. Jeff’s books served as virtual sherpas for me in my first days as a principal. His invitation was akin to George Harrison asking me to join The Traveling Wilburys. What made this gig even sweeter was that all proceeds were to go towards a teen suicide awareness and prevention group known as the Will to Live Foundation.

Our purpose with Education Write Now, Volume II was to write in a common key pertaining to an issue that we felt other educators would benefit from in our noble profession. All roads led back to the core of our passion in the profession: Relationships. We had two days and 5,000 words each to make this book happen.

Gathered in Chicago, ideas flowed freely. There was humility and support as fingers danced on laptop keyboards. Respectful space was given as individuals roamed within the internal space of individual thoughts. Supportive feedback was shared. Critical questions of clarity stirred.

As I gazed around my surroundings, I realized I was in a supergroup like The Traveling Wilburys. There was Randy Zigenfuss quietly nodding at one of my references to the bombastic 1950s bandleader, Stan Kenton. Winston Sakurai was across the table from me immersed in deep thought. Rosa Perez-Isaiah and Sanee Bell are trading drafts. Danny Bauer is putting the finishing touches on his chapter and doing pre-production work for his podcast. Lauren Davis of Routledge Publishing is providing encouraging editorial support  Elisabeth Bostwick is typing at such a speed that the keyboard cannot keep up with her amazing insights. Jeff Zoul is wordsmithing away in concentration. Laura Gilchrist is sharing an encouraging smile as Onica Mayers reminds us all of our collective purpose with the rallying cry: “Relationships matter, people!”

My chapter is entitled “Connecting with the Center: Bringing Passion to the SchoolHouse.” I take a childhood memory involving hearing “Rhapsody in Blue” for the first time during a class field trip and how it almost got me thrown out of a concert hall a the age of 10. My solo involves how it’s vital for passion to be immersed in the schoolhouse as a vehicle to build authentic relationships. Music is my passion and connecting to my journey as an educator has provided a power entry point in building relationships with the students, teachers and families I serve.

Here’s a quick snippet from my chapter contribution:

Passion is the denominator for so many ways to compel positive change and sustaining relationships. Classrooms and schoolhouses are transformed when this passion is in the foreground of the vision and mission.

We must also remember that passion is as two-way street in the schoolhouse. Students and Teachers must be able to feel free to share their respective passions for learning, interests, pursuits and hobbies. In other words, we typically align this with students expressing their passion. There are many vehicles for students do this in creative projects that run the gamut from Makerspace, Project-Based Learning, Passion Projects, Google 10% Time. Teachers are often looked to be the sage on the stage or the facilitator compelling students to share and express their passions and gifts. The paradigm has to shift to a norm where teachers can take risks and share their passions, too. When I was a classroom teacher, everyone knew I loved music and films. The classroom walls were filled with posters of The Beatles, John Coltrane and The Who. I encouraged students to share their music posters as well. Any time I could talk Music with students was an opportunity to build a relationship. Incidentally, it’s important for school leaders to follow suit. Modeling our excitement over a passion in hobby or some aspect of educational practice, school leaders can help ignite a culture of positivity and creativity fueled by sincere passion.

Sharing our passions unabashedly in the classroom or schoolhouse is meant to build that community of possibility for our students. Placing more passion in the day-to-day operations of the schoolhouse will only uplift students. Students need any opportunity given to express their gifts, ideas and passions. It is part of our calling as educators to make that happen.

Stay tuned for another anticipatory post and the conclusion of the blog series Danny Bauer! Be sure to follow #EdWriteNow as we head towards the December release of Education Write Now, Volume 2: Top Strategies for Improving Relationships and Culture. You can pre-order the book HERE.

Turning On: Sgt. Pepper Visits New Amsterdam Hospital and Joins Two Principals Together

“Are we really doing this?”

“Yes, of course, we are!”

That gleeful exchange of words in a conversation I had with Principal Mariah Rackley brought me back to a famous moment in Beatles Songwriting Lore.

Fade back to a time over fifty years, when the Lennon-McCartney partnership is at its zenith. John Lennon and Paul McCartney are scribbling down ideas for a song that would eventually close their 1967 album opus, “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Both men are filled with synergy of their collaboration. They have taken two seemingly disparate songs and combined them to form a mini-rock opera of sorts.

One bandmate tosses out the idea of embedding a certain lyric within the framework of the song: “I’d love to turn you on.” The other bandmate takes notice and places a pause on their writing momentum. The lyric echoes the zeitgeist of the late 1960s: Hippies, Day-Glo, and Psychedelia. It’s a mild, inside joke between Lennon and McCartney, but both know exactly what they are implying:

“You know what we’re saying?”

“Let’s do it!”

Both scribble down the lyric and “A Day in the Life” is ready to make history as the unforgettable, apocalyptic denouement for the “Sgt. Pepper” album.

Belief in the collaboration. I explore this in The Pepper Effectmy book from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., in which I attempt to illustrate the lessons The Beatles give us in the creation of their “Sgt. Pepper” Masterpiece. Encouraging a mildly suggestive line to illustrate the signs of the times takes belief in the collaboration. That belief in turn requires that trust and encouragement are implanted in the marrow of the collaboration. Lennon and McCartney proved that in their collaboration for “A Day in the Life” and have left us with a creative legacy for us to look to as educators to build our own masterpiece in the schoolhouse.

That same synergy happens daily within the marrow of a Schoolhouse, Professional Learning Network or an #EdCamp. More educators are sharing and connecting via various social media networks and at in-person events such as a #CoffeeEDU or #EdCamp. I have been very fortunate to connect with many inspiring faces to take things beyond a tweet or swag table.

These connections are very meaningful to me as I search for my own type of #EduBeatles since I am the sole Middle School Principal in my school district. Even though I am surrounded by an inspiring band of dedicated teachers whom I cherish and support, I do yearn for a colleague who is stepping to the same beat as a Middle School Principal.

Enter Mariah Rackley, principal of Cedar Crest Middle School, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Principal Rackley is going through the same bit as the sole middle school principal in her district. She values culture, collaboration and simply doing what is best for kids. Her posts have always intrigued me and filled me with admiration.

Recently, a Twitter Post regarding a trailer for an upcoming NBC Medical Drama entitled “New Amsterdam” from Mariah caused me to take pause. She shared this trailer with her faculty as kickoff for her school year. I was compelled by this event and I wanted to discover more as I tweeted back an affirmative response to Mariah. A conversation starts in Twitter DM between us. Then, a scheduled phone call occurs to explore ways to build a collaborative network between our respective schools. We are in uncharted territory with a rough sketch for our direction. Echoing a moment shared by Jennifer Williams, author and friend, in her “Foreward” for The Pepper Effect: “We are on to something here.”

Somehow we will take the seemingly disparate pieces of our two schools marked by a distance of 450 miles apart and we will create a new connection for the respective faculty teams we serve. An upcoming medical drama will serve as our weird and random link.

Echoing John and Paul huddled around the lyrics for “A Day in the Life,” we preluded our phone call conclusion with next steps statements like,  “Yes, we are indeed onto something. We are going to do this.”

Possibilities abound in conversations turned on for the belief in one’s collaborators.

A brand-new, unaired television program is going to link two schools together catalyzed by two principals whom have never met in person.

Well, why not? 

 

 

 

 

Spreading Wings

I missed my band.

We never picked up a single instrument nor wrote a song together. There was not some godforsaken one-night stand of a gig at a decrepit Ramada Inn or the classic arguments over musical direction.

This band was a trio line-up. Some of the great power trios like The Police and Cream have their share of the sublime and wretched. We had our moments, too. Through those moments, the school admin. team that was my band inspired me to be a better educator, collaborator and dreamer. Our shared vision to make our school a place of inspiration for students, teachers and families is what bonded us together in the same key.

Now we are broken up and pursuing other paths in our individual career trajectories. I am proud to have played with Leigh and Ian. They were supportive assistant principals and I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned from both of them. Both made me a better person and leader.

Approaching the schoolhouse through the lens of music, it is easier for me sometimes to have a niche to carve out understanding and perspective as a school leader. For me, that niche involves what Beatles Producer George Martin termed as “thinking symphonically.” My past and current colleagues patiently put up with many references to obscure bands, set list jargon and hep cat allusions. Step into my office sometime and you will see Beatles ephemera, framed album covers and possibly hear an obscure alternate take from Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album.

Yet, it was a band in my mind that consisted of a three-member administrative team during my first stint as a principal. We were bonded by a clear, school-wide vision to inspire innovative minds. Our gig was to serve and support students, teachers and families experiencing the sweet symphony of school transformation in the key of magnet school theme implementation of STEAM. The odds were seemingly against us with a community that had abandoned our school with negative perceptions, grapevine talk machinations and all kinds of flight from the marrow of educational purpose. There were a few stalwarts hanging onto the gem of school change that we were arranging together.

It was our band and we were unified in the key of school transformation fueled by a collaborative purpose. Every one was invited to play in the band. Every one was called to share gifts and challenged to play outside their respective comfort zones. This band could play amidst discord and cacophony. We could blend harmonies together strewn in loving notes in our sincere attempt to change the world for kids.

Now, two school principalships later and a few years since that first band performed, I am missing my two colleagues. This happens in organizations. The team moves on without various members due to a myriad of reasons: individuals seek out new challenges, shifts in leadership, or the mission is accomplished. In my case, I believed that my mission was completed for my first principalship and I was itching to move other gigs and play with new bands. It was time to spread my wings.

Paul McCartney had a similar move when The Beatles dissolved in 1970. The dream of the band had faded away and it was time for John, Paul, George and Ringo to express themselves as solo, independent artists. Their split was fueled with pain, miscommunication and lawsuits. McCartney pulled drastic manuevers to free himself from a band that he loved. Those actions involved legal actions that spun itself into an apocalyptic ending for the band that took years from the individual members to arrive at peaceful terms.

Prior to the shattering end of the Beatles, Paul McCartney attempted to rally the band back to being a band again during the “Get Back”/”Let It Be” Album Sessions. He felt that the band needed to get back to being a live band again and falling in love with the music that formed their collective vision. His efforts did result in one last final, impromptu rooftop performance but the band was never the same again after that event and dissolved within a year.

McCartney created two solo albums in the wake of The Beatles. One was a total solo affair and the other was a collaboration with his wife, Linda. Even though both of those albums resounded with hits and success, I surmise that Paul missed the concept of being in a band. A concept that is rooted sometimes in misery and euphoria. Bands fight. Bands break-up. Bands reform. Bands compromise. Bands take risks. Bands band together and lock protective arms around their shared vision.

Missing those above-mentioned sparks is my interpretation for why Paul McCartney formed Wings. He wanted to create music in a collaborative environment that was not quite like The Beatles. He wanted to move forward with his inspiration and learn, grow and experiment with a new set of bandmates.

I am sure he initially felt loss in the wake of the Beatles acrimonious divorce. They had conquered all kinds of heights and forged new musical expressions that were unprecedented. It is difficult to capture lightning in a bottle twice when you are in a band like The Beatles.

The other day I had the opportunity to run into one of my old bandmates. We picked up where we left off without missing a beat. The conversation was rich and witty. It was just like the old days. Walking away from my yesteryear colleague, my emotions quickly devolved into a melancholic nostalgia. I felt adrift as I began to miss the support from which I derived much energy.

There have been a few moments of this melancholy which have buzzed around me the last few months. I missed the riffs of being able to collaborate with past friends. My attempts to re-create that collectivity buzz to work like my old bandmates had fizzled–invitations to new colleagues for a CoffeeEdu or Book Study had been politely declined. It seemed like there was no time for a quick cup of coffee or even a movie from new bandmates. I was falling into a pitiful display of self-doubt. I had no one to play with anymore. I was cursing the heavens bemoaning that fact that I could never go back to my old school like Steely Dan.

One recent evening, my beloved wife Deb had to endure another riff bemoaning my homesickness for old friends. I made the over reach of a comparison to Paul McCartney. Placing myself in his post-Beatles state, I overestimated my self-importance and arrayed myself as one of the greatest pop composers of all-time.

Deb heard my overglorified metaphor and simply said, “Didn’t Paul McCartney make music after the Beatles? He kept going on, you know. You can do the same thing. Focus on those new people you collaborate with.”

The statement rightly cut me down to perspective and renewed a new awareness. Paul kept on after The Beatles split and discovered renewed purpose in collaborating with new members. He did not rest on the past and kept moving forward even as Wings, his new band, changed line-ups. If Paul did not persevere with Wings, then we would not have a masterpiece like the “Band on the Run” album. He discovered new musical lands with a new crew of collaborators as the expedition with Wings flourished throughout the 1970s. His records with Wings established McCartney as an enduring musical force and his success resulted in more hits, gold records and universal musical statements still resonating today.

As educators, we are called to dance to the beat of collaboration. It yields greatness when we are able to harness the synergy embedded in collaboration. We have many faces before us in the schoolhouse who are connected with us for various reasons. The vision binds and sometimes not everyone is able to hear the music. When this happens, we cannot dismiss those who are not playing at Beatlesque proportions. Rather, we need to tune into the goodness that is embedded in all of those we have the chance to work with under one schoolhouse. We are called to sincerely discover those gifts in our colleagues in a positive way so that those gifts may be illuminated. By embracing the present moment with those in our immediate work world, we are being good stewards for the students we serve. Collaboration cannot be ignored be the old bandmates from past glories are no longer there.

I can imagine Paul McCartney doing the same thing with Wings bandmates like Denny Laine and Jimmy McCullough. Paul does call Jimmy out in the middle of the “Junior’s Farm, ” a 1974 classic hit for Wings. Listen carefully for Paul to shoutout to Jimmy before an amazing guitar solo.

Instead of pouring over the loss of collaborators from days passed, we need to take the value they added to our lives and share those lessons with present colleagues. Taking a move from Paul McCartney as he morphed from being a Beatle to spreading his Wings is a lesson for all educators to emulate. Moving forward with vision emboldened with new ideas and a growth mindset will provide the basis for new adventures in collaboration.

Spreading our own wings as educators and looking for opportunities in new collaborative pursuits will transform present colleagues into lifelong bandmates.

I still miss my band but I am looking forward to future adventures with new colleagues. It is important to keep the gaze in forward dynamic motion when sowing the seeds for next collaborations. Our music as educators is far too important and exciting.

As I conclude this and share this post with Deb (my best and most honest collaborator), she challenges me to take my own advice. I am gladly spreading my wings and looking forward to new collaborations with an open heart cherishing the lessons from old bandmates.

Or as Wings frontman Paul McCartney says to his new guitarist in “Junior’s Farm,” that incredible collaborative hit from a band discovering its voice and taking bold steps from the shadow of The Beatles:

“Take me down, Jimmy!”