One Beat, One Spark

There is a wonderfully poignant scene in Ron Howard’s documentary on The Beatles entitled “Eight Days a Week.” Paul McCartney is sharing the first time all four members of the band played together. As McCartney recalls the first time they played together as a a unit, he calls it an “Oh, My God Moment.” He describes the moment from when Ringo kicks in with the drums and the band almost stops mid-song. All four members share an acknowledging telepathic look which Paul translates to, “Yeah, this is it.”

As Paul shares this anecdote in the documentary, tears well up in his eyes. It is indeed a powerful moment. Seeing Paul’s revelation of the emotional weight of this life-changing moment is intimate and revelatory. In most Beatle interviews I have observed the band downplaying their impact and adulation. Occasionally, the former members of the band will let their guard down in interviews and reveal a very human moment shared.

Examining Paul McCartney’s anecdote in more detail, it is intriguing to reflect on similar epiphanies we may experience as educators. Do we have moments akin to McCartney’s when we recognize that special collaboration bond with our colleagues? Teaching can be an isolating pursuit. Sometimes, we permit that isolation too much freedom to roam in the marrow of our noble profession. We sometimes close our classroom doors both physically and metaphorically to a colleague. There may be the early arrival or departure to avoid collegial interactions.

When we do open our professional hearts to synergy of collaboration, then the noble beat of teaching our kids becomes something much more meaningful. It is absolutely magical when one feels the collaborative vibe kick in with a colleague. Those moments happen more than we may even realize. Think of that colleague who takes you on a deeper journey during a PLC. It may happen when you walk down the hallway and hear the echo of a teacher doing something that sparks your passion. I encourage you to capitalize on that moment and relentlessly seek out that colleague for a conversation to collaborate.

I think of a fateful tweet from a few years ago. A member of my PLN reached out with a simple question in a tweet. The request was anchored in asking if others could recommend a book to read. I readily responded to Jen Williams tweet not knowing that it would lead down a journey of friendship and collaboration for the next three years and counting. I am very fortunate being connected to an inspiring educator such as Jen who makes you want to be better. Collaborating with Jen is akin to what Paul McCartney was sharing about the first drum beat Ringo exalted over The Beatles when they first played together. One tweet like that first percussive swipe by Ringo sparked a rich and enduring collaborative friendship with Jen. I am grateful to be in the band with Jen.

Recently, Jen and I co-presented at the National School Board Association Conference. Our topic was on building conversation starters for collaborative professional development. There was natural balance in the scope and sequence of our presentation. There was a natural flow the our sharing. We could fill each other’s gaps naturally. All of this due to the value we placed on our collaborative ethos. Even though, we are separated by many miles and prepared as much as we could within the confines of hectic schedules, there was a professional synergy that I felt in the course of our presentation. At one point, I stood still in appreciation of the ground we had walked together. It is what the Allman Brother Band called “Hittin’ the Note.” It’s the moment where there is complete simpatico among the musicians of the band. A sound is created and harnesses energy with the audience. It was evident upon the attendees. A few came up to us afterwards sharing that it was the best presentation experienced at the conference. Presenting with Jen simply made me feel like I was in The Beatles. I could almost hear Paul echoing “Yeah, this is it.” from the “Eight Days a Week” film as we were presenting.

One of the Assistant Principals I collaborate with in my current school assignment sparked collaboration in a recent conversation. Monty Gray shared an inspiring tweet he read from a valued member of our PLN—Danny Steele. Danny writes eloquently about our noble profession. His tweets are succinct yet packed with resonating meaning. Monty shared with me one of Danny’s maxim’s. This one tweet sparked a powerful conversation between Monty and me on how we needed to take more intentional action in modeling building relationships. I felt that same collaborative spark resonate again and I was excited to take giant steps with my colleague. I look forward to seeing what collaborative music is ahead for Monty and I that was all sparked by one tweet from Danny.

Let’s tune our awareness into those collaborative sparks and reach out to our bandmates. Creating a collaborative sound that will infuse deeper hues of learning for our students is the key for all educators.

One tweet is all it took.

One spark to ignite bold, dynamic action to create change.

One beat to change the world.

 

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Suite: Sustaining the Vision with The Eagles

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.

Coda: 

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.

 

 

 

#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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Imagining “Hey Jude” at a Principals Conference

Music heals.

It is the universal band-aid for a broken heart, negative-filled day or loss of a loved one.

Music inspires.

It is the soundtrack for creation, joy and a myriad of catalytic moments etched in blessed, warm memories.

These thoughts marinade in my mind as I stand in the Participatesponsored lounge area at the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia. I am intermingled with a diverse group of leaders: School Leaders, Thought Leaders, Classroom Leaders. Conversations are animated and filled with solutions in service and support of the collective schoolhouse. Collaborative conversations are being forged. Blueprints are created for future steps for inspiring projects which will positively resonates for students and teachers.

Within the whirlwind of spirited and sincere dialogue, I immediately recall the image of a diverse group of fans surrounding The Beatles on a 1968 television broadcast. Fans of varying cultural backgrounds are closely huddled around the band singing along to the powerful choral fade out of “Hey Jude.” For a moment, I am transported back in time to Twickenham Film Studios in London and I am standing on that soundstage with The Beatles. (See the iconic performance of “Hey Jude” here.)

“Hey Jude” by The Beatles has launched the ships of thousands of memories. This 1968 classic is an uplifting anthem with an infectious sing-along chorus. When initially released by The Beatles, the song rose to the top of the charts worldwide and became an instant radio classic. Paul McCartney, the main lyricist of this particular song, still performs this song live in concert. When McCartney performs “Hey Jude” today, the song fills stadiums in a cathartic manner. The audience sways and sings along to  that unforgettable “Na, Na, Na” fade out with Paul McCartney. The moment becomes a recreation of that 1968 broadcast. It is evident that “Hey Jude” fills the audience’s collective senses with a flood of universal emotions

The song means many things to its listeners. Perhaps, the song evokes for some the memory of a first love or a healing moment after the loss of a loved one. Maybe, the song serves as a courageous anthem to play before asking that crush out on a first date.  For this unabashed Beatles Fan, “Hey Jude” is the audio salve for the nervous system I listen to before boarding a plane.

In the biographical case of the song’s author, “Hey Jude” was written originally intended to uplift his best friend’s son who was experiencing the divorce of his parents. Driving to visit Cynthia Lennon, John’s soon-to-be ex-wife, and her son, Julian, McCartney roughly composed the song. From a simple and loving act of outreach to a young child not understanding how divorce works, “Hey Jude” evolved into one of the most lasting, musical statements from The Beatles. Clocking in over seven minutes, “Hey Jude’s” anthemic marrow stirred an emotional chord with listeners and became a worldwide hit.

No where is the emotional girth of “Hey Jude” felt more poignantly than in The Beatles 1968 live television performance of the song on “Frost on Sunday.” The Beatles in choosing  David Frost’s program as their return to television performance after a nearly two-year absence helped solidify the significance of “Hey Jude” to their canon.

The performance of “Hey Jude” on that particular program displays The Beatles performing “Hey Jude” in an almost reverential manner. The band is tight. Knowing and satisfying grins are exchanged with the band. They are locked in the love of their musical vision and become the embodiment of one the song’s moving lyrics: “…take a sad song and make it better.” When the audience members join in with The Beatles singing along, one experiences the universal love story between a band and its fans. Seeing that diverse group draped around The Beatles shows the healing and world-changing impact of Music.

Music unites us in something as basic as the chords and melodic structure of a seemingly simple tune like “Hey Jude.” The synergy of ideas that serve as the marrow for collaboration positively bind us as well. Looking back on the chatter that fueled the collaborative space at the Participate event, I am hope-filled. A myriad of ideas from integrating Global Education and building a Professional Learning Network entered my listening space. Walking along the perimeter of the event was impossible. I was constantly invited into a conversation or permitted to eavesdrop on one. I experienced seeds being planted for exciting and innovative activities to engage students in making giant steps towards a better future for our world.

At the National Principals Conference, I was greeted with smiles and sincere inquiries into my craft as an educator and leader. I was invited into collaborative conversations fueling my professional learning. My leadership was re-ignited with so many collaborative possibilities and ideas. For a few days, I felt like I was leaning over Paul’s piano with dozens of other fans singing along to “Hey Jude.” My charge is to keep that positive momentum going as I compose my “Hey Jude”-like anthem for the schoolhouse. As a school leader, I have to remember to keep the invitational beacons of collaboration illuminated with the very colleagues whom I serve and support.

As The Beatles sing in “Hey Jude,” one of our calls to action as educators is to “…take a sad song and make it better.” Let’s create a collaborative symphony for all of our schoolhouses to elevate, invite and inspire our students. We have many anthems of positivity within us to share just like The Beatles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When John Invited Paul to Join the Band: Inspired Decisions in the Schoolhouse

I believe that the world changed on July 6, 1957 in Liverpool, England.

What I know is that 16-year old John Lennon met 15-year old Paul McCartney at St. Peter’s Church Hall at a garden fete. John was performing with his fledgling skiffle group known as The Quarrymen. After the performance, John was introduced to Paul by a mutual acquaintance. Paul had his guitar with him and was prompted to perform Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock.” John was impressed. Pleasantries were exchanged and the meeting ended. A few weeks later, Paul was invited by John to join the Quarrymen. The Quarrymen later morphed into The Beatles over the course of several years of line-up changes, failed auditions and hours of hard gigs. The Beatles become the most successful and influential band in music history.

As an avid fan of The Beatles, I enjoy deep dives into their history. All of the band biographies and music histories have entered into my grasp and languish over my crowded bookshelves. Reading these Beatle volumes when I was I kid, I would grow impatient at the jaunt through their early years in Liverpool. I would want to jump right into the contagious excitement of Beatlemania and their innovative studio years recording albums like “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper.” The day John met Paul was an episode I would hurriedly gloss over in those Beatle narratives. As a school leader, I now have a better appreciation for John and Paul’s first meeting. I often refer in faculty meetings and collegial conversations that John inviting Paul to join The Quarrymen was one of the best leadership decisions ever made in history.

The consideration that an adolescent John Lennon made such a significant leadership decision at a young age glazed over me when I was a younger Beatles fan. I had read John’s adult reflections on his decision to invite Paul to join the Quarrymen. John mused that he knew that Paul was an excellent guitarist and singer. Lennon sensed that McCartney could stand on even musical ground with him. As the leader of the band, John had his own ego wrestling with his vision of the band. He knew that Paul would add creative weight to the band; therefore, making the group better. There was no fixed template or vision statement for The Beatles in young John Lennon’s mind. He just knew that Paul’s musical strengths would prove to be valuable assets for the band.

This leadership instinct of John Lennon’s is significant. Placing a firm “What If?” in this event, think of the implications if Lennon decided to let an egotistical grasp on his leader status remain and not invite McCartney to become a bandmate:

  • No Lennon & McCartney.
  • No Beatles.
  • No life-changing songs.
  • No Number One Hits
  • No “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
  • No studio and lyrical innovations for other bands to follow, emulate and improve upon.
  • No catalyst for world-changing inspiration from John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Thankfully, a brief afternoon introduction served as the ignition for a collaboration that shifted paradigms on many levels ranging from musical to cultural to historical. The musical canon created by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr will continue to stand the test of time.

If Paul McCartney were to walk into your respective schoolhouse today carrying a guitar and asking to teach a music class or perform at a faculty meeting, then I am 100% confident that he would be greeted with extreme gratitude and resounding cheers. I would be the first one to greet him and accommodate any request he needed to make this an unforgettable event for the schoolhouse. When John met Paul in 1957, all of the accolades and hits were yet to come. John was in tune with something from Paul on that day.

How can we make those same fateful, inspired decisions as educators and leaders in the schoolhouse? Whether you are a Beatles fan or not, we should all aspire to the same level of greatness in service and support of the schoolhouse. Here are a few paths to consider in making inspired decisions to grow your schoolhouse:

  • Vision: Having a clear, sustained vision for the schoolhouse ignites dynamic action. A schoolhouse must have an organic, collaborative vision that unites all actions in service of all students. John Lennon knew he wanted his band to be great. Educators must have the same aspiration for the schoolhouse.
  • Belief: Every vision is fueled by belief. Maintaining that belief in the schoolhouse is essential for action to occur. The concept of belief may seem hokey in the face of bureaucratic cynicism, ponderous policy and negative professional perceptions but if belief goes missing in our Noble Profession then we have simply lost. Believing that our colleagues possess strengths and gifts that can serve the schoolhouse is a first pivotal step. Call out those strengths publicly and individually. Our bandmates in the schoolhouse need to feel authentic praise and validation for their hard, noble work for kids.
  • Reflection: John Lennon did not immediately invite Paul McCartney to join the band. He spent a considerable amount of time weighing his options to take the risk in inviting someone new into the band. Paul had the potential in being either a threat or asset to the band. John reflected over these scenarios and made a decision rooted in humility, belief and optimism for the band. As educators, it is vital that we support each other in carving out time to reflect on making inspired decisions in the fast-paced mania of the schoolhouse. Find a thought partner, colleague, PLN member to springboard ideas and reflection with in a collegial manner.

The day John met Paul changed everything and led to the creation of universal and timeless Music. The day we connect with a current or potential colleague has the same ability to positively impact a student, schoolhouse and our future.