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.














Making the Impossible Possible


Seeing the above picture nestled in the Newsweek cover story on The Beatles reunion stirred a feeling of both wearied disbelief and a shot of optimistic reality. I remember saying to myself at stage whispered volume, “This is going to happen.”

It’s the fall of 1995 and I am knee-deep in the second wave of Beatlemania getting ready to hit the airwaves. The surviving Beatles have collaborated on an upcoming documentary entitled “The Beatles Anthology.” A three-volume set of accompanying music is on the way with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate versions and two new songs.

As an unabashed Beatles fan, I am near hysterics and anticipation over the notion that the surviving Beatles were reuniting. My recurring dream of a Beatles Reunion was actually going to happen. I did not have to deal with the coy avoidance of the subject from the surviving Beatles anymore. What made this reunion even more poignant was that Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ignited their collaboration again with John Lennon. They entered the recording studio again with the collective premise that their friend, senselessly murdered by a deranged fan’s torrent of gunfire, had slipped out for cup of tea and entrusted a couple of demos for them to finish.

The reunited Beatles were able to add lyrics, vocals and musical accompaniment to an unfinished demo recording by John Lennon entitled “Free As a Bird.” Another Lennon demo recording was finished and the band added their musical stylings to it. That song was called “Real Love.” Both songs were global smashes and fueled a renaissance for The Beatles at the twilight of the 20th Century.

Considering that the band was able to put aside years of legal and personal battles fueled by a bitter dissolution and enter the studio again with a fresh creative approach is astounding. Adding to the improbability of this scenario was that they were able to reunite with input from a deceased friend. John Lennon’s demos of “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” were recorded onto tape cassette from a boom box. The tape cassettes of demos possessed all kinds of technical glitches and were crudely created.

On top of this was the heightened reality of fans clamoring for a Beatles reunion since their 1970 disbandment. Each solo member of the dissolved band was faced with the burdening hype of inquiries into a possible reunion. Paul, George and Ringo quietly slipped into the studio and recorded two poignant songs left unfinished by John.

In essence, The Beatles made the impossible possible with their brief reunion.

I remember literally being on the edge of my seat as I watched the countdown clock to The Beatles Reunion appear over the closing credits of Part 1 of ABC’s “The Beatles Anthology.” The video begins for “Free As a Bird” and I am soaring. Hearing Paul’s solo vocal turn during “Free As a Bird” sealed it for me that I was in the middle of a Beatles reunion. It was The Beatles as one would hear them in 1995 and it made so much sense to me.

(You can hear and see the “Free As a Bird” video here: The Beatles Reunion.)

After the witnessing Beatles history, I could not sleep much. It was a school night and a full day of teaching was awaiting me. My 8th Grade Students knew of my Beatles obsession and eagerly awaited my reaction to the new Beatles song. Their genuine and sincere support of my passion led me down the path to integrating a formal lesson based on the music of The Beatles into English Language Arts Class. I had played various songs for The Beatles as background music for various activities but I had never officially taught them.

The reunion of The Beatles compelled me to tune into the courage to introduce their music within a planned lesson. I figured that “She’s Leaving Home” from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album was a logical place to introduce our upcoming Poetry Unit. What followed was an enriching jaunt into creativity with the class. Students connected with the heart-wrenching story of a teenage runaway as detailed by Lennon & McCartney’s sharp lyrics and string-laded orchestration. Students collaborated in small groups to create an artistic interpretation of the song. I allowed their collective voices to take the song to new creative heights. With my passion for Music and their desire to explore the song further, led me to go off my planned scripted lesson. Student Voice conquered the constraints of the classroom and a new level of expression ensued.  Students produced a range of original artwork, mix tapes, storyboard renderings and newscasts all based on extending their interpretation of the song. I simply stated for students to explore and interpret the song as they wanted to do so without limits.

The template for this activity fueled my inspiration to integrate each moment in the classroom with meaning, relevance and creativity for my students. I never let a day pass in the classroom in which I wanted to tune into their creativity. Some days were successful and others were tremendous failures, but I had the picture of reunited Beatles taped to my desk as reminder that the impossible does become possible.

For our Noble Profession as educators, the impossible is a constant in the schoolhouse. We are tackled with daunting odds, no-win scenarios, and decaying perceptions of our work. Varying labels are affixed to schools in attempt to define a schoolwide achievement grade or solidify a false negative perception. I dream of a perfect glaze to protect us all from our collective schoolwide challenges. There are various movements out there to support and uplift the beautiful work we do in service and support of our kids in the schoolhouse.

Sometimes there are days in which those various positive movements are not enough to sustain me along the journey. Negativity drowns my vision and I allow the echoes of naysayers to resonate. As a principal now, there are greater hurdles to overcome amidst seemingly impossible odds. A steady drumbeat of “These kids can’t!” and “If only we had Program X to save us!” lifts the cacophony to Wagnerian volumes.

Despair is an easy fix.

Then, I gaze at the tattered picture of a Beatles Reunion.

The Impossible became Possible then.

I look back over past blessings and victories in the schoolhouse. I see a classroom transformed into a collaborative hub of creativity by a sad Beatles song. I see a young teacher getting his classroom confidence. I see schools transformed by dreams.

Then, I am “Free As a Bird” like the Beatles Reunion Song.

I flick off the first two letters of the word, “Impossible” and move forward with the schoolhouse.








Eclectic Memos of Positivity for the World and Schoolhouse

Otis Redding does it when he starts whistling at the end of “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay. Frank Sinatra’s impromptu Portuguese-inspired scat singing on his Bossa Nova version of “I Concentrate on You” certainly does it. The multi-tracked background harmonies of Joni Mitchell on “Carey” that slide in around a minute or so into the song definitely do it. De La Soul sampling Steely Dan’s “Peg” chorus on “Eye Know” crackles and does it. These are the random musical moments that remind your ears that all is right with the world.

It can be a riff, drum fill, bass line or harmony that is not necessarily the main course of the song.

A random, eclectic moment that is yours alone and serves as an audio memo that the universe is going to be all right.

My friend Nicole Michael of 910 Public Relations recently tweeted out praise for Ringo Starr’s drum patterns on “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles. She simply shared in less than 140 characters how the intricate percussion work of Ringo served as an uplifting reminder that the day was going to be better.

That tweet led me to reflecting upon what was my random, eclectic moment in a Beatles song. I thought immediately of Paul McCartney’s bass line in “Dear Prudence.” Every time I hear that fluid, melodic bass  I start swaying in time to the music. A reminder envelopes in my mind that world is a beautiful place. The bass line ignites for me an audio dispatch that humanity will persevere and that our best days are ahead for us.

Grooving forward with this audio reminder from The Beatles, I am compelled to think of an equivalent for the schoolhouse. What are those eclectic moments that serve as the basis for positive reflection? Earlier this week, I had a meeting with one of our community partners at Lexington Middle School. We were dreaming of new ways to serve and support our students. It was my first time meeting with this incredible partner and immediate bonding led to an impromptu gathering with our Guidance Team and one of our assistant principals. The synergy for positive action was contagious and we hit a collective pause for laughter. This was not staged, canned laughter. It was real. loud and organic. It was the sound of people coming together and reaching a moment of sincere collaboration sealed with universal, divine language of laughter.

That schoolhouse moment became the echo that reminded me that everything is going to be all right and that we are tuned in the right key to support our students. I may have even swayed in time to Paul McCartney’s bass line during that moment of bonding.

What is your random, eclectic moment that echoes as your reminder for global and schoolhouse positivity?



“Don’t You Wait.” Pausing for Thanks in the Schoolhouse

Writer’s Note: June 18th marks the 75th Birthday of Paul McCartney. I wanted to wish my musical hero a happy birthday by writing about my favorite song of his. “Here Today” appears on the 1982 “Tug of War” album by Paul McCartney. I remember receiving a cassette version of the album on my 12th birthday from my parents. 

Here Today” is Paul McCartney’s elegy for John Lennon. 

“This song is in the form of a conversation we never got to have.”

That statement serves as a succinct overture by Paul McCartney to his 1982 composition entitled “Here Today.”  The song is an elegy for John Lennon who was senselessly gunned down two years prior to its composition. McCartney is referring to a conversation he never had with his former bandmate.

Seeing Paul McCartney in concert several times over the last fifteen years, I was able to witness performances sprinkled with several cathartic tributes to friends no longer with us. He sang “Something” and “All Things Must Pass” for George Harrison who passed away from cancer in 2001. “My Love” was addressed to his wife, Linda, who also lost a courageous battle with cancer.  One of these tributes centered around John Lennon.

Alone on stage with an acoustic guitar, McCartney would provide a brief narrative frame for each mini-tribute. In the case of “Here Today,” Paul McCartney would explain how he wrote the piece for John Lennon. The song was an imaginary conversation. We, the audience, were invited by Paul into an intimate exchange of words. This was not some glorified tribute burdened with maudlin hype or melodramatic orchestration. We witnessing a man relieving the loss of his best mate.

The live performance of “Here Today” is a personal invitation to visit an imaginary conversation between two blokes from Liverpool named Paul and John. We are not seeing “A Hard Day’s Night” version of Paul and John. This is not the “Yellow Submarine” creation of these two iconic musicians. In fact, the concept of iconic is not allowed here. It’s a friend saying goodbye in the way that was brutally taken away.

One thing that strikes me in the live performance of “Here Today” is how Paul McCartney addresses the audience prior to the song. His words are direct and inviting. You feel like Paul is sitting with you over a cup of coffee and he shares the following:

“Don’t wait to tell someone you love them.”

The words resonate throughout the stadium. Some may think of the public and bitter breakup of The Beatles. John and Paul expressed their rancor not only in lawsuits but also in various albums filled with songs that were a thinly veiled references to their conflict. Thankfully, both men were able to reconcile their differences before the senseless act of violence that struck down John Lennon.

Perhaps, these words of Paul’s speak to a deeper truth for which we all can identify. Taking meaningful time to express love directly and sincerely is fast becoming a lost art in this age of ever-changing shifts. Social Media is both a platform and barrier for expressing gratitude and positivity. Direct, eyeball to eyeball communication filled with the weight of intentional sincerity falls at the bottom of many lists including mine. “Here Today” has evolved from an elegy to a beloved friend to an emotional reminder to connect with the ones we love before it’s too late.

As I write this, the school year is reaching a quick end. I think of the empty schoolhouses filled with an eerie quiet as custodians begin summer work orders. I imagine guidance counselors bundling up cumulative folders. I see teachers gathering with totes in the parking lot loading up cars. Summer is on the horizon and the promise of a new school year is in the distance.

I imagine a student who walked out of a schoolhouse on the last day of schoolhouse. This student is not wrapped in the protective armor of praise or kindness from a teacher or administrator. I envision a teacher without a handwritten note of gratitude from a principal. I see a student dreading a bus ride home entering a place where there is no refuge or warmth.

The ending of a school year is a frenzy of testing, rushed, abbreviated schedules and mad dashes to complete closing checklists. We sometimes lose the compassionate aura of our noble profession during this time. Sometimes the momentum collectively forged by an entire team of educators to sustain a positive school culture is lost in the year-end mania.

The echoes of Paul McCartney’s “Here Today” ring in my mental soundtrack and I remember his in-concert advice. His words of wisdom do indeed connect to the schoolhouse. The end of the school year has to shift from a being a rushed time of escape. It has to stand as a time in which we pause to connect with our students and colleagues in a profoundly positive way. It has to stand as a positive bookend into the lives of those we support, serve and collaborate with in the schoolhouse. That year-end bookend can resonate as the bridge to continue the positive momentum for the upcoming school year.

Taking the time to sincerely connect with those who dwell in the schoolhouse with words of praise, thanks and support is the beautiful key to play not for the future but “Here Today.”

Check out this performance of “Here Today” by Paul McCartney from a few years ago here.


Touring the Album: Sustaining the Masterpiece in Schoolhouse

“The album would go on tour.”

That was one idea The Beatles had in recording “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Beleaguered by the prison of Beatlemania and touring, the band had quietly ceased live performance. This unanimous decision by The Beatles proved to be the jailbreak needed to embrace freedom in musical innovation.   Recording “Sgt. Pepper” was rife with a hodgepodge of conceptual ideas integrated by The Beatles to savor the innovation they were exploring in the recording studio.

Imagine these statements being tossed around Studio 2 of EMI Recording Studios as The Beatles were dreaming their vision into reality:

  • “Let’s not be The Beatles on this track. We’re the Sgt. Pepper band. What would they sound like?
  • “There will be no pause each song on the record.”
  • “How about comb and tissue paper as a sound effect?”
  • “Those 24 empty bars need to be a giant orgasm of sound.”
  • “Surely, we can add an orchestral arrangement on top of these Indian instruments?”
  • “We can add animal noises at the end of the track.”
  • “Let’s toss on a sound that only dogs can hear.”

No idea was dismissed with derision. Creative risk-taking was the norm.  The band believed in full unity. All four Beatles had to vote in favor for a major decision to progress. Deciding not to tour was akin to career and financial ruin, but The Beatles raised their hands in full favor. The mindset was for their new album to go on tour instead of them.

What a grand and splendid tour for Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band! Upon first release in 1967, the “Sgt. Pepper” album sat comfortably at #1 on both the U.S. and U.K. Album Pop Charts. Within the following year, “Sgt. Pepper” earned Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Album. Over 10 million copies of the album have been sold and the impact is still resonating with this 50-year tour of Sgt. Pepper. Upon the release of the 50th Anniversary Editions of the “Sgt. Pepper” album, it debuted again at Number 1 on the U.K. Album Chart. In the United States, our military band leader reached #3 on the Hit Parade.

The Pepper Mindset of The Beatles in 1967 has insured that the album will infinitely echo as a timeless and universal work. A masterpiece was forged with collaboration, creativity, and risk-taking serving as the template for the band.

The schoolhouse is the marrow for future masterpieces in the eyes of our children. As educators, we have the same notes to tune into as we approach teaching and learning. Our work as educators is not simply designed to be a mere job. It is a calling to serve as catalyst for future masterpieces from our students. A tall, noble order for all teachers, but if we collectively build a approach that is positive and proactive, then we can sustain The Pepper Mindset in the schoolhouse.

As a principal/lead learner, I used to think that sustainability was a cute buzz word to dazzle a school improvement plan or sprinkle on a deadline-driven report. I do not mean to dismiss the importance of sustainability when it comes to building an instructional framework or physical infrastructure in the schoolhouse. Sustainability is sound leadership and remains a necessity when making decisions in the principal’s role.

If taking on The Pepper Mindset in the schoolhouse, sustainability is viewed in the road ahead for our kids and the impact we have on them. In turn, our students all have the potential to create a lasting impact in our world. Part of our varied role as educators is to be in tune with that as we help them forge a path in embracing the possibilities for the future.

When I walk in any schoolhouse, I often think that somewhere is a student who will solve a global problem or create a positive innovation for future generations. If that student is not in the building, then perhaps, there is a student who will be the mother, father, grandmother or grandfather for that person will do something world-changing.

Sustaining that mindset is found in so many creative and innovative approaches from ditching desks to create a more flexible learning environment. Embedding a time for students to create in a Makerspace or pursue a Passion Project is another way to sustain that masterpiece in the schoolhouse. Giving teachers time and support to collaborate on building innovative and uplifting learning experiences is another key note to hit in building sustainability. Placing all students in the center of  with a unifying positive culture, The Pepper Mindset can prove to be a transformative key for the schoolhouse.

We intentionally sustain the masterpiece in the schoolhouse with the belief that all of our students will make a positive impact. Taking a page from The Pepper Mindset, a schoolhouse has  the ability to have that same resonance as the final 45-second E-major piano chord that signals the end of the “Sgt. Pepper” album with “A Day in the Life.”

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is still on a world tour. The album still inspires and delights as an imaginary band loosely resembling The Beatles performs a fantasy concert. The setlist is filled with all kinds of musical genres and sound pictures. For the past 50 years, a masterpiece has etched its way into our collective soundtrack. We can aspire for that same level of masterpiece in the schoolhouse as educators collaborating, creating and dreaming in service and support of our students.

Ready to join the Sgt. Pepper Band?

Making Your Masterpiece: #ThePepperMindset in the Schoolhouse

I am a newly-minted principal and I am gazing up at the front door of the schoolhouse. Fear is gripping my sight and doing a demented tango up and down my nervous system. Prior echoes of negative remarks and quizzical looks from friends and colleagues come into the foreground:

“Why that school?”

“The bad kids all go there.”

“Those teachers think they run the school.”

“Are you sure you want to be a principal there?”

Fast forward to about three years later with many tears and tribulations in between. I am standing in our Media Center after a long, complex journey of applying for a federal magnet grant. We had built a solid, collaborative team in our schoolhouse fueled by a clear, articulated vision to always do what is best, innovative and uplifting for our students. We believed in this vision for our schoolhouse, but I was about to share that our grant proposal was rejected.

As I walked into our Media Center trying my best to keep upbeat and smiling, I noticed the entire grant writing team was standing in front of the faculty. One of the teachers on the team whispered to me: “We heard the bad news and we are not going to let you stand alone. We got this with you.”

Afterwards, our school received full endorsement from our school board to stand as a Magnet School in our district. We could still maintain our vision for a STEAM Magnet Theme. There would be no funding but our school was determined to make it happen. In a year, we secured nineteen community partners, doubled our student population to the point where we needed a waiting list, and embedded innovative teaching practices into our classrooms.

There were many things that served as sincere and solid support during those days of school turnaround. Leaning on so many from my wife to both my home and school families, I remain grateful.

Music proved to be a salve of encouragement as well. Little elements of songs and albums stitched a tapestry of solace for this principal. Both “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and “Can You Feel It?” by The Jacksons were on constant rotation during car rides into the schoolhouse.

One quote by a certain bass player from Liverpool named Paul McCartney stood as an internal pep talk for me:

“You just wait.”

These “words of wisdom” were whispered by me each time I faced a pitfall during my first principalship. Paul McCartney repeated these words in 1967 as The Beatles were recording the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Various newspapers were reporting that The Beatles were either breaking up or creatively dried up, since it had been almost six months since a new album had been released by the band.

Place this negative mindset in a year in which The Beatles had quit live performance after a tumultuous tour plagued by controversy. The double-A sided single of “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” was their first 45 release not to reach #1 on the charts. (It only reached a mere #2 on top Pop charts, instead.) Rumors were abundant as the band retreated to the studio to create their masterpiece.

“You just wait” was Paul’s retort to a naysayer-filled media. He knew The Beatles had a major recording ace up their collective sleeves. He later shared this sentiment in an interview commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the “Sgt. Pepper” album:

I remember the great glee seeing in one of the papers how The Beatles have dried up,

there’s nothing come from them, they’re stuck in the studio, they can’t think what they’re

doing, and I was sitting rubbing my hands, saying, “You just wait.”

(Sgt. Pepper at Fifty, 2017)

Paul McCartney believed in the band’s masterpiece. He believed in their collective vision of the album being conceptual in nature framed by a fantasy concert performed by the band’s newly-imagined alter egos of Sgt. Pepper’s band. Furthermore, McCartney believed in the musical brotherhood of his collaborators. Most importantly, he ignored the naysayers rolling their negative conjectures in the press.

All in all, I would make the contention that this quote from Paul McCartney best embodies the ethos of #ThePepperMindset. Here’s one way to encapsulate #ThePepperMindset and connect to future adventures in service and support of the schoolhouse:

  1. Believe in your vision.
  2. Believe in your masterpiece.
  3. Believe in your collaborators.
  4. Ignore the naysayers.

As a principal/lead learner, I have learned the necessity in building a clear, shared vision for the schoolhouse. It is important to approach all endeavors and journeys in the schoolhouse as having positive, great and lasting impact as a masterpiece does. We want our collective work for education to sustain and resonate as Michelangelo did with the Sistine Chapel. I think of the #Makerspace work of Laura Fleming and her inspiring students. Her students approach creativity with the mindset that their work is meaningful and lasting. I strive to approach my work in the schoolhouse as that I am helping to create a masterpiece of learning for our students. (Check out her “Worlds of Making” website for more inspiration here.)

Education is a collaborative and joyful journey. Love your collaborators and demonstrate your belief in them. I have been blessed with many colleagues who believed in my impossible dreams and I am called to do the same for the teachers I serve. My hope is that same belief is transferred to our students. Belief is the ignition for inspiration and the foundation for dreams. All schoolhouses must invite that belief for our educators and students.

The persistent beat of the naysayers will never diminish. If that negative beat was heeded by the great innovators and creators of our time, then think of the tragic gaps we would gaze upon in the distance. Think of a world without the impact of Martin Luther King or Malala Yousafzai. Imagine a world without the timeless and universal scope of The Beatles. We would not have The Pepper Mindset, which has endured as a wheelhouse for lasting innovation.

John, Paul, George and Ringo left us with a monumental legacy. Their impact still resonates and inspires. This “little bar band” from Liverpool changed the world. For educators, we are called to create new notes and sounds to change the world in the schoolhouse as The Beatles did with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

What masterpiece is the world waiting for from you?