Sunday, February 26, 2017

Track 2: I Can

Thanks for coming back to the second track.  As I reflect back on the first song, "In Every Child a Promise," I consistently come back to our purpose in teaching -- to help young people become their next best selves.  Teachers have an incredible sphere of influence on young people.  Look no further than tonight's Oscars.  

I think back to my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. McGlothin, who took a kid with promise and recommended him to the honors program.  I was not the greatest student nor what I test for GATE.  I had a strong work ethic and a teacher that believed in me.  I did not have parents that understood the role of advocacy and I am so grateful that Mrs. McGlothlin opened a door that led to so many more great opportunities in my life.  If you have a chance, please read this link about Mrs. McGlothlin ... it's my story about the power of high expectations (I tried to submit it to Chicken Soup for the Soul).   We can prepare teachers for the art and science of teaching, but I feel strongly that we must infuse soul into teaching as well.  That is we must always remember the importance of positive relationships and high expectations.  Simon Sinek talks about this soul in his research about what motivates and influences people.  He refers to it as "Starting with Why."  In his Ted Talk, he shows how understanding  this concept propels us to focus on our purpose.  In the case of education, the Why in my opinion is always going to be about kids (the soul of teaching).  The How is the pedagogy or art of teaching and the What is the organization of curriculum and resources or the science of teaching.

Let's take a look at a song that reflects this sense of purpose in our lives as educators.  As a kid growing up in the Golden Era of Hip Hop, I can tell you firsthand how this music shaped so many lives.  Hip Hop sometimes gets a bad rap (pun intended), but if you really look at the layers of the music, you can find so many positive messages about believing in one's self and overcoming obstacles. Nas puts forth a challenge to youth about achieving their dreams in his song, I Can.  In the hook, he calls for an anthem of self-assurance:

Be what I wanna be (be what I wanna be) 
If I work hard at it (If I work hard it)
I'll be where I wanna be (I'll be where I wanna be)
Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up 
You can be anything in the world, in God we trust
An architect, doctor, maybe an actress 
But nothing comes easy it takes much practice

Imagine if we as educators used this an anthem for all of our students regardless of their background. If our Why is high expectations for all, then our How and our What will follow suit.  As we explore the soul of teaching, don't forget that every kid also has his/her Why and we need to provide an environment that is flexible enough to allow each student to maximize his/her potential.  I like what Todd Rose has to say in his Ted Talk about "The Myth of Average."  He sees a gift in all students... they just need to be able to express it and we need to go beyond the concept of average.  

I hope you enjoyed Track 2:  I Can by Nas.  We will continue our talk about the soul of education next month.  I know that you are still singing the hook in your head.  Check out these resources for high expectations and teaching...

One of my favorites things to do with students was to call each one of them up to a chair in front of the classroom and tell the class how special this student was to me.  I also took pictures of students with diplomas and asked them to make a class promise to get to Day 720 (that's how many days are in a high school career for most students).  Keep making a positive difference you mighty educators!

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