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Walking Away from Formulas and Candlestick Park

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Beatles in concerto al Velodromo Vigorelli 1965

Within a sea of mania, the concluding chords of “Long Tall Sally” resonate throughout a summer evening over Candlestick Park in San Francisco circa 1966. A band leaps from the stage into an armored vehicle driving away knowing that this is their live concert. Putting aside a string of hit albums, Number 1 singles and worldwide fame, The Beatles quietly walk away from an established run towards gold-plated success. 

Here’s an Essential Question to ponder: Do you walk away from a proven formula of success, wealth and adulation in order to embrace individual or collective growth?

As educators we are given many rallying cries to kick aside the status quo and leap headfirst into the safety net of change. There are many reasons for this rally cry for transformation within our profession. I will not rewind the tape on the more eloquent tracks laid for the need to manifest a transformation in education for our kids, teachers and families. Reading my own Principal Morning Memo to Staff or visiting a faculty meeting at my school, I am passionately keeping a steady beat on the cowbell known as “Change.” I ask myself if that steady beat is simply enough to ignite sincere change in the schoolhouse. Are those kinds of things simply enough from me as a principal?

How do we encourage each other as educators to walk away from those practices which only produce a slight indentation of positive results? There are classroom practices which are usually disguised as best practices but they produce nothing to inspire and compel our kids.

I can chant, dance and weave dazzling words arounds this, but this movement to change starts with me in the schoolhouse. My words are meaningless unless I provide sincere and sustaining action as a principal and lead learner. It starts with me modeling what I expect. It starts with me putting action behind the belief that I hold for our kids and the future. It starts with me crafting a bridge of support for other teachers wishing to innovate. Simply put, I have to hold myself accountable.

The Beatles walked away from a successful practice which generated undying fame and a mountain of riches. Touring was their collective bread and butter and it was a proven formula for securing fame and profit. The band quit touring because they felt that they could not grow as musicians among other reasons. Furthermore, they quit touring because they were intentional in seeking to innovate and infuse a paradigm shift on recording techniques. What followed musically from The Beatles continues to resonate and inspire. Following their halt to touring in addition to seeking individual time away from the band, The Beatles produced the double A-sided single in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” This landmark single was followed by their magnum opus album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

As a principal, I certainly wish I had a song like “Strawberry Fields Forever” in me to perform for our teachers to inspire global change and innovation. Although I am not one-man band, I can certainly reach in that creative direction by holding myself accountable to model change even more. There are plenty of ways of doing that by modeling a classroom activity for teachers or providing real-time access to meaningful professional development. I can even flip a faculty meeting in order to model personalized learning. That type of meeting could even include desks being ditched with an #EdCamp theme. There are many paths I must take to model this change for meaningful action in service and support of our kids in the schoolhouse. A catalyst for change sometimes stares right back at you squarely in the face.

Walking away from formulas in education requires courage and vision. Walking towards a new path requires support, modeling and encouragement. Our schools deserve the bold, creative leadership in service and support of kids.

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Sean Gaillard is the Principal/Lead Learner of John F. Kennedy High School in Winston-Salem, NC. He is the founder of #CelebrateMonday and moderates the #EdBeat Twitter Chat. Sean is an ambassador for Buncee and Kahoot. Conference presenttaions include ISTE 2016, ILA '16 and the Arts Integration and STEAM Online Conference. You can follow him on Twitter at @smgaillard. 

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Guest Thursday, 25 April 2019