Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Failure of Imagination

Language can still be an adventure if we remember that words can make a kind of melody. In novels, news stories, memoirs and even to-the-point memos, music is as important as meaning. In fact, music can drive home the meaning of words. " (Constance Hale. The Sound of a Sentence. New York Times. [Opinionator]. Retrieved June 13, 2012 from

I enjoyed reading this beautiful post by Constance Hale on writing, creative expression, and language. What we fail to understand in this maddening world of "tests, tests, and more tests" is the frightening realization that our expectations for learning revolve around multiple choice responses. It reminds me of the Pavlov Dog Show for Humans, so that ignorant politicians can brag their test scores are proving something.

But, what of creativity? How do we foster imagination and kindle that spark of inspiration that only a child will develop in wonderment?

In the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon" an interesting episode on the aftermath of the Apollo I disaster was presented. All the greatest minds in the country were investigating how this horrific fire could have occurred killing three astronauts. It wasn't until the end of the episode when Astronaut Frank Borman was being questioned by a congressional oversight committee that the true reason for the cause was revealed.

According to Astronaut Borman, we lacked the imagination that something could go wrong. We did not want to consider that something could happen that would prevent us from being successful. We lacked the imagination.

The same can be said in our schools and classrooms if we continue to allow the political demagogues work against the creativity and expression of our students. Children need to spend time each week in role playing, creativity scenarios, and expressive writing. These skills must be cultivated alongside the test-taking skills, and the rote memorization that certain people mandate.

Our failure to work on these skills will be our failure to imagine the future.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bagger Vance and School Leadership

One of the things I have learned since being retired is to work and focus on something to keep my mind and body active. I could have done this by writing and consulting, but I began to remember that life is too short to change the minds of people caught up in their own delusions. So, I took up the goals of getting physically fit, writing a novel, and improving my golf swing, all things that I could do something about. The physically fit stuff is fine, even though I sweat and smell awful to keep active, life is good. Writing a novel has been fun, but mentally challenging.

The golf swing, and playing golf so much has taught me much about the things and problems that I have had in my career as a school administrator, such as the APPR, the state education department, and dealing with red tape and insurmountable problems day in and day out- much of what most administrators do everyday. As you play an 18 hole round of golf, each hole is beset with all sorts of issues, obstacles, challenges, and obstructions to your progress of playing the hole in as few shots as possible, and moving on to the next hole. There may be a sand trap- or two, or three- a water hazard, bushes, trees, and other environmental hazards, but the goal will always be the same, getting the ball to the hole in as direct and efficient manner as possible.

While it took me many years of golf to be able to finally smell the roses and learn to enjoy the game. When I play now, I focus on my swing, carefully, consistently, and rhythmically, practicing, and practicing often, and managing each hole with a consistent, relaxed, and focused strategy.

Since the goal of playing golf is to compete against yourself, and improve while doing it, being a school administrator is a similar game to being a good golfer.

In the words of Bagger Vance, "Yep... Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing... Somethin' we was born with... Somethin' that's ours and ours alone... Somethin' that can't be taught to ya or learned... Somethin' that got to be remembered... Over time the world can, rob us of that swing... It get buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas... Some folk even forget what their swing was like..."

Don't let the water hazards of the APPR, the SED, or the sand traps of ineffective teachers, crazy parents, unruly children, deter you from staying in your game with an efficient, and consistent strategy. And when the game is over, the day is over. Go home, live your life. Find joy in your life, your family, and do it all over again tomorrow (something I wish I did more of as a school administrator).

For your homework I sincerely request you watch the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance" with a glass of wine, and no distractions. I challenge you to find the analogies to being a great school administrator, and you will find that all of these hazards are just temporary distractions from doing what you do best...providing a quality education for each child in your schools.