As a former middle and high school football coach, I gave my share of pregame pep talk speeches. We gathered the team in an endzone or locker room and helped them focus on the game. 13 to 18-year-old athletes needed basic reminders of who was on kickoff but inspirational words also helped to set the early tone of the game. I always tried to emulate the message that Jimmy Valvano described in his 1993 ESPY speech in which he describes the three things every person should do every day. Early in the season, we would outline the three priorities of the team and these traits focused any speech for my athletes. This fall I have challenged the Learning Forward Kansas (LFKS) board to focus on three simple concepts:
Go Big, Stay Calm, Be Positive.
Obviously, to “go big” one must have goals and aspirations, but the concept is larger. Too often educators are hesitant to attempt something different or push back against a new initiative. To go big means to refuse to let fear of the unknown stop our efforts. For years I have prescribed the concepts that Marainne Willamson outlined in her quote highlighted in the movie Coach Carter. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that frightens us.” Many educators tend to ”play it safe” and while we always want research-based methodologies, we stop short of achieving our ultimate greatness. Perhaps we fear how great our impact might be; we fear our light. Over the next year, LFKS will strive to go big and find new ways to spread the “how” of professional learning.
Teaching during a pandemic, one can become overwhelmed easily. Teachers are balancing students in quarantine along with worrying about their own health. Educators throughout the state will need to remember to stay calm. I have always liked the analogy of a duck on water. On the surface, educators will look graceful and calm, even when the world spins too quickly.
In a TED Talk, educator Rita Pierson challenges teachers to be the hero that every student deserves. These words and concepts inspired the idea to be positive. We challenge you to be positive and confident and you will make a difference this year. Strive to impact students at higher levels and be assured that you have the skills to make a difference.
Eric Shipman, President
Learning Forward Kansas