If you ever played Little League baseball or even coached it, there is one thing that will forever be etched into your baseball memory…the Opening Day parade. As a little leaguer in West Hempstead, I can clearly remember every detail. The march to Echo Park, the banners, the music, the energy that seemed to saturate every inch of the pavement, the smiling parents, the passion that lived in every step of all boys and girls, the candy at the concession stand, and the pride that existed in every ounce of choreography. In fact, I can probably precisely trace the bond that my father and I shared back to these days. It was our thing every year. As a current little league coach in Kings Park, I look forward to these days with my son. This year was different. The weather rained on our parade…on April 13th only. Since the 13th, our Kings Park Youth board has been working tirelessly to reschedule every aspect of the parade to ensure our children don’t miss out. Us, too, let’s be honest. We won’t let the weather take us off course for what is best for kids. What if we approached teaching and learning every day like we do the little league baseball parade? We would guarantee….
- The experience is worth the anticipation. I continue to hear stories of how disappointed our kids were that the parade was postponed. Even from kids who fear parades. Kids couldn’t sleep the night before because the reports of bad weather worsened. Imagine classrooms where the learning matched the students’ anticipation the night before. Teaching and learning with students in mind. Students who relentlessly think about how great tomorrow is going to be in their classrooms. Classrooms where the learning is so engaging that to miss out would be a disappointment. What if we concentrate on this idea when we plan lessons that give voice to the students sitting before us? That the choreography sings to the students’ ears. Could we eliminate the instruction that just passes time? The instruction that students wouldn’t waste their time thinking about beforehand? Let’s plan the learning parade. EVERY DAY. EVERY MINUTE.
- We proudly wear our brand together. I think what prompts little league players to smile the most on opening day is the wearing of their uniforms. It is the bond that they share with their teammates. Walking behind their team banners furthers this connection to something bigger. Something better. Every member of the team informs the brand. What it means to be a five year old Met. A seven year old Yankee. A ten year old Brave. What if we ensure that all staff members, students, and community members understand the brand that they represent? What if this brand is communicated clearly? What if we are honest with each other when the brand is cheated on? What if we culturized every aspect of our schools so the brand never bleeds?
- Our students look forward to marching…through our hallways and into our classrooms. Tom Murray asked, “Do your students knock down the doors to get into your classroom?” Think about the difference between students walking through the hallway because they have three minutes to pass and students who march to their classrooms with the same energy witnessed during a little league parade. If number one above was in place, hallways would be different. We wouldn’t have to move students along. Can we be bold enough to draw a connection between hallway behavior and the teaching and learning that exists in our classrooms? Let’s look at that data. Which rooms are students running toward? Which are they purposely showing up to at the bell or just after it rings?
- Despite the weather that NYSED may throw at us, we write the counter narrative. The focus on the initiatives from NYSED often reside in negative places. The obsession with over testing, evaluation scores, new standards, revised accountability measures, unrealistic expectations in short amounts of time, data that may not make sense, and the list can go on and on. With all of this, the best school leaders and teachers don’t take their eyes off of the prize of amplified student learning. We write the narrative that speaks to our students’ needs. We allow our teachers to tell their own stories in real time. We push students to write for authentic audiences. We motivate staff members to develop PLNs so they can see beyond the ideas that can be walled in. We put technology in students’ hands because we KNOW and BELIEVE in the world that we live in. We understand that balanced screen time is GOOD for kids. We read, we write, we reflect, and we learn together. ALL OF US. We choose connected because our kids deserve it. We are transparent and vulnerable. We not only embrace change but we seek it. We crave it because kids change, too.
- Our morale and culture are what we decide them to be. I really believe that morale and culture are created and destroyed every minute. In fact, they are created and destroyed but its own members. See number four above. I have been a teacher, dean, assistant principal, curriculum associate, executive assistant for technology integration, and now a director of technology and innovation. I have loved every job because I seek change and celebrate the bright spots. I create a culture of yes in all that I do. Even when one of my former organization’s cultures didn’t match the students’ needs. Look at the Kings Park Youth approach. We are doing everything we can to make sure that our parade will go on at some point in May. We can live inside the culture of “We are sorry it rained. We don’t control the weather.” Or, we create a culture of “We will find another date for the photographer, the players and coaches, the grand marshal, the food truck, etc. We will find a way.” How could we not?
I’ve heard educators say, “Let’s make school like Disney World.” Let’s keep it easy. Let’s infuse the excitement, energy, and connectedness of the little league parade into our daily work. Rain or shine.