Yes. That is me in all my awkward glory as a Junior High kid. Perm, feathered bangs, braces and all the insecurity that comes with being a 13 year old girl trying to make sense of the world. I’m so glad that I grew out of that phase eventually. As a woman in my 40's, I have discovered my passion, my purpose, and every day I am becoming a better version of myself as I become more fully me. However, this life is a roller coaster. Sometimes I’m holding my hands straight up in the air and experiencing the thrill and momentum of the adventure and other times I am in the climb and fearful of what’s on the other side. In fact there are moments, when I feel all the insecurity and awkwardness of that 13 year old girl. There is a vulnerability that comes with sharing your passion and journey with others. You are living at risk that others may not agree or believe in what you have to say.
The tranquil space between Christmas and New Year’s is a time of reflection for me. I love spending time reading, writing, and thinking about the year ahead. This year, an insecurity settled into my tranquility when I had too much time sitting with my own thoughts. As #OneWord declarations and positivity flooded social media when the New Year approached, our gloomy Southern Oregon winter fog settled into my soul and I knew I had to get above the clouds and refocus on my why if I was going to start this year out truly being the “spark” that I wanted to be in 2019. (Read my blog post #OneWord19)
I woke up on an icy New Year’s morning and decided it was the perfect day to stay in my pajamas with a good book to hopefully boost my spirits. As I looked at my bookshelf overflowing with an assortment of books begging to be read, my eyes fell upon Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. I remember the very first time I listened to a Dave on a podcast five years ago. I was on a morning run and I remember immediately telling my husband he had to listen to this guy. He was the most enthusiastic, passionate educator I had ever heard and what he was saying echoed everything in my heart that I knew education should be. It wasn’t long before I purchased Teach Like a Pirate and started reading. A spark definitely was ignited that day and has since grown into a blazing fire. Though I’ve read Teach Like a Pirate more than once and have referenced various chapters numerous times, I decided today was a day I needed my fire to be rekindled. I needed to read it straight through.
As I was reading I realized how greatly this book has shaped me as an educator. The PIRATE philosophy is something I agree with wholeheartedly and has undoubtedly fueled my passion for making learning magical. I highlighted and starred various sections as I read. Then, I came to the chapter “The Awkward Question”. I had read this chapter before, more than once. Why was I crying? Maybe because this was the chapter my heart needed to hear today; the one that reminded me of my why. My purpose. My calling.
To share the power of creating magical learning spaces that are filled with joy and passion;
Dave begins the chapter asking, “Do you want to be great?” He goes on to share how this question is often met with nervous gazes and an awkward silence when asked at conferences he speaks at. Because, let’s face it...though many educators secretly want to be great, it feels awkward or even egotistical and selfish to voice it. To share our ideas, successes, and innovations feels like bragging so all too often we keep to our EDUsilos; making magic happen in our classroom while celebrating our victories towards greatness in silence.
I love this quote by Dave Burgess;
“Ultimately, the world becomes a better place because of your greatness. Therefore, in our profession, striving for greatness is the ultimate act of unselfishness! We are in a service profession and there is nothing egotistical or selfish about wanting to provide world-class service to our clients”.
I agree with this 100% as I have benefited 10-fold from the educators I’ve learned from over the years, filling my social media feed, podcast channels, and the conference sessions I’ve attended with amazing ideas, resources, and inspiration. Their passion and enthusiasm fuels the flame that keeps me chasing after greatness for the profession of education. If it were not for these “greatness seekers” I may have remained a burnt out teacher buried in the sand of mediocrity that is all too prevalent in our schools.
Seeking greatness, as Dave says, “is a journey that can ignite, stoke, and continuously fuel a raging inferno. That journey begins the instant a teacher chooses to shift his or her mindset and says, 'Yes, I want to be great!'” I have totally found that to be true over the course of the past five years. You see, I never planned on sharing my passion through public speaking, blog writing, or in the pages of a book. Yet, I found that when your life is profoundly transformed and you know that what you experience could possibly help transform others’ lives too, you can’t keep it in. You are compelled to share because it becomes your purpose, your heartbeat. It’s what gets you up in the morning. It brings you joy.
However in our humanity, we can let the negativity that surrounds us steal that joy. We begin listening to the naysayers, we start doubting our abilities, we start losing sight of our why. Sometimes the people who once supported and encouraged us, disappear and leave us wondering what happened. Sometimes people doubt our intentions, or our philosophy. Sometimes we just feel straight up awkward. Dave said something mid-chapter that stung a little, “Stop seeking external validation”. Ouch! Watch it, Dave. Now you’re getting personal. But darn it, it’s true. Too often my emotions are swayed due to seeking validation for what I do. Why? It’s not only stealing my joy, but it’s keeping me from my mighty purpose. As Dave says, “I don’t want to play small--I want to be larger than life”.
This chapter ends with Dave’s story about the Little Drummer Boy. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and read this blog post where he shares the story. (Click HERE) It touches my heart every time, because I feel like I am the little drummer girl who has found my personal “drum” and am just trying to play it the best that I can.
“Forget about all of the things you can’t control and play your drum to the best of your abilities. Play with all the passion, enthusiasm and heart you can muster. Nothing else really matters. You can offer no finer gift or higher honor to the world than to find out what your “drum” is and then play it for all it’s worth.”
So this year I am embracing the awkward question with a big fat, YES! I want to be great and I want you to be great too. Because that’s what education needs. An army of little drummers playing their drums with all the passion they can muster! Play your music loud, because only then will we drown out mediocrity and fill our schools with joy, passion and greatness.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.