I write today with a heavy heart. A few phrases that I have known for over 13 years and have had the pleasure of hearing thousands of times as an educator need to officially be laid to rest. These phrases have been the topic of many conversations and the basis for a number of heartaches. These phrases stood the test of time, but it’s time for their stigma to be lifted. Before we officially retire these phrases let’s take a deeper look at their legacy and the misperceptions that have allowed each of them to carry on for as long as they have.
Phrase 1: “If only he/she had the right last name”
A very common phrase heard in many administrative offices across the country. Many times this phrase presents itself around sport and activity. It is perceived that the last name is a free pass to stardom and/or special treatment. This phrase always bugged me for reasons that many don’t grasp. I believe that last-names are something to be proud of. You see, behind every last name I would bet is an individual or group of individuals that went through much more heart-ache and anxiety than the child whose family uses this phrase as an excuse. More than likely somewhere down the gene pool an individual risked everything in their life for the opportunity for a better life. Maybe they were persecuted for religious beliefs, or mistreated because of race. They fled their life in one area to establish roots in another. Roots that would be able to foster growth for generations to come.
Be proud of your last name. I’m proud of mine. When times are tough for me – I try to think back to my ancestors. Yep, pretty sure they had it much tougher – but because they made it through – I’m here today. When it comes to school related sport and activity your last name doesn’t determine participation and/or special treatment. Work-ethic, heart, team-work, motivation, dignity, intellect, and all things character related will determine if your name is called or not. Let’s stop using “last-name” as an excuse and instead carry the name with pride. If your ancestors made it through, you will too.
Phrase 2: “The school spends too much money on activities and athletics”
I was once asked this question in an interview. “How do you justify spending more money on football than your math department?” I immediately answered with “we don’t have to put helmets on our math students.”
Clever – I know. Seriously though, when you factor all costs, math comes in a great deal higher than the football program. But so many people fail to understand the importance of social-emotional intelligence. Meaning; what students learn from sport and activity is just as important as what students learn from core curriculum. That’s bold to say, but it’s so true…especially today. To be successful in the world today one needs to be creative. They need to be able to collaborate, communicate, and to think critically. Activity and athletics develop character. Skills such as persistence, perseverance, team-work are skills needed in this world to be successful and they are all by-products of sport and activity. Trust, accountability, and dependability are a few more.
I’ve always joked that losing a big game, or scoring low at a speech meet will yield more growth than learning the square root of four in math class. Sorry math teachers. I’m not saying math is not important. We know how important it is, but we cannot rule out the importance of social-emotional intelligence. We’ve reached a world in which what you know, is not as important as how you think and it’s how you think that will catapult your career.
Let’s no longer compare costs and let’s instead agree that a well-rounded education must include a social-emotional curriculum. By the way, the goal of traditional education was to gain knowledge, and today that can no longer be our goal. We are all knowledgeable – we can get the answer to anything with the help of technology. We must focus on creating new knowledge and a strong social-emotional intelligence will steer you on that path.
Phrase 3: “This is the way we have always done it”
Honestly if we lived by this we would still be plowing fields with oxen. We would still be walking to school uphill both ways. I would be writing this blog with paint on papyrus. I could keep going here but you get my point.
The world is very transformative right now. Education too, is transformative. We must embrace new ideas with a sense of urgency. Some of these will prove to not work but for every step back one must take two steps forward. Our kids deserve our very best. We are learning so much more about brain functionality. Our instructional strategies are improving. Just because it’s comfortable for you doesn’t mean that it is right for students. Nothing good comes from comfort zones. Do not embrace the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it mentality.” If it ain’t broke, ain’t no saying it can’t be made better…right. Mic drop. (Wireless mouse drop when blogging)
So let’s lay these three phrases to rest. They have been around long enough. These phrases have some cousins that we didn’t talk about that need to go as well. “This too shall pass,” “Somebody else will do it,” “I’m just a nobody from nobodyville.” Actually I’ve never heard that last one, but nobody is a nobody and nobody lives in nobodyville as far as I’m aware.
I appreciate you taking the time to pay last respects to these phrases. Now if you will excuse me – I’m going to go research some ancestry.
Have a fabulous day.