A riff on school thinking…inspired by “There are no mistakes on the bandstand.” Stefon Harris

Listening. Responding. Refusing to bully one’s ways. Pulling ideas. Improvising. Innovating. Working with the color and emotional palette. Collaborating in concert with one’s team and one’s band. Making beautiful music. [Watch the TED below, and more of those phrases may be put into greater context.]

I think a lot about what school could be like. I love school. I have always loved school. But I think school can be better.

This morning, I viewed the four TED talks that were awaiting me in my RSS reader:

I learned about “Captchas,” and I learned about spider-silk biomimicry. I learned about MRI-focused ultrasound for non-invasive surgery, and I learned about jazz improv. But I learned about so much more than just these things. As a whole, I learned about people working to make things better…to make things more beautiful. From the whole, I learned some meta-lessons about innovation and improvisation.

When will school reflect the ideas that Stefon Harris espouses in his talk? When might we see the only “mistakes” in school as those moments which reveal that we failed to respond as deep listeners? Where are these types of innovations and improvs happening in order to enhance schools in ways that we are working to enhance language translation, armor and connective fibers, medical procedures, and jazz music? Where is the real R&D? Where are the jam sessions? Rest assured, there are some! There must be more!

I believe teacher teams – PLCs (professional learning communities) – can function very much like that quartet that is playing with Stefon Harris. I have been blessed to be a part of such a team in the Junior High at Westminster for quite some time. But we might need to think of ourselves less as pianists, drummers, bassists, and vibraphone-ists – less like history teachers, math teachers, science teachers, and English teachers. We may need to think of ourselves more like a quartet…a band – more like teachers of children, problem-finders and problem-solvers, innovators and improvisationalists, and challenge-facers. Then, our efforts could begin to work more like pulling ideas and listening and responding. And we administrators should be making space and time for such work. We should not restrict with regulations. We should be more concerned with pedagogy and practice than with lawsuits and legal. We should facilitate – make easier to accomplish.

Schools that operated as such would not make mistakes on the bandstand – we would make music!

How would you listen and respond to this riff? What would you add to this palette of thinking? Will you play an E or an F#? How will I consequently listen and respond? Let’s make schools better…let’s tune them to create more beautiful music!

Can we play together? Wanna jam?

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