Friday, February 14, 2014

The Next...

I love sports talk radio.  I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in the car between 3:00-10:00 pm most evenings these days and podcasts continue to be a great way to pass that time.  I truly enjoy the work done by Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo on SVP and Rusillo.  In starting the BrandED podcast with TonySinanis, I get a sense of what it takes to put a very very small show together.  Our podcast is 12 minutes...recorded...and only happens every other week.  These guys put quality interviews and live conversation together on a daily basis.  It is much harder than they make it sound.  One of the things I like about the show is that they don’t spend a great deal of time talking about The Next.  Sports and sports talk is absolutely obsessed with The Next.  It is clearly driven by the idea that listeners identify greatness and are always looking for something comparable…we tend to avoid enjoying the moment, and seek out something more.  The Next Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, and Magic Johnson discussion will be replaced with who will be The Next Kevin Durant, Andrew Luck, and LeBron James…because it is always interesting to think beyond greatness.

When working with students, the mindset of The Next can easily get flipped.  Years ago when I was in a different district, I heard from fellow teachers… “Well, he’s a (fill in the name of a family who has struggled) so we are just hoping to get them through high school”.  As wrong as it is to live in the obsession with who is the next superstar, comments like those drove me crazy.  So…because family members in the past have struggled we automatically shut down any hope of a sibling having success because they are The Next?  No.  If we treat a student differently because of that concept, we are just contributing to an assumed predetermined path of failure…and that is simply not fair.

The mindset also needs to be evident in school.  As organizations we spend so much time looking at other programs and expect similar results if we implement the same systems.  The reality is that all schools are unique.  Initiatives like Genius Hour, Project Based Learning, and 1 to 1 are awesome…but the success is in the process.  Your school culture and identity are not bought from a box, they are built from the character in your walls.  The Next great initiative will be replaced with a new Next great initiative, but the success of your school is dependent on the people, not the programs (thank you Todd Whitaker).

Kids in schools invariably follow the path of society.  They emulate and desire to be those who they connect with either personally or from afar.  Social media has allowed our students to go on the journey of famous athletes, singers, and Hollywood superstars from their phone…so the idea of The Next is firmly implanted from a very young age.  Social media and technology are not going away, so hope is clearly lost…right?  Wrong.  We need to encourage our kids to stop thinking about The Next…and become The First.  Every person is unique and has the opportunity to do something wonderful.  Though their interest may stem from what they see…the idea that they can be The First shouldn’t leave their thought process. There is no shame in admiring the work of superstars…and no shame in using things they have done to become successful to improve your own personal or group achievement.  However, their situation was different than your situation, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow may be different for you than it was for them.  All of those things are great…because the world needs variety.

The irony of it all is this...the people they emulate were, more often than not, The First.  Every single day, 802 future superstars walk through our doors…and our hope for them is not to become The Next…but to become The First. Go Crickets.