Well I hope you had a good weekend but I had a simply awesome weekend. Being able to go down to Melbourne for a weekend is a fantastic thing.. and going down to see Bruce Springsteen live at AAMI Park took it to a whole new level. On the journey down, during some down time and whilst I was returning to Sydney, I took the opportunity to get into David Price’s (@davidpriceobe) book OPEN.
I’m sure David would be thrilled to be in the same space as The Boss, and this post is a little hat tip to these two men.
Many commentators, including the New Jersey-born comedian Jon Stewart (who hosts The Daily Show in the USA) frequently.. well…comment… on the fact that Springsteen is one of the most energetic 64-year-olds to be alive let alone jumping around a stage in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans. Many of the same commentators feel that he, like other great performers touring around the place, leave it all on the stage. It’s clear that at the end of a gig, they have pushed themselves to their limit for the sake of their art. They leave nothing in the tank as they walk (probably completely exhausted) from their altar to music.
In David’s book OPEN, he explores similar ideas regarding engagement. In particular, the correlation between engagement and success/development at school and in the workplace. He throws down an incredibly heavy gauntlet at the feet of the status quo (the band Status Quo is still touring, but I’m not talking about them) to say that actually according to the evidence – and there is a surprising amount of it – being engaged and active in the process of learning and working is critical to success. You can’t confect engagement and expect productivity to rise. You can’t ignore it and expect students and employees to buzz with energy like at AAMI Park last night.
One of the most appealing aspects of Bruce Springsteen to me is that he – like other excellent artists – is able to make connections to real life and real emotions. He might be singing about the post-industrial challenges of Jersey (8.4% unemployment for example – about double the number before the GFC) or about hypocrisy of those in power or about the inner workings of love. He might take you on a journey through history or culture or issues that are not at all comfortable. He doesn’t just pull your heartstrings – he smashes them on his microphone stand like he does his guitar. You are there. You are engaged.
I do wonder quite often whether I leave enough on my little stage – that space in which my students and I occupy the same time and place (including the digital world). Am I giving my all? Am I draining every creative and intellectual braincell to give my students as engaging and valuable experience as possible? Is it even possible to do so in a profession that is torn between a love of learning (philosophy), agreed processes and practices (pedagogies) and an accountability structure (curriculum)? I know that in some lessons I stretch myself to the point where I don’t know what else I could have done to make it more interesting, challenging, appropriate and valuable to my kids. But. Do I do it enough? Am I attempting to maintain an engaged ‘status’ with my students and learning?
Of course, we aren’t all the Boss. Most of us are only supermen in our dreams. Though I will admit, one of the greatest moments as a teacher when you and your students connect over something. And for us it doesn’t have to be in a stadium.