Monday, 23 March 2015

"Earning It"

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

As many will know, I am a massive Springsteen fan and despite him being worth over $300m, he still delivers 3 hour plus shows, renowned for their energy and high tempo; he still works very hard despite the fact he may be able to 'get away' with a sub-2 hour greatest hits performance going through the motions. For a while now, I have thought that there is a potential analogy with teaching, especially for those who have been in the job a while, particularly at the same school, do you still 'earn it'?

Jake Clemons, nephew of the late, great Clarence, who now plays with Bruce and the E Street band shared this in an interview:

"There are words that he gave me very early on that stuck with me. He pulled me into the dressing room — I believe it was our second show — and he said, ‘Listen, this is really important: you haven’t earned it. You haven’t earned it. You won’t earn it. You’re still earning it. After 40 years, I’m still earning it.’ Every night he goes on that stage, he’s aware. Everyone there has an expectation. Just like it was on day one. Just like it will be on the last day. And you have to earn it and fulfill that expectation. That was huge. What a beautiful nugget that you can hold on to, and really apply it to everything. The moment you think you’ve earned it, you’ve lost it.” [Read it in full <here>]

Do we ever 'earn it' as teachers?

If we reach middle leadership have we 'earned it'?
... Senior leadership?
... Headteacher?

I'm not sure we are 'only as good as our last lesson' and students are, thankfully, generally forgiving. However your status or title, career length or even perceived 'coolness' does not mean you have 'earned it' in school. 

I think this is the importance of reflection. I hated doing lesson evaluations when I was doing my PGCE, I just wanted to get on with nailing the next lesson. However, I now spend a lot more time thinking about when things go wrong. Sometimes I teach lessons which really don't work, or for some reason, I haven't had enough time to plan it properly (welcome to the world of Head of Year...). If I teach a lesson like this, I really try to 'earn it' back with the next lesson. I feel a real responsibility to convince them that I am better than that last lesson, that I do care, and I do want to deliver great lessons as often as I physically can. 

As a middle leader myself, I am not just trying to 'earn it' with students but also with my department and year team. Do I take my share of the dirty work? Am I willing to do the same as what I ask of others? It can be easy to hide away in your office when that end of lunch bell rings. 

This is one of my favourite live Springsteen videos. The 6th song of a 27 song show. A 60 year old man absolutely 'earning it'. Teaching is a physical job, but so is fronting a rock'n'roll band! Springsteen has a fitness regime that he has carried out for over 30 years involving free weights and running six miles a day in order that he can perform to this level. 

Yet (thankfully) we don't need to knee-slide and dive into the crowd every night... although that would be a great way to get through period 6 on a Friday with Y11.

I hope that went I get to Springsteen's age (65), wealth (!?), status, title (THE Boss) and having a career lasting 50 years, that I still go out every day and make sure I "earn it".

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