Inspiration comes from a thousand sources. As a principal, I find the most lasting inspiration comes from the people I work with: staff, students, parents, and alumni. If I’m ever feeling run down, the best balm I’ve found is to visit classrooms. Watching the energy of great teaching and learning is a pick me up like no other.
Still, there are times when I can’t make it to a classroom: an evening in my office before a night time supervision, a day when meetings trap me at my desk for an extended period, and it’s then that I look to art for inspiration.
To that end, I keep two slim blue volumes near my desk. They’re small enough to slip into a pocket, worn with age, and thumbed with use. I can’t count the times one or the other has accompanied me (tucked in a school jacket) out to a cold night of soccer or lacrosse. Perspective, is what they provide me. Poetic, insightful, and touching in the way only Shakespeare can be. When I need to hear it, I’m reassured that I’m not alone in despising “idle ceremony.”
But a reflection on this lit’ry fare would be more at home in a book than a blog, and truth be told, it’s only one of those thousand sources. Pop culture provides its fair share of perspective and inspiration too, and three sparks that kindle my fire come from movies or popular music. When I have only a couple of minutes, I turn to…
“The trick is not minding that it hurts.” Want to be a strong principal? You’re going to have to put out a match with your fingers from time to time. You can’t make it not hurt. You can control your own response to it.
I love Lawrence of Arabia, but I think my favorite movie may be The Third Man. From its opening lines (“I never knew the old Vienna…”) through the final shot of Anna’s walk from the cemetery, the quirky profundity of the film sticks with me. Probably the most famous lines deserve to be so. Faced with the horrors of post World War Two Europe, Harry Lime asks his friend, Holly, to “Remember what the fella says…”
And sometimes even that isn’t enough. There are days when I’d welcome a cuckoo clock and end up sitting down with the Borgias. At the end of these days, when I’m too tired to read Henry V and want nothing more than to simply move on, I’ve found that the gravel in Leonard Cohen’s voice gives me some peace. Reminding me that “There is a crack, a crack, in everything,” by the time this song is done, I can almost believe that crack is “how the light gets in.”