What If Nothing Was Impossible?

Somewhere along the line we settled for test scores and conforming to the “expected.”

In Eric Liu & Scott Noppe-Brandon’s book Imagination Firstunlocking the power of possibility, he notes:

Today’s culture of testing and data collection in education was born of a good intention: to close the persistent achievement gaps of race and poverty. But over time, ends and means have sometimes gotten muddled. Too many public schools focus on the measurable to the exclusion of the possible. As a result, too many students end up better prepared for taking tests than for being skillful learners in the world beyond school. ~Eric Liu & Scott Noppe-Brandon

I believe they have landed on something here…But it’s not only in education, it’s everywhere.

It’s time to empower the “What if?” questions along with the “What?” questions.

Why Education Matters


I confess, I am a quote-a-holic. I have yet to find a step group for this, so for the time being, my quote addiction will continue!

Todays collection of quotes are about education. Statistics overwhelmingly show that education is the key to reducing global poverty, especially education and empowerment for girls. As school gets underway in the ensuing weeks, support your local school district, get involved, offer to be a tutor, be a positive and encouraging parent, volunteer in the classroom and donate to organizations that are educating the poor without discrimination globally.


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi

“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen”   ~ Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~William Butler Yeats

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”   ~Plato

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”   ~ Nelson Mandela

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”   ~Margaret Mead

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”  ~ Aristotle

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”   ~ Aristotle

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”   ~ Malcolm X

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”   ~ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”   ~T.H. White, The Once and Future King

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

“When you know better you do better.”   ~ Maya Angelou

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”   ~ Walter Cronkite

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”   ~Victor Hugo

“Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble.”   ~ Peter S. Jennison

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”   ~ George Washington

“Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”  ~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”   ~ Confucius

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”  ~Native American Saying

Teachers That Make A Difference

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. ~Benjamin Franklin

Since this week is teacher appreciation week, I took a moment today to think about and pray for all the teachers that impacted my life, helping me to grow into the person that I am today. No one is a “self-made” person. I realize that many people think they are, but the truth of the matter is that we are all products of our biology and biography.

When I speak in public, my father’s friends hear my dad.

When I play the piano, the inspiration of Keith Green paved the way.

When I write, an army of dead biblio-mentors sing through my words.

So, in more ways than we know, we are products of the investments, good and bad, of other people. Teachers make a sizeable investment into the forging of our lives. Here are a few of the teachers that I thought of today:

1. Mrs. Stein, my first grade teacher. Yes, truly she was my first crush. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. The most talented woman in the world. The best at just… everything! Many smitten school-boys would find themselves accidentally hanging out near her house. Luckily for me she lived in the neighborhood. 1st grade is a crucial year. First grade teachers help us become students, little humans, entering into the journey of learning. Thank you Mrs. Stein.

2. Mr. Grady, my 7th – 12th grade band teacher. More than any other teacher, Mr. Grady, or JW as we called him, impacted my life. He was a true renaissance man. He wanted us cultured, savvy, engaged and involved in the music. He challenged me more than any other teacher…forgave me more than any other teacher…frustrated me more than any other teacher…and invested in me more than any other teacher. My continued involvement with music to this day is because of his investment in me. Music has not merely been a thing I do, but truly, a core piece of who I am. Of all the teachers that I have had, he is the one that I hope is proud of who I have become. Thank you Mr. Grady.

3. Ms. Itig, freshman literature teacher. Ok, maybe another slight crush here (you see the pattern right), but, for the first time in my life I developed a love and hunger for reading. It all began with the book “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and today you might say I have a reading addiction. Thank you Ms. Itig.

4. Mr. Kelly, US History and World Civ. teacher. Mr. Kelly was also my church league basketball coach when I was just a little guy, so I thought I would have an easy go of it in his class…not so much. Mr. Kelly was an incredible teacher, and my time with him opened my eyes to justice issues, government structures and problems as well as skills in navigating the civilization in which we live. Mr. Kelly introduced me to Leo Buscaglia who in turn opened up a beautiful concept of love that was beyond my experience. He seemed tough on the outside, but I could tell he cared for all his students. Thank you Mr. Kelly.

The teachers that I remember the most are the ones who went beyond teaching a core curriculum and involved me in something bigger.

Jean Piaget tells us that:

The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.

Education is so much more than test scores and memorizing data.

It is about the curation of the soul…

It is about the formation of the heart…

It is about the unleashing and expansion of the mind beyond the understanding of the previous generations…

In many ways education is a dance between student and teacher as they discover the music that each bring to the process. In an article titled “Uncommon Core” my friend Steve Peha writes:

Education is a deeply personal endeavor. Just as every learner  is unique, so is every teacher. Educators have many things in common, but at their core each possesses something uncommon: their individuality. What makes us unique can’t easily be defined. But in education, it often has to do with the strengths, affinities, and experiences that educators bring to their work and that students bring to school with them each day.  This is the uncommon core. It’s not just what makes us unique, it’s often what makes us uniquely successful. When we tap our strengths, we find the talent to master our challenges. When we tune our attitudes, we connect with a purpose larger than ourselves. When we turn to our affinities—the things to which we are naturally attracted—we unleash our passions and discover our dreams. (check out his web site teaching that makes sense)

The teachers that make the greatest impact are those who have integrated their passion and their understanding together to create a learning environment. In this sense, the best teachers are artists not just information portals.

The art of teaching is a gift, and can easily be lost when we measure the wrong things. In his book “The Courage To Teach” Parker Palmer notes: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” 

So, to all the teachers out there:

  • Thank you for the long hours you put in most days beyond the contract…
  • Thank you for investing your own money into the lives of your students when the funding doesn’t cover it…
  • Thank you for lovingly caring for a classroom full of kids that lack grace and manners…
  • Thank you for seeing the gold in our children that most people miss…
  • Thank you for creating a world of learning and not just regurgitating the information in the book…
  • Thank you for teaching our kids how to think, not just what to think…
  • Thank you for choosing a career that doesn’t always get many thanks…

This week teachers, may you be reminded of who you are:

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ~Robert Frost

Try It For 30 Days

Real change is doable. Too often we choose not to change or attempt something new because it seems too daunting, too big, too impossible. But the reality is, you can make major shifts in your life if you would simply make a 30 commitment and take action. What you try may not be earth-shaking, but you will definitely be better for having stepped out and attempted something new. The following Ted talk is a great example and inspiration to simply try something new for 30 days, check it out.