Monday, March 03, 2014

Being Part of Something Larger Than Ourselves

This year's NAIS Conference seemed to focus heavily on how "creative" companies keep their employees loyal, constantly challenged to grow, and personally rewarded for their contributions. We heard from Lyn Heward of Cirque du Soleil, who described the many ways in which they have nurtured a culture of collaboration in their organization that has resulted in their fantastic success. The Disney Institute ran a half-day workshop focusing on the company's culture of collaboration and the ways in which they encourage all employees to share their ideas across specialties and departments. We heard a similar message from Jay Shuster, one of Pixar's animators. But with all these talks there was too much information and detail, not a clear message about why we should work to develop such a culture in our schools.

Finally, clarity arrived in this simple message in the final keynote.

Eric Whitacre, composer and creator of the "Virtual Choir" with which he has now has produced four pieces, was the speaker for the closing session of the NAIS Annual Conference in Orlando this week. He charmed us with his humor about himself and his passion for what he does. He has been stunned and awed by the dedication people have shown to his Virtual Choir projects, including those who, without his knowing it, set up 24 hour tech support and virtual voice lessons to help anyone who wants to participate be successful.  Eric's simple and straightforward assessment of why this international, online community has blossomed struck me as the elements of a what makes a school community great for all kinds of students and for the teachers who work there.  He said that his virtual choir offers everyone, in equal measure:
  • A chance to connect with others
  • A chance to share their talents
  • A chance to grow
  • The feeling that they are a part of something larger than themselves
When we are working with our colleagues and students, we might remember that those are the essential elements that drive us to participate in a community. We all need to feel that our presence is important to others, that our talents are seen and appreciated, that we are encouraged and have opportunities to grow, and that the community we are investing our time in is doing great things. When those elements are present and can be felt, then we all will give our best to be part of this marvelous opportunity that is larger than ourselves.

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