President’s Corner

Don’t Laugh at How I Dance

Paul Houston, our executive director, is an avid movie-goer and often uses movie quotes in his conversation and in his speeches. Although I usually understand the relevance of the quotes in Paul’s message, most of the time I have not seen the actual movie to which he refers.

I am not a movie buff like Paul, but I do love music. Unfortunately, it is quite apparent that I have no musical talents. If I attempted to join Singing Superintendents, who do such an outstanding job at AASA’s National Conference on EducationTM each year, their director, Benny Gooden, would be forced to either cut me from the group or have me lip-sync all the songs—and we all know that strategy has not worked well for such mega-stars as Ashlee Simpson or the much-maligned Milli Vanilli. It’s best if I simply hum along with the tunes.

Alas, I am no dancer either. My lovely wife, who is my biggest supporter, can attest to my lack of rhythm and the resulting public displays of ineptness on the dance floor. She lovingly jokes about my abilities—or lack thereof—and often refers to my feeble attempts to “cut a little rug” as the Chicken Dance.

Suffice it to say, I know that I am no Fred Astaire. But I still like to dance and every so often I venture out onto the dance floor with little worry about how I must look. The fact my wife joins me at all gives me enough confidence to throw inhibitions to the wind and simply enjoy myself.

That’s not how it was when I was in school, however, back in the day of after-school sock hops and formal dances in the school’s gymnasium. Oh, how I remember those dances like it was yesterday.

The wooden bleachers were pushed up against the wall and balloons and streamers adorned them in an attempt to trick our minds into forgetting that we played basketball in that very room earlier in the day. A row of chairs lined both sides of the gym—one side for the girls and one side for the boys. Maybe it wasn’t planned that way, but that’s how we congregated in our respective gender-divided groups.

The members of my group were all a bit nervous about making the long trek over to the other side. Any boy who mustered the courage to walk across the floor did so with the knowledge that all eyes were on him. Would she say “yes” when he asked her to dance? What if she didn’t and he had to take that dreaded long walk back? What if she did? What do you do then?

For many of us, including me, the risk was too frightening to take, so we stayed where it was nice and comfortable, where we knew we fit in—against the wall across the gym floor, huddled in little mutual-support groups.

As education leaders, we don’t have the luxury of hanging back, testing the waters, deciding whether or not to join in the dance. We don’t have a choice. We face enormous tasks every day in an environment that is not always supportive. We are held accountable for reaching mandated goals and ensuring the success of all children regardless of whether we have the resources we need to succeed. We can’t afford to hang back.

Instead we take risks every day because we know we need to move our organizations forward, becoming strong advocates for our children and for public education and leading others in this fight. We cannot afford to be wallflowers. We must raise our heads high, take the first steps on that long walk across the floor and invite someone to dance with us.

So don’t laugh at the way I dance. Instead, please join me on the dance floor as we Stand Up for Public Education—The Cornerstone of Our Freedom.TM