A Symphony for Different Drums: An Educational Epiphany


Somewhere a teacher sits in an empty classroom sketching out steps to greet a new day and embrace the possibilities that will walk through the door.

1st Movement:

I was 10 years old.

Mrs. McMonagle had told us that she had to complete a quick census of the class per some directive of the state or some invisible power in an office somewhere. She had to ask if there were any minorities in class.

My hand raised in a sheepish upward movement to acknowledge my membership of the minority band.

For my hand was the only one raised in response to this question.

Giggles and smirks from my classmates caused me to shrink in embarrassment and I yearned for the solace of invisibility.

Instead, I became a giant when Mrs. McMonagle stated matter of factly in her Scottish Brogue.

“Sean Gaillard is not the only minority in here, you know, 5th Grade. I am from Scotland and lived in England, so that also makes me a minority with him. I am going to put my name down as a minority.”

2nd Movement:

I am now a principal.

It’s my first principalship and I am struggling to find the words and music to lead a school.

Assuming that my title, arcane knowledge of leadership theory and egotistical ease with public-speaking riddled with obscure pop culture references would carry me to an early acceptance of Principal of the Year.

I am broken by a resistant faculty and negative mindset.

Bruised by the classic onslaught of change resistance, I am sitting with my Assistant Superintendent seeking wisdom and solace.

Her sharp, compassionate words compel me to a powerful reminder and I become a brave giant again.

“Sean, place kids at the center in all things. Do what I do and illustrate for the faculty at your next meeting. Brainstorm with them and make a list of the things you have going in the school. Then, write boldly in the center the word, “Students.” Remind them this is why you are all in that school. Place the kids at the center of everything you do.”

I am uplifted by this jolt of wisdom and I move forward with head held high.

3rd Movement:

In education, we sometimes forget our core.

Our center is the kids.

Our center is US.

We have been entrusted with the center of someone’s universe. Our charge is to serve and support them with all we got.

It is easy to forget the core that drives us to be noble in our profession. This forgetting has caused me to forget the core of what my Assistant Superintendent taught me to strive for daily as principal. It blurred me from remembering what Mrs. McMonagle exemplified for me by placing me in the center during an awkward classroom situation.

Our center cannot be forgotten. We cannot allow the voices of the status quo to blur us from reaching towards the center of what we do as educators.

We have to find our way back together.

4th Movement:

Now what?

This is not an informercial for a book or cause.

I am simply asking for a move back to to the center.

Let’s get back to simple sincerity in the schoolhouse.

Start with tending the pocket we all individually stand on with arms and minds extended to serve and support kids and each other.

We stitch those individual pockets together and then we have a tapestry of positivity showered over the schoolhouse.

As we go along, let’s help each other to remember those positive moments by sharing our sincere stories in a simple conversation. The conversation is also extended in Twitter, Instagram, Blogs, etc.

That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less in order to honor, serve and support each other as we give our kids our very best. Give them everything we got in the best way we can.