Thursday, September 13, 2012

4 Lessons for Teachers at Bruce Springsteen Concert

   Photo from

I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert last weekend in Chicago.  It was an unreal concert!     As I was thinking about the show the next day I thought about the professionalism that Bruce Springsteen demonstrated throughout the night.  I thought about what makes him (maybe the best at the live show) SO good.  What makes a Bruce Springsteen concert different from any other that you might see?  It wasn’t long before I was taking that list and trying to figure out how I might incorporate those traits into my classroom.

Here is what I came up with:

1.      They’re here give them all you got!
What Bruce did – He gave to the crowd for three hours and twenty minutes.  He gave us the music that we already love.  He also gave us new stuff that we will love, if for no other reason than the experience of hearing it live.  His energy is unreal and contagious.  You cannot be passive in that audience because he drags you in.  He does this with his passion for his music and for performing. 

What I learned – The students come into that room everyday wanting and needing energy.  They would love to match the teacher’s energy and passion if they can see and feel it.  As we design lessons and activities we should keep this in mind.  I am not saying they have to be entertained.  I am saying they need the teacher to model enthusiasm for learning.  You could put a person with no connection or understanding of Bruce Springsteen or his music in that stadium and they would be drawn in by the energy. 

2.      Make sure they get it!
What Bruce did – He played and he played and he played.  I am sure there are a few hardcore fans that left saying, “darn he didn’t play this or that.”  Those would be rare.  He played them all (the ones we love!)  There were moments in the show when I thought he would wind down and come back for an encore.  That never happened; he just kept on playing until we got them all!

What I learned (thought) – Some people in that audience might have heard their favorite song in the first 15 minutes.  I am certain they stayed and enjoyed many of their “next favorite songs.”  Some fans may have had to wait for their song.    It is a stretch but - differentiation.  Some of our kids get it early and we provide them with depth and enrichment.  Other kids need the whole three hour show and more.  There was no end time for Bruce he played until he played them all.  Working with kids requires that mindset.

3.      If it rains keep playing, but get in the rain with them!
What Bruce did – I saw him at Wrigley field on September 8, 2012, and it poured.  Some fans were lucky enough to be under the grandstand.  I was on the field.  Nobody left.  Bruce had plenty of cover on the stage.  He played up the fact we were soaked.  He made it feel like this was a special occasion.  And he came out on the stage’s catwalks and he played in the rain.  He was out there with us.

What I learned – Sometimes your lesson or the content is the last thing on your class’ mind.  Whether it is Homecoming week or the day of an assembly they might have distractions.  If, as teachers, we acknowledge the distraction, if we can tap into that enthusiasm and redirect it you might end up with something special. 

4.      Show them you’re gratitude for their commitment!What Bruce did – He was the last guy off the stage.  I thought that was pretty cool.  He thanked everyone in his band and he stayed out there until it was pretty clear the crowd was moving toward the exits.  He appreciated their support and maybe even their effort.

What I learned – It is easy to think that learning and school is the kids’ job.  I think given their choice many would choose differently.  It is a small gesture to show kids that you appreciate their effort.  We talk about praise a lot in education.  I think that generally that is relegated to correct answers.  I think that thanking the whole class for their effort might go further than a “good job class.”  I have been trying it this week.  I know it isn't hurting the respect and rapport in my room.