Professor Springsteen

Last night, I attended a unique professional development session:

Awesome Twitpic from @DANIELjonKING

A Bruce Springsteen concert.  That’s right! Though I’ve attended dozens of other concerts in my life, this was my first time seeing The Boss perform.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between my experience at this concert and the experience of students in my classroom.  I know.  Seems crazy – but you’ve already heard me refer to myself as a little crazy in this post. Really though, the more I sat and thought about it – the more I could see the similarities.

Our seats were great -

But look at the size of this stadium!  Really, how on earth does a performer reach every member of the audience in a meaningful way? Seriously – there are a LOT of people here!

Everyone Else.

Well, Bruce is not one to stay glued to his microphone stand.  He’s a wandering sort of guy – he made sure to visit all sides of the stage and even went out into the audience several times, to see his fans up close.  He looks as if he is adrift in a sea of people, here:

See him??

If you had been there, you would have seen the faces of his fans light up every time he came within proximity or his face was 100-feet tall on the jumbotrons.  He tried his best to give his attention to folks all over that stadium.  There was no such thing as priority seating, as this guy was on the move!  I think our classrooms are similar.  Quickly disappearing are “front rows” and “back rows” because teachers (and students!) move around so much!  As teachers, the more we move around the room, the better able we are to engage all of our students.

At one point, Bruce asked if anyone in the audience was attending their first E-Street Band concert.  Well, I can say, based on the yelling and screaming, Carson and I weren’t the only ones.

But, I know that there were folks who were seeing their third Springsteen concert this WEEK!  They could name every song within hearing the first three notes.  These people were singing every lyric at the top of their lungs.  Bruce had to appeal to all of us – from the first time concert-goer (Carson) to the seasoned veterans.  Talk about a wide range of learners!  He certainly helped us newcomers jump right in on the action by leading us through songs and playing some old favorites.  I know my students also have varying levels of interest and experience when it comes to lessons we try. I have to think about how to encourage the wary while continuing to engage those who think they’ve done it before.  There can be fun for everyone!

Kendyl & Mr. Brooks = Big Fans!

One thing Bruce did, that I’ve never seen happen at another concert, is to accept requests.  Really? You want my input!?  Cool!! Well – he’s a smart guy!  His concertgoers know that they must do their homework, first.  Before arriving at the concert, his fans create signs.  Big signs, little signs, fancy signs, simple signs. I could tell that some people must have spent hours on their signs (one of them had LIGHTS on it!!) and others must have created their sign in the parking lot.  It didn’t matter to Bruce.  He waded out into the middle of the crowd, reading all their signs – smiling, laughing, giving positive feedback.  (See teachers? Feedback is powerful stuff!)  You can bet that I was encouraged to make my own fancy sign next time. Some of the signs he grabbed and took back to the stage.

Photo by Dave Bernat

He seemed very much excited about picking just the right song to perform from the posters he had grabbed.  He wanted to choose something challenging for himself and the E-Street Band.  After some discussion and clarification on the key to play, they decided on Up All Night.  It was clear they had played it before – but WOW what a treat!  Perhaps I was more invested in that song (I’ve never heard it before) because someone in the audience had a say in what was being performed.  Students LOVE when they have a say in our lesson plans.  Now I can see why!!!

Another chosen song, later on in the night was Drift Away.  Best part? It became quickly obvious to us that Bruce didn’t really know it anymore. He couldn’t remember all the words – but could lead us to the chorus, so he relied on the audience to help!  What I loved about The Boss as a presenter, is that he took a risk – to possibly make a mistake, to know less than his audience, to fail.  We trusted him as a performer, though – knowing that whether or not he got through the song, we were all on board together.  As a teacher, we need to do the same for our students – provide confident leadership while at the same time taking risks and allowing our students to see some of our vulnerabilities.

Finally, Bruce Springsteen played for over three hours on that stage, with no intermission, and a few encores.  He played and sang until our voices and hands were exhausted, and then with boundless energy, he played some more. In my opinion, he went above and beyond the requirements of my purchased ticket.  He wasn’t watching the clock, or asking for additional pay for us to enjoy more and more last night.  He clearly loves every minute of what he does for a living, and finds happiness in the joyful faces of his adoring fans.  As we stood in yet another standing ovation, we caught one last glimpse of him, disappearing into the tunnel below the stadium.  He left us wanting more, and reminded the teacher in me to strive to accomplish the same thing for my students.  I can’t wait for the next show!