Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” and Why Every Educator Should Read It

I am an occasional visitor on Seth Godin’s blog, not frequent enough to call myself a dedicated reader, but enough to know to seek his writing when I’m craving thought-provoking and inspirational ideas. I have blogged about one of his posts before, and I just find him to be one of the greatest thinkers of our day.

I picked up Linchpin about two months ago, and I’m actually not even finished reading it. It has been so inspiring and motivating that I feel the need to pause frequently to reflect on how it applies to my classroom and education in general. Godin’s writing style is very easy to read and conversational, but it has taken me a while to really absorb the content. It’s definitely a book to read with pencil in hand.

His idea of being a “linchpin” is described as being indispensable, someone who stands out and makes a difference, in the workplace. Below are some responses to a few quotes from the book in regards to educators and creative people in general.

Let me be really clear: Great teachers are really wonderful. They change lives. We need them. The problem is that most schools don’t like great teachers. They’re organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average.

Oh my. While I personally feel I work in a district that values great teachers, this quote kind of sums up my feelings of the future of education in our country. Common Core, while I see it’s point and the possible benefits, makes me feel like we need to be cookie cutter teachers. I have visions of students 10-20 years from applying to colleges with the same grades, experiences, and knowledge; students without inquisitive minds, and suppressed creativity. The reason we are teachers is because we had incredible teachers who went above and beyond their duties, and we want to emulate them. The teachers who merely followed the text book rarely ever made an impact.

Perhaps I am being overly dramatic, and maybe bringing Common Core into this was unnecessary, but the thought of schools hiring anything but great teachers is scary to me. A great teacher has goals. A great teacher knows their students and pursues their education in ways that will best suit them. A great teacher thinks outside the box. A great teacher is anything but common. (Click to tweet that!)

If your organization wanted to replace you with someone far better at your job than you, what would they look for?

If you’re like me, you just started creating a brief list of qualities your successor possesses. Godin goes on to say that attributes of skill or talent are rarely a factor. Someone more human, more passionate, more energetic may be your competition. Choral directors: Someone may sing better than you, but you may have a vision for a brand new ensemble the school district hasn’t seen yet. Someone may have several years more classroom experience than you, but you may have developed a sight-reading program in your second year of teaching that has taken students to All State. While knowledge and skill are important, it’s the uniqueness you bring to your program and school that make you a linchpin.

When work becomes personal, your customers and coworkers are more connected and happier. And that creates even more value.

Making your work personal resembles the way an artist takes pride in their projects. Godin says, “Work is a chance to do art,” with his many definitions of art being, “…anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal…Art is about intent and communication, not substances…Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.” In the educator’s case, our customers are our students, their families, and the school’s community, and our art is how we teach and run our programs. Showing up, teaching our curriculum, and playing parts on the piano, and going home isn’t enough.

 

All I can think of now is being nothing less than a linchpin educator. To be anything else would be a disservice to my school and my students. Talk about starting the new year, setting goals, and then reading this book…Holy Inspiration, Batman!

Would love to continue the conversation or hear stories of linchpin educators you know in the comments below, or via Twitter @LindsayBrazell.

About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

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