A couple weeks ago on a Friday night, my fiancé and I spent our evening in a nearby shopping center just to wander and wind down from the school week. We ended up in one of my all-time favorite stores: Barnes and Noble.

I have no idea why I love that store so much. I am definitely not an avid reader, and the books I do read fall nowhere near any best seller or classic list. Being in a bookstore brings me immediate peace, even when I don’t buy anything. I think it has something to do with why I like coffee shops so much: everyone is there for a different reason. Whether it be to work, for fun, to find answers or inspiration, people wander and gather and in different ways, their answers are hidden there somewhere.

The two sections I browse first are the music books and the Christian living section. Most of the time, I enter the music section and roll my eyes over the autobiographies that shouldn’t have been written, or the method books for dummies, and walk away. Then I head to the Christian section and roll my eyes over the Christian romance novel titles and cover illustrations. Once I feel I fulfilled my cynic and sarcastic duties, I browse the books I actually want to read.

I had seen a lot about Love Does by Bob Goff on twitter and various blogs I read. Everything I read about it made it seem like a real life-changer, but nothing convinced me to blindly order it online or in iBooks so it escaped my memory. Then I saw it on the shelf and picked it up to read the back cover. The praises for the book had more than a few names I recognized. I was captivated by the summary. When I go clothes shopping I hold the clothes that I think I may want as a way of discerning how much I like it and protecting it from other shoppers my size from taking it. I did the same with this book, even though there were plenty of copies for all sizes to be had.

We had a 3-day weekend coming up so my fiancé convinced me to treat myself and buy the book. The cashier told me she had already sold 4 copies of it today. I told her that must be a sign that it’s good.

Gosh. It was better than that. I finished it today on our lovely southern snow day, and I want to start reading it again. It made me feel like I waste a lot of time not pursuing dreams or projects or just fun adventures I have stored in my mind. It made me rethink my approach to leadership and how to engage students and other faculty members. Everything is rooted in love, and it isn’t the mushy kind. It’s the kind of love that makes a difference.

There are 3 major ideas that really struck me and caused me to reflect on how I do my job and I how approach my life:

 

“The world has been shouting over the noise of our programs that it doesn’t need more presidents or organizations, what it needs are more friends. If you are a sincere friend, folks around you will quickly understand that there’s no hidden agenda and nothing on the other side if the equals sign – just you.”

I’ve heard stories of teachers feeling the need to compete with each other, or battle administration, or vice versa. I wonder if we realized it would be easier to be friends and work together, just like we learned in kindergarden, if our students would benefit. Or what if we as music directors, thought of our organization as less of a business but as a community. There has to be a healthy balance between hierarchy and camaraderie, right? Positions are and should be no more than a responsibility of tasks, not a title of power. Just like the position if music director. My tasks revolve around teaching students music, not to abuse my power to make them behave and sing well on command.

This is not to say that teachers and their students need to be friends and hang out at Starbucks either. Teachers should foster appropriate relationships with their students because sometimes your classroom becomes their distraction from the outside world. Showing an interest in their lives and their well being goes a long way.

“We all get the chance to be awesome if we want to be. Not surprisingly, the way to do it best is by being secretly incredible.”

Goff wrote this chapter around the idea of superheroes without capes. The cape is usually the identifying feature of a superhero, and often times it is how we embellish a superhero costume. His point was, what if we still were superheroes but left the cape behind? Making our good deeds known or begging for accolades can be unbecoming or even tiresome. Instead of saying, “LOOK WHAT I DID!” we should aim to celebrate silently. I’ve had teachers brag about their achievements and boast about how great they are at what they do, and it made me want to vomit. They were in it for the cape, not to service others.

I never want to be in teaching for the accolades or the awards. I want to always focus on making music with my students, and hopefully create lasting relationships with them and their families. I don’t want to produce music majors, I want to empower through music. I don’t want the cape.

“Word of encouragement are like that. They have their own power. And when they are said by the right people, they can change everything…And I’ve concluded something else. That the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life.”

I have a tendency if being really sarcastic with my students. One of them told me that sometimes they can’t tell if I’m being serious or joking. That’s how good I am.

My fear is that one day I say the wrong thing to the wrong kid at the wrong time and I shatter their world, or I turn them off to music. It’s so important to watch our words, because they can make or break someone without us ever knowing.

 

I encourage you to read this book whether you are a teacher or not. It’s certainly not written for teachers, but as a teacher myself, I read it as one. It’s really just a book for people. Check it out here: Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World