One of my favorite movies during my high school years was ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.’ The movie focused on two lovable, sweet, but nowhere near valedictorian high school seniors who need to pass a history report in order to graduate. With the help of a time machine, and some luck, they pass their class, meet the girls of their dreams, and are able to start their own rock band.
At one point in the movie, Bill and Ted are transported to the very distant future, where they meet three people, aptly named ‘The Three Most Important People in the World.’ These three people recognize Bill and Ted, and seem to revere them. The men are speechless, waiting to see what Bill and Ted will do:
Ted: Bill, I think they want us to say something.
Bill: What should I say?
Ted: (shrugs) Make something up.
Bill: Be excellent to each other.
After BIll’s comment, the three men nod appreciatively, as if this is the wisest thing the two transported teens could say. And, when thinking about teacher leadership, I don’t think Bill or Ted is that far off when they say we should be excellent to each other.
Being excellent to one another is really what’s at the core of teacher leadership, for me. Excellence begins in the way we interact with each other, as professionals. We greet the secretaries in the main office. Even if their heads are down, it’s important to acknowledge them, and validate the important role they play as the first line of communication (or defense) in our buildings.
Interacting with excellence includes saying hello to each other in the hallway, even if we’ve just seen each other, or don’t know one another. We respect each other’s role in the school, and each one of us helps make our school community function positively. That quick greeting we gave may be the one that perks someone up. Or, it may be the first positive interaction that person has had all day. We’re not always cognizant of our role and effect on others, and we should be, because we’re in-tune with how others affect us.
Our students see the interactions we have with our peers and co-workers. Students see if we greet each other with a smile. They also hear our sarcasm, and see us if we use negative non-verbal communication, like turning our backs, ignoring comments from peers, or averting eye contact. Students then internalize our mannerisms. After all, we are their teacher. Aren’t students supposed to do what their teacher says to do? Don’t actions speak louder than words?
At some point, students will replicate us: either in how they talk to the peers or co-workers we spoke to (or one of similar status), or in how they speak to their own classmates. We have an opportunity to model excellence in leadership without ever leaving our classroom by ‘being excellent to each other.’ Perhaps the ‘Three Most Important People in the World’ understood that. And, perhaps Bill and Ted had a little more social intelligence than we gave them credit for in that movie. Because, creating an excellent environment depends on the consistency in which we carry our excellence with us.
Now, go be excellent to each other. See how that feels. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it.
Then, take that feeling and party on, dude. (couldn’t resist).