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Showing Students How to Pursue Their Dreams

We are often told to set goals and go after our dreams…but have you ever been told to give up because your dream is never going to happen? Motivational speakers would say we will obviously never be able to achieve our dream if we quit.

Let’s look at it from another angle…what if we were told to pursue our dream even if we were guaranteed to fail and never reach our destination?

In part one of our series on leadership lessons from Mr. Holland’s Opus, we discussed the importance of providing our students with a compass so they can apply the knowledge we teach them. In addition, we noted that without fulfilling this second job as a teacher, we are not completing our most important task.

One of the ways we can provide our students a compass is to execute the fundamental of success of Pursuing Our Dreams.

This fundamental of success is not called “reach our dream or we’re a failure.” The fundamental is “Pursue Our Dreams.” That’s it. Take action and go after them. But what if we never reach our dream? This is a question we can answer as we write our own stories to make a difference in the lives of our students.

The definition of Pursuing Our Dreams we use in the Teach for Impact system is: We need to take daily action to boldly pursue the dreams which create our vision. Faith and courage will fuel our journey to do what sets our soul on fire.

Our plans will be sabotaged…

For Glenn Holland, the pursuit of his dream to be a great composer of music led him to make a pivot. Frustrated with his work as a studio musician, he decided to take a job teaching music at a local high school. The idea was this new teaching job would provide a stable income for his wife, Iris, and himself for a temporary period. Perhaps more importantly, Glenn believed teaching would give him free time to compose his great opus, which he envisioned would give him the breakthrough he desired.

Like every good plan, Mr. Holland’s vision was immediately sabotaged. On one of his first days at school, he met Coach Meister, who taught physical education and coached football. Glenn told Coach Meister he took the teaching job because one of his objectives was to give himself more time to compose music. Coach Meister told him he couldn’t remember the last time he had time that was free.

At this point, we can see the deflated look in Mr. Holland’s eyes. But it didn’t stop there.

Principal Jacobs told Glenn he would have a list of students to advise, and this was work to be done outside of his already prescribed teaching duties. Then, Iris revealed she was pregnant.

As we watch the movie, we can almost feel Mr. Holland slowly giving up on his dream with each of these little inconveniences.

Initially, Iris told Glenn the teaching job was just a gig and, if it didn’t work out, he could try something else. She devised a plan to save up enough money so in four years he could quit at the school and work full time composing music. But that plan was thrown off course when Glenn discovered a new child would join their family. This created even more financial burdens and time commitments which would only take away from one thing…Glenn’s time to pursue his dream.

Faith and Courage

But this is what happens to us right? We create a lesson plan which will knock the socks off any administrator who enters our classroom…and then the technology doesn’t work. The students are so rambunctious even the normally well-behaved kids foil our plans for a smooth and exciting lesson.

On a bigger scale, we come up with the what, where, and when of our vision as an educator, and then everything from minor inconveniences to life-changing events conspire against us. Eventually, our vision becomes so far off that we can barely see it anymore.

This is where faith and courage come in.

A lot of people like to talk about the process, but for most people, there is a caveat. The process is only worth it if eventually, we get to the destination and the external results we want. When we embrace the opportunity to write our own story with the Teach for Impact system, we cannot guarantee we will achieve any of the goals we set for ourselves. Yet, we need to go after them anyway.

Why? Because one of the essential questions our students want to know is, “Are we a person worth following?”

They are not looking for someone who is stuck. They are not looking for someone who has given up on their dreams. They want someone who is not afraid to fail. They want someone who has the courage to live a life worth following and the faith to take action without any guarantee of worldly success.

Leading our students to pursue their dreams…

Too often our rhetoric in classrooms becomes “do as I say, not as I do.” This is the mantra of management. However, we are striving for leadership.

Management is not going to cut it for us as educators if we are going to provide our students a compass they can use for the rest of their lives. So we must understand whether it’s inside our classroom or in our activities outside our normal duties, we need to boldly and courageously go after what sets our soul on fire.

Although Glenn’s time to compose his own music was often placed on the backburner, he eventually discovered a new dream to compose music by adding value to the lives of his students.

Because in the pursuit of what we want, we often discover what we need.

When we execute the fundamental of success of Pursuing Our Dreams, we don’t even have to tell students how to go after what sets their souls on fire. They can just follow our lead and they will know what to do.

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Jon Barth

Jon Barth

Teacher - Coach - Mentor

I love to share stories, tools, and resources to help students become leaders who make a difference in the world by giving away their gifts and abilities.

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