Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Leadership Lessons from Kung Fu

About this time two years ago, I wrote a post called Leadership Lessons from Captain Kirk. I followed that up last winter with Leadership Lessons from Luke Skywalker . I thought I would continue my annual tradition of drawing on pop culture references with my latest post. As a child I loved the action and the mystery of the television show Kung Fu and how it blended the old west with the far east. As an adult, I'm drawn more toward the philosophy and wisdom that often shines through the episodes. I recently viewed the pilot episode again and in doing so, I took away several leadership lessons that can be adapted to our work as educators.

There is a first time for everything: The series begins with young Caine standing outside the Shaolin monastery for days waiting to get in. After successfully passing the entrance test, he is told by the head priest that only full Chinese students have ever been admitted to the temple. The boy drops his head in despair because his heritage is half Chinese and half American. He quickly looks up in hope when the priest says, "There is a first time for everything." Are we afraid of change at school and in the classrooms because that is the way we have always done things? If so, it's time to take a lesson from Kung Fu and try something new!

Fear is the only darkness: Early in his training, young Caine meets master Po, who to his surprise is blind. The young student comments, "Of all things, to live in darkness must be the worst". The master quickly replies "Fear is the only darkness". He soon teaches the student many things, including that limitations are only in our mind. When asked how he can hear the silent grasshopper at his feet, the old master simply replies, "Young man, how is it that you can not?" As educators, what fears are holding you back? Let go of them and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Two Kinds of Strength: The young students receive daily training in the martial arts. During the training, the master reminds the students that there are two kinds of strength. The outer strength is obvious and diminishes with age. However, the inner strength is something that will continue to grow into old age...and beyond. Do we as educators develop our inner strength? Do we help our students develop theirs? As educators, we need to help our students develop a strong moral compass and the strength of will to exercise it long after they leave our school.

Redirection: Again, during their martial arts training, the master teaches the students an important lesson. It is easier to redirect a force than to stop it. He demonstrates this by tripping a powerful adversary that is charging him. It was not the size that mattered, but the skill in redirecting. I think this can be applied to technology today. Some people wish to put a ban on technology. That's trying to stop a powerful force. Why not redirect it and have the students use their devices in the classroom for something that we want to them to learn? That's redirection and guiding a force that can help us achieve our goals in education!

Humility: As Caine finishes his training and prepares to leave the temple, his beloved mentor gives him one last bit of advice, "Remember, a wise man walks with his head bowed. Humble like the dust." That phrase always stuck with me and it can be hard to do when we live in a culture that prizes winning by any means and encourages cults of personality. Dedicated educators do this naturally. We are not in it for the money and we are not in it for the fame. We are here to make each child successful and our accomplishments are seeing our students succeed.

I know many people reading this will not be familiar with the television show Kung Fu and may never watch an episode in their lives. That's okay. It's not about the show, it's about the lessons we can take away from it and apply to our schools, our classrooms, and our lives. I hope the points listed above were useful and that they help you on your educational journey. If you have watched the show, then you'll understand when I end this post by saying, "Be sure to always do what is best for the students...Grasshopper!"

Kung Fu "The Beginning of Wisdom" (worth the 3 minute watch:) 


"What we think, we become." - Buddha

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucius


Friday, December 2: No Students / Records Day (Optional Report)

Monday, December 5: Celebrate Monday Assembly (Empathy) 9:05 am
Tuesday, December 6: Lunch with the Principal for those with Tickets 12:10-1:00 pm
Wednesday, December 7: REED (Robertson) 8:15 am
                                        Jon at MEMSPA (Rob Witherspoon on call)
Thursday, December 8: Staff Meeting 8:05 am (led by Debbie Bartnick)
                                     Jon at MEMSPA (Rob Witherspoon on call)
Friday, December 9: Jon at MEMSPA (Sandi Benson covering in the office)

Monday, December 12: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, December 13: 3rd Grade Teachers to Johnson with Reading Coach 1:00-4:00 pm
Thursday, December 15: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:50 am
                                       Elementarty Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
                                       Christmas Celebration at Rusty Bucket 5:00 pm

Monday, December 19: Student of the Month Assembly (Empathy) 9:05 am
                                     Wayne County Hearing Retests
Tuesday, December 20: Santa Secret Shop in Room 18
Wednesday, December 21: Santa Secret Shop in Room 18
Thursday, December 22: Breakfast with Diane & Joe 8:05 am
Friday, December 23: Students dismissed at 12:10 pm


Nathan Lang 

Jon Harper

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