Making the Most of Learning Moments

Last week I drove a group of students to the State Superintendent’s Arts Awards ceremony in Guthrie, Oklahoma.


Before we arrived at the event, we stopped in downtown Guthrie to see the historic buildings. Guthrie was the original state capital before the state seal was stolen by night and transferred to Oklahoma City over a hundred years ago. So the buildings in Guthrie are reminiscent of pre-twentieth century western townships.

After grabbing some coffee at a local chocolate shop, we turned the corner and found a music store owned by the legendary Byron Berline.

In college Byron played football for the University of Oklahoma. But it was his was fiddle, not the football, that brought him fame.

He is best known for playing with bluegrass icon Bill Monroe. But over the years, he has also played alongside other legends like Alison Krause, Nickel Creek, Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Buck Owens…the list goes on and on.

Nowadays, when he’s not playing a festival or hosting a concert, he can be found at his music store. As we surveyed the instruments lining the walls, I worked up the nerve to ask him if we could play some music together. (One of my students plays the bass, and I play the guitar.)

Byron pulled out a fiddle and a bow, and before long, we had circled up for a sing-along and jam session. His fingers flew, and he filled the old shop with the snap and melody of tunes like Old Slough-Foot, Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Tennessee Waltz, Country Roads, and I’ll Fly Away (with four part harmonies).

In his seventies, his fingers have not lost their finesse. It was quite a moment…and what a way for my students to celebrate the beauty of the arts!

Here’s a video clip one of them captured of our moment together.

Making the Most of the Moment
In the hustle and bustle of school, it is easy to miss out on times that could become memories for a lifetime. Deadlines, reports, and testing can be an overwhelming part of a school leader’s job description. But when you show up to work each day, you’re also there to help students value the joy of learning.

On that busy afternoon, I could have easily passed by the music store, or kindly chatted with the store owner behind the counter without experiencing the hidden treasure. But it was a lot more fun to take a risk, step out of the comfort zone, and be a part of some memory-making. Sometimes the most exciting moments happen when we’re willing to push some boundaries.

Here are a few ideas to consider even in the routines of the day-to-day:

  • When you’re observing in a science lab, ask the students to show you the organs of the species they are dissecting. Take photos.
  • Pick up the pen and glue and make something creative with art students.
  • Sing along with the choir, or video band students playing an awesome piece in class.
  • Read aloud for students studying To Kill A Mockingbird. Do the voices.

These are a few of the memories I’ve enjoyed being a part of this school year. Yes, as a school leader, you will still deal with difficult patrons, file reports, and sit through painfully boring federally required meetings or trainings. But it’s the moments you capture–the memories you help create–that students will remember.

After our afternoon with Byron Berline, my four students were honored with others from around the state for their excellence in visual arts, vocal music, and band at a formal ceremony with our state superintendent. It was a fantastic event.

My students also traveled home that night with some music CD’s–gifts from Byron Berline, but more importantly, they went home with some new memories.

Make the most of learning moments. It’s a great way to stay motivated in your leading and your serving.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are creative ways you are capturing memorable moments with your students or team? Chances are they are happening everyday. Share some of the ways you’re helping promote and celebrate them.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker