We all have a soundtrack to our lives – the songs that we associate with the places and experiences that mark us, that made us. They are embedded in our memory, as tangible as a taste or smell. One of the most indelible voices for me from the late 80’s to early 90’s – Flavor Flav of Public Enemy – resonates even stronger with me today in the work I do as an assistant principal. Why? Because there’s no way to get the party started without a proper hype man!
Hyping means a few things. On one level, the concept of a hype man means being the person helping someone else spread their unique thoughts, perspectives, talents, and contributions to a larger audience – while at the same time energizing the audience with their own spark and voice. Hype men play second fiddle in the structure of the band, but they aren’t mindless cyphers – after all, Flavor Flav is probably more widely recognized than his lead man Chuck D. They are color commentators, adding perspective to what is said or done, providing context to what we in the audience are seeing and hearing. They are a filter and a magnifying glass. (They also give their captains a second or two to catch their breath between verses)
Wikipedia quotes music writer Mickey Hess as saying that the hype man “plays a central but supporting role within the group.” Let’s allow those words to sink in…”Central, but supporting” – oh yeah! Are all the leaders in the house hearing this? No, really…are you hearing this? If you’re hearing this, let me hear you say heeeyyyy!!! (1989 flashback – please excuse…)
So what do hype men the world ’round have to teach us in education?
Leaders: you often occupy center stage, but the work is not about you. Be central and supportive in the service of learning, building a positive culture, and practicing healthy conflict – for the sake of the kids, the adults, and yourselves!
Teachers: you have a captive audience in your classrooms every day. Be central and supportive in the role of helping your students have a meaningful say in their education – both what they learn and how they learn it. What greater legacy can you leave than knowing you helped fire a kid up about the beauty of knowledge, and the power of being able to do something with it in the world? (Rhetorical question; nothing is greater!)
Students: it’s time to get fired up about creating your own learning. We need to get past the tired-out expression of “getting an education” and think of your experience in school as a chance to get to know yourself on a deeper level while making a contribution to the world. School is the real world. It’s not fake. You’re not waiting on anything. And the incredible thing is that you are surrounded by peers doing the same – it’s a relief to know that it’s not all about you. Some of your peers will rank amongst the greatest teachers you’ll ever have – and vice versa!
Everybody needs and deserves a hype man. We need to build and sustain a spirit of mutual hyping – on our campuses, and beyond. So what are some things I’ll be hyping this year?
1) My school. Here’s one way we’re going to “bring the noise,” with social media as the bullhorn – er – mic.
2) Education worldwide. Despite all the hating on Big Ed, isn’t it incredible to think that our daily work continues to improve a free and public service that touches the lives of millions of people? The profession needs to have the most creative, adaptive thinkers join the ranks so that their students live every day feeling hyped about making a positive mark on the world. (Hint – those creative, adaptive thinkers are the ones we’re staring at in our classrooms right now!)
3) Twitter – all aboard! It’s fun to watch Scotty beam people here and there in Star Trek – until that technology comes along, let Twitter do the beaming. The result? We get hyped up by meeting brilliant people all over the globe.
4) Camaraderie. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: working in an organization means that conflict is inevitable. Rather than ducking and diving to avoid it, invite it out into the open and let people tell their stories. Being friends is great, but camaraderie goes beyond being friends; it’s about invigorating a community with a sense of belonging to a greater cause.
To be your school’s hype man, there’s just one thing you must do: Believe (and Be) the Hype!