Because I’m Happy…..

Because I’m Happy…..

What if public education was like a Pharrell song………

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Mom school’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care –excited for today

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a classroom without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like there is no limit for you


Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said (I’m ready to soar)
I said…………………


So,…… what if? What would education look like for our kids if parents, teachers, education leaders and most importantly, students felt this way? Can you imagine the joy we would bring our schools? Our cities? Our states and our nation? I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

Usually, I look at things from a data driven mind-set. This is where in most of my post I contradict the thought(s) you may be having at this moment with data to show all the work needed to be done within education and society. Instead, today I am going to take a moment and reflect back to 1983, Dove Anna McNabb Elementary, in the classroom of Mrs. Jackson. Mrs. Jackson was my 5th grade teacher. If there was a super model teaching in a school, it was her. She appeared to be 5’10” or more (remember I was 10), long and lean with thick blond hair, dressed like a lawyer, and a smile that could light up the heavens. She was beautiful.  The coolest thing of all, she was so much more beautiful internally than her exterior gave her credit for. She was loving and professional all in one. She was teaching at a school that (at the time) serviced 3 housing projects with mainly minority students,…and she made us happy. She started out the day with positive motivational thinking, encouraging us to do amazing things and become amazing human beings. Her dedication to rigorous instruction (especially in reading/writing) was second to none. The thing that truly set her apart was her ability to teach us to celebrate the differences of all and that our failures only taught us to be better people. She was the real deal.

I have a story about this “Inspector Happy” that I have told hundreds of times since my childhood. My family moved into a house on Madison Street in Paducah, KY. It had an attached outhouse that was a mess! Well, being the inquisitive kid I was, I wanted to know what all that stuff was! I had a huge imagination. If you told me you found a treasure, within minutes I would have concocted a story of the island it came from and the pirates who risked their lives for it. So, delving into this “mess” excited my imagination immensely. I was ready to pretend I was looking for a treasure, solving a major case,……SOMETHING! As I get two-feet in to the piles of boxes and bags upon bags of magazines,……I come across a huge stack of magazines only suitable for adult men, if you know what I mean. Well, like most 10-year old boys, I really didn’t think about what the girls inside the magazine looked like. However, I knew the boys in my school would go crazy if they saw these magazines. I just knew tomorrow I would be the coolest boy at McNabb Elementary. So, I took some of the magazines to school. Each morning, my brother Gerald and I would play checkers in the library with a buddy named Mitch. Low and behold, I took a magazine out so Mitch could see what I had. His eyes grew the size of grapefruits! Before breakfast was over, it was all around 5th grade the I had naughty magazines with “Real Women” in them. Before I could get my book bag hung up, the beautiful Mrs. Jackson had me in the hallway. She pulled me aside and began talking to me about the magazines. As a teacher and building principal, I have seen teachers address students bringing inappropriate items to school many times, but never in the way Mrs. Jackson did that day. She  made me look at my actions. She made me aware of how offensive and embarrassing the magazine was to some women. She asked me what I would do if I saw someone I really cared about on those pages. She explained to me that the women in the magazine were someone’s mother, daughter, sister…….. She made the ladies in the magazine “HUMAN” to me. She could have sent me to the office which I had definitely been before. She could have disciplined me physically (back then). She could have done so many things. Instead she made me learn about influential women who had changed the world. She made me learn about the struggles women go through daily within society. She forced me to look at women from different cultures, different backgrounds, different ethnicities and different perspectives of society. She didn’t remind me of my mistake, but she gave me constant reminders of others’ successes. She made me so happy to learn, even while disciplining me.

Having her that year was such an inspiration. We moved a lot growing up. I do not remember much about many of the teachers I had during my elementary years. However, I remember nearly every student in that classroom, how we would change the class around, Mrs. Ragland’s PE class, specific lessons and classroom experiences about that year. Why? Because Mrs. Jackson made us “Happy”.  Pharrell Williams described the students in Mrs. Jackson’s class to a T. As a teacher, a principal, a state education leader, and hopefully one day a future superintendent, I can only pray I can inspire and motivate students the way she did. I can only hope I encourage and prepare teachers to have the confidence and content knowledge she had. I can only believe I will move education to be all that the “Mrs. Jacksons” of the world hoped and dreamed it would one day become.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow
Only as far as I seek can I go
Only as deep as I look can I see
Only as much as I dream can I be”
― Karen Ravn

I propose we make education a “Happy” place for all involved. Whether students are in the height of a lesson or they are dealing with a life lesson, learning should create happiness.

Spread the word.