“There are no shortcuts. Do one new thing this year. Change the level of thinking.” Those were just a few of the words shared by longtime teacher, author and motivational speaker Rafe Esquith to more than 1,000 Harlandale ISD teachers during the district’s Employee Convocation on August 14. Both sessions were hip-swaying, shoulder-shaking, confetti-shooting pep rally type of events to help welcome back teachers and get them motivated for the 2013-2014 school year.
When teachers first walked into the Boggess Center they were greeted by the Harlandale and McCollum High School cheerleaders and dance teams along with the Spurs Coyote. The music was blaring so it was easy for everyone to get into the swing of things. Smiles turned even bigger when employees started seeing and greeting eac h other for the first time in more than two months.
The excitement continued as the program got underway. The “Village Chicks” from Harlandale High School (HHS) performed “HISD” to the tune of “YMCA”; some elementary and middle school students helped lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and Texas Pledge; high schoolers took to the mic to talk about their future plans; HHS senior Mati Reed shared a special message with employees, asking them to take a little time to learn something from their own students; and School Board President Jesse “Jay” Alaniz, dressed in a Native American headdress and cowboy boots, thanked teachers for their continuous hard work. The loudest cheers, however, happened when Superintendent Rey Madrigal mentioned the 4% pay raise every employee will receive, plus an increment of $100 or more based on each person’s years of experience.
Teachers got up and moving again during the traditional roll call where every school danced, sang or performed to a song. This year, Principal Bill Hall from Kingsborough Middle School donned a motorcycle helmet and did the Carlton to the “Harlem Shake.” Bellaire Elementary got on stage, sat down and sang while using cups to stomp on the floor. Many of the skits were followed by the sounds of confetti poppers and cheers. Then, everyone sat back down again for the keynote address.
Esquith , a fifth grade teacher from Hobart Elementary in Los Angeles, CA, shared success stories and failures from his own 30-year career. His school is plagued by guns, gangs and violence. The majority of his students are immigrants, poor and do not speak English but they go on to perform exceptionally well on standardized tests and attend some of the best universities in the country. Esquith encouraged all educators to take what they love – he loves baseball, Shakespeare and rock-n-roll – and incorporate it into their classrooms. It was advice many teachers took to heart.