Everything I know about school I learned from Star Wars

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In honor of Star Wars Day, I decided to dig out a presentation I did in 2014. It was entitled Star Wars: A New Teacher, and I laid out everything that Star Wars has to teach us.

Star Wars showed me the wonder of creating and of technology. And as I’ve gotten older, I have come to the realization that Star Wars has much to offer us in life and in teaching. Like myself, Luke Skywalker grew up on a farm. Unlike myself, he kissed his sister. Throughout several movies he grows through the wisdom of his teachers, Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda.

One of Obi Wan’s first lessons teaches us that our eyes can deceive us. Don’t trust them. Use multiple sources of input. In our schools, it is data that can deceive us. Be data informed, not data driven. Improper analysis can be the difference between a moon and a space station.

Yoda teaches us to do or do not, there is no try. After Yoda raises Luke’s X-Wing fighter using the force, Luke doesn’t believe it. “This is why you fail.” Yoda’s replies. “You must unlearn what you have learned.” A common refrain from Yoda is that Jedi pupils must be young, for “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” Children can look at a problem without preconceived notions, and come up with clever solutions. Truly wonderful.

Padme tells us that “All mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” Yoda agrees that failures are important, “If no mistake you have made, losing you are. A different game you should play.”

Your superintendent or principal attends a conference, and as soon as they get back, they announce a meeting. “I have a very bad feeling about this.” I think we’ve all experienced it. Even when you have feelings of trepidation, Star Wars tells us to “Stay on target” and “trust our feelings”. Yoda is our voice of reason telling us “Difficult to see, always in motion is the future”. We seem to expend a lot of energy on things out of our control. Yoda wouldn’t want us to.

He also teaches that “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It all starts with fear, probably in the teacher’s lounge. Once we let the fear grab holds it’s a quick trip to suffering. And speaking of the teachers’ lounge, can you find a more wretched hive of scum and villiany? I had a professor at college that advised us to avoid the lounge. Star Wars doesn’t teach that. Obi Wan and Luke went right in to Mos Eisley to continue their journey.

Now your teacher’s lounge could also be like the Cantina. Full of interesting creatures, some that just don’t like you. Obi Wan and Luke could have taken the easy way out, and went to a different establishment, but they didn’t. Don’t let strange creatures stop you.

Living by Star Wars has some guidelines for the administrators in the audience. Princess Leia warns Governor Tarkin that “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Leadership is not about leading with a stick. A leader is a person we want to do things for, not because we have to. The hierarchy of the Empire was one cause of their eventual downfall. District administrators should not use force or fear, both lead down the path to the dark side.

But we must be mindful, “Who’s the more foolish, the fool? Or the fool who follows him?” Our band of heroes continue to follow Obi Wan, and realize it is their ignorance of Obi Wan that makes themselves appear the fool.

A scoundrel at heart, Han Solo knows the dangers of fear. When confronted with the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid belt he gets angry. If the odds are stacked against you, there is a tendency to give up. Han understands this. Although C3PO believes that “we’re doomed!”, this is one place Star Wars and education disagrees. We are not doomed, and life is not a trap. We are all each other’s hope.

Finally, I’ll end with a quote from Darth Vader. As he is choking a non-supportive admiral, he says, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Seek out those that are open minded and supportive. Remove these admirals from your life.

And if you can’t, then choke them.

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