Sunday, May 31, 2015

The 33rd Friday: Bow Ties & Lifelong Learning

“You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
Richard Branson

People who know me well know that I wear bow ties every Wednesday. Alas, this week, I forgot to follow my weekly ritual and several folks noticed this, which raised questions about my bow tie habit. One such question I often get is, “Do you tie them yourself?” (Answer: yes). Some male staff members go on to share that they have tried, at one time or another, to learn how to tie a bow tie with little success. This week, someone asked me how I learned to do so myself, which reminded me of how I started upon this habit in the first place.

For one year of my life, I pretty much lived at a Hilton hotel in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, working during the week with schools surrounding that area. At one such middle school, I worked with an outstanding principal who also happened to wear bow ties every day. Over time, I asked him the very same questions folks sometimes raise with me today about bow ties. I thought this fellow looked pretty sharp in his bow ties and he was always prodding me to give the “bow tie look” a try. I decided to commit to one day a week and picked Wednesday. Next, I went downstairs from my hotel, where a Jos. A. Bank store was fortuitously located, to pick out a few bow ties. I selected 3 or 4 and then asked the young man helping me pick out ties if he could also assist with learning to tie the dang things. He was kind and patient, showing me how he did it himself, modeling the tying process with a bow tie around his own neck. I actually tried to do this in the store several times to no avail and, honestly, I gave up temporarily and left the store (bow ties in hand) when it became clear to me that the clerk was about to give up on me.

So, I did what any good 21st century lifelong learner would do: I turned to YouTube! I sifted through several examples of “How To Tie a Bow Tie” videos until I finally found one that--after viewing perhaps twenty times or more--got me through the part that was most problematic. 

You see, some steps along the way were quite simple: Start with one end slightly longer than the other. Place the left side over the right side. Other parts were trickier and it honestly took me many viewings of the video and many failed attempts to get through the dreaded: feed the middle of the dangling end back through the knot step. Much to my relief, I finally mastered this technique and now give tying a bow tie nary a thought as I prepare for my Wednesday ritual!

So how does this apply to us as educators? Well, I think it speaks just a bit to the ways in which many of our of “YouTube” students learn today and will in the future. As teachers, we are no longer merely the possessors of all knowledge which we then magically transfer to our kids. Nor are we always the individuals best equipped to directly teach certain skills. What we can do, however, is: 

First, plan intentionally every single day to inspire our kids to seek new knowledge and skills. Next, make certain that we have empowered them with the capability to acquire this new learning--whether they are gaining it at our sides or outside our classroom walls. 

I am thankful to be connected with so many amazing educators who not only teach their kids in a variety of ways each and every day within their classrooms, but also inspire them and equip them to learn once they leave their classroom each day to pursue lifelong learning. Doing this is another way we Teach with Passion!


  1. Jeff this was really neat! I can't imagine how many times it took you, or would take me, to learn to tie that tie. But modeling persistence is excellent and we mustn't ever rob our kids of the benefit of the struggle. Yesterday my kids and I were going somewhere and my 4 year old insisted on putting his seat belt on all by himself. Minutes went by and I kept telling him that I would be glad to do it for him. He wouldn't let me. He stuck with it and got it! At 4! I was so impressed! His patience and grit was better than mine! Great piece as always!

    1. Jon,
      Thanks for reading & commenting! So many analogies to student learning come to mind when I worked to learn this minor skill....certainly persistence is one as you suggest and the idea that through struggle, we can eventually find success. So cool about your 4 year old! Thanks for sharing....