Born to Teach: What Educators Can Learn from Bruce Springsteen by Melissa Morriss-Olson

When Bruce Springsteen took to the stage at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA last week, it wasn’t just a concert; it was a masterclass in engagement. For over three hours, ‘The Boss’ had an entire stadium—including me–hanging on to every chord, every lyric, every story. As an educator watching this performance unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if teachers could replicate even a fraction of that engagement in the classroom? Here we are at the beginning of a new academic year.  This is a great time to take a pause to consider what we might do differently in the year ahead. For me, last week’s concert provided an unexpected dose of inspiration and ideas for some specific things I plan to focus on in the year ahead. Here they are in no particular order: 

The Art of Storytelling:
It’s no secret that Bruce is a storyteller. Between songs, he regales his audience with tales from his past, the inspiration behind a lyric, or a heartfelt anecdote. This narrative approach transforms his songs from mere melodies into rich tapestries of life. In the classroom, a teacher’s personal stories or relevant anecdotes can make a lesson come alive. It’s not just about the curriculum; it’s about making it resonate, making it real. Application for Educators: What personal stories or relevant narratives can you share with your students? It creates a connection, makes content relatable, and humanizes us as educators. 

Passion and Energy:
Even after decades of performing, Springsteen’s energy—at age 73–is electrifying. It’s his passion, his commitment to the craft. When a teacher brings that same passion into the classroom, students take notice. It’s the difference between rote learning and inspired understanding. Application for Educators: Our enthusiasm is often the spark that lights the flame of curiosity in our students. How passionate are you about what you are teaching? How can you increase your own sense of excitement about your craft?

Audience (or Student) Engagement:
Watch Bruce at a concert, and you’ll notice how he connects with the audience. From the front row to the very back, everyone feels seen. In our classrooms, that translates to active participation, ensuring every student, whether outspoken or reserved, feels involved and valued.Application for Educators: How can you involve your students more actively in their learning process? Providing time for open discussions, seeking feedback, and ensuring that each student feels acknowledged and valued is a good starting point. 

Adaptability and Flow:
Not every concert goes as planned. A storm might roll in, or the audience might not resonate with a particular song. But Bruce adapts, shifting his setlist or changing tempo. Similarly, not every lesson plan will resonate. Being able to read the room and adjust on the fly is a hallmark of an effective educator.Application for Educators: Stay attuned to your students. Are you aware of how they are responding to particular content or teaching methods, to what works and what doesn’t?  Adjusting our methods or pacing based on their needs can make all the difference. 

Longevity and Evolution:
Bruce’s music has evolved over the decades, embracing new styles while honoring his roots. The world of education is also in constant flux, with new technologies and methodologies emerging. Embracing these changes while staying true to the core tenets of teaching is essential.Application for Educators: As the world changes, so must our teaching techniques. What is something new that you are incorporating into your teaching in this new year? 

Building a Community:
At a Springsteen concert, you’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the E Street family. The sense of community is palpable. This is what we strive for in education: classrooms where students don’t just coexist but collaborate, support, and grow together.Application for Educators: Fostering a sense of belonging in our classrooms can amplify learning experiences. Let’s cultivate spaces where students collaborate, support, and thrive together. 

Above all, Bruce Springsteen is unapologetically authentic. And authenticity in the classroom? It’s a game-changer. Students don’t just want educators to teach; they want them to be real, to be genuine. That genuine connection fosters trust, and with trust, the possibilities for learning are boundless.Application for Educators: Genuine interactions form the bedrock of trust. Let’s be real with our students. Authenticity fosters respect and a conducive learning environment. In essence, while classrooms might not have guitar solos or roaring crowds, the principles of engagement remain strikingly similar. Whether you’re a rock legend or an educator, it’s all about connection, passion, and authenticity. So, the next time you step into your classroom, maybe, just maybe, channel a bit of ‘The Boss’. After all, we’re all born to teach. 

Question for Reflection: Where else, in unexpected corners of life, have you found inspiration for your teaching?

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