It only takes a spark…
The Lone Nut…
Do a quick Google search of “How to start a movement” and one will see similar results to those listed above as well as endless cliches we have all heard thousands of times. But what is it that truly starts a movement and can it be as simple as a spark or an extra degree?
Movements undoubtedly start with a passion. Passion comes in many forms and for many different causes. Hopefully, every individual has something they are personally passionate about and will at times share this passion with those around them. But what takes this personal passion and transforms it into a movement. How can your cause become the cause of thousands of other like minded individuals who want to make a difference? It can be something simple and maybe unexpected.
Over the past year, a movement has grown throughout the educational community in Nebraska and has brought together those who are passionate about sharing the story of public schools throughout the state. And while this movement continues to spread through the tremendous films and social media campaigns Nebraska Loves Public Schools puts together, the spark has been a simple shirt with three words and a symbol.
These shirts are worn with a sense of pride throughout our communities. But what started out as a statewide effort to share the story of strong public schools has quickly blossomed into a phenomena that maybe even the great people at NElovesPS couldn’t even expect.
Over this past spring and summer, I was fortunate to travel from east coast to west coast and many parts in between. In February, I happened to wear my I “Heart” Public Schools shirt to the airport and the spark was lit! I had a number of people come up to me and say “I like your shirt” or “Where do you teach?”. And over the next seven months, I made it a mission to be sure whenever I traveled I packed my shirt. What happened next blew my mind.
One simple shirt allowed for numerous high fives, handshakes, “thanks for what you do”, “I do too”, and other interactions that normally don’t take place walking through a terminal. What the shirt allowed is for deeper conversations because of the passion that lies within all educators.
Regardless of the airport, museum, ball park, or restaurant I was visiting, I nearly always had someone make a comment about the shirt. I met educators from Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia, Idaho, Montana, The District of Columbia, etc and the list continues to grow. What was special is that each of these people not only had a story but a passion for what they did, educating ALL students who came through their doors. A simple shirt brought us together.
On a train in Philadelphia I had a gentleman tell me, “You’re brave for wearing that shirt” which lead to a 15 minute conversation about his career as a public school teacher in the Philadelphia Public School system and the struggles they have faced. This conversation allow me to understand the needs and challenges of large urban districts which are sometimes unrelatable to those of rural America. A simple shirt…
Not every interaction is positive and one was downright bizarre. I have had those who have challenged my views and even asked if I really believe what my shirts says and my answer is (and will always be) a resounding YES! While I had another lady tell me my shirt was creepy and when I asked why she said, “Because it reminds me of my van?” Before I could ask a follow up questions (with a puzzled looked on my face) she was gone. Part of wearing the shirt is being proud of who you are and what public education represents, which makes this last story so special.
My family took a trip up highway 101 this summer culminating with a few days in Seattle. We stayed at my cousins house and was able to do some laundry so I washed my shirt and wore it the next day to the world famous “Fish Market”. As we were meandering our way through the crowds, I was grabbed from behind and given a bear hug by a complete stranger who said, “I love the shirt, I do too.” As I got over the initial shock of having a complete stranger hug me, I asked where she was from and where she taught. She was from Montana and was a middle level teacher for 30+ years. A simple shirt and a passion…
Ask anyone who wears their I “Heart” Public Schools shirt and they will have a story to tell of similar interactions. Nebraska is blessed to have Sally, Brittany, and the entire team at Nebraska Loves Public Schools sharing the endless stories of public schools making a difference in the lives of our students. Whether intended to be the spark to start a movement or not, the shirts have and will continue to initiate conversation which are vital in telling the stories each of our schools have. Thanks for all you do for public schools but most importantly our students. I “Heart” Public Schools.
Check out the great things happening at NElovesPS.org
Want to order your own shirt? Order it at https://nelovesps.mybrightsites.com/
Milford Jr/Sr High Principal