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Jostens Renaissance – the air we breathe

For the sixth time in my career I find myself at the Jostens Renaissance national conference. This year we are in sunny Scottsdale, AZ and have already heard from some amazing people who share the same passions that I do; a love of kids, a desire to help kids achieve at previously unseen levels, and a constant thirst for knowledge. This year is different, surely, as each year is. Maybe there is a different feel with different leadership from Jostens, but the message is still crystal clear.  For me, this conference is a time to recharge my batteries, to be reacquainted with friends I have made around the country through this conference, and to further my knowledge to better help all my kids at RSHS.  I was reminded today that kids are amazing; they all have talents, dreams, and desires and maybe, just maybe, if we give them the opportunity, and a little quality air to fan the glowing embers that are these passions they keep buried deep inside themselves, just maybe we might start a fire!  Thus – I say, we must give kids the air they need to breathe through Jostens Renaissance.

When he wrote “(t)he Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many feet of snow,” Jack London was referring to the mountainous world of the Yukon he paints as a picture in “To Build a Fire”.  If Jack London had sat with me today in the sessions I attended, (‘New to Jostens Renaissance by Dwight Carter and Steve Woolf; Creating Meaningful Learning Environments by Kevin Honeycutt; and the keynote address by Erik Wahl) he might have used the same phrasing to talk about the hidden talents of today’s America teenagers who do not get the recognition they deserve, need, crave, and live for…the air they breathe.  Perhaps the air they breathe is filled with what Kevin described as his home life, one of abuse and poverty.  Possibly the air they breathe could be filled with the discouragement given to Erik Wahl by his 4th grade teacher, who told him he was not good at art because he didn’t color inside the lines. (by the way, he is a world-renowned graffiti artist who’s paintings go for big money)

What is in the air your students breathe?  Is it toxic, or is it the kind of air that brings nurturing to them?  Do your students hang on every word, or do words crush them and their dreams.   In my presentation today, I shared Jake Bugg’s song “Lightning Bolt” as an attempt to spark a fire with my audience.  (here is a link to the video I showed – ) Jake says in his song “Everyone I see just want to walk with gritted teeth, but I just stand by and I wait my time…But when I see the signs I just jump on the lightning bolt.”  My intent was to impress upon student leaders, and the adult leaders that accompanied them to the presentation, that leadership is about opportunity – seize the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life.  You never know when the actions you take may just be the life-sustaining air they need to breathe.  This is my ‘lightning bolt’…What’s yours?

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