You Can’t Bottle a Beatle

  • Regarding the Classroom Placement Process for 2013-2014 

    David Hoffman

    Author’s note: Some of the italicized words in this article denote titles of Beatle songs or albums.

    I once read an article that contended if you ever want to know the true essence of a person, ask him or her this simple question:  Who is your favorite Beatle?

    The article proffered the notion that each of the Fab Four had a distinct personality—John was cerebral and creative, Paul was ambitious and business-minded, George was quiet and spiritual, and Ringo—well—you know, Ringo was Ringo.

                I once tried this quick personality test on an acquaintance:

                “So who’s your favorite Beatle?”

                “Favorite Beatle?”

                “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”

                “I don’t know, maybe Mick Jagger”

                So much for the Liverpool litmus test.

    Being a huge Beatle fan, and having read a lot about the lads from Liverpool, I know that it is futile to bottle Beatle brands.  Much of their perceived personas were shaped by scripted movie roles, misinterpreted lyrics and staged public performances.  When you try to make generalizations about complex individuals, you end up reducing them to cartoon characters, which is exactly what happened to the Beatles during their short-lived Saturday morning animated show. 

    We have all been on both ends of the Beatle-ization process where we are quick to label or have been quickly labeled; where multifaceted personalities end up being flattened into distorted, two-dimensional figures. 

    When I started grade school, I was the fifth Beatle:  David—the small, shy, non-athletic, bookworm, gullible one. You remember me, the Beatle who was one of the last to be selected by classmates choosing sports teams; the Beatle who freely gave up his lunch money or homework to someone who was hungry or unprepared.  While I wasn’t the Fool on the Hill, I often felt like a real Nowhere Man.

    But school is a real Magical Mystery Tour. Somehow and somewhere along the journey, we become fully realized individuals. We get to know each other and marvel at each other’s multiple talents and complicated personalities. 

    My classmates quickly learned that I had incredible running speed after I was given the opportunity during flag football games to dodge and dart my way through defensive holes. Others saw my shyness slip away when I performed in school plays. My wallflower personality slowly blossomed. My peers soon realized that while I could indeed provide them with a last minute summary of an assigned story, I was definitely not the one to consult when looking for correct math answers. 

    I have written before of the Beatle-ization of teachers.  Prior to entering fourth grade, I didn’t want Mrs. Law because she had a reputation of being ruthless.  Mr. Karr was the high school history teacher to avoid because, according to the rumor mill, he was a real Mean Mr. Mustard (Abbey Road, side two, cut five).  Yep, you probably know that these two teachers rank high on my Billboard list of all-time favorite instructors. 

    Please excuse the Long and Winding Road I’ve taken, but all this Beatle banter is leading to Something.  Later this spring, we will begin the process of placing students in classes for the 2013-2014 school year. (A complete description of the philosophy and timeline that is associated with such placement follows this newsletter.)

    Trying to pick a teacher who is best for your child is a little like picking the Beatle whose artistic vision and performance can best inspire and enrich your child’s life. As previously stated, each Beatle was a lot more complex than his perceived public persona.  While a John Lennon might inspire one child in a family to Imagine and aspire to great things, another child in the same household might equally benefit from the musical instruction of a Paul McCartney.  In the end, it is rewarding and necessary for children to be exposed to Lennons and McCartneys (as well as Harrisons and Starrs) in their education so that they learn from, work with and appreciate diverse styles.  Accordingly, I ask that you do not make placement requests concerning specific teachers.

    Similarly, a lot of thought and care goes into creating balanced classrooms. We strive for diverse populations of learners who will help each other see and realize their full potentials.  Like the Beatles, students in a classroom are talented, complex, and ever-evolving individuals. They are more than playground reputations or classroom caricatures. They are also part of a synergism that lifts the whole group to unheralded heights. In a carefully crafted classroom, as with a well-formed group like the Beatles, the sum is potentially greater than the already capable parts. Therefore, please trust the staff to place your son or daughter with a group of appropriate peers.

    Please know that we take the student placement process very seriously. To paraphrase the penultimate Beatle song ever etched into vinyl: And in the end . . . the care we take, will help create the growth they’ll make.