8 Things Education Should Learn From Star Wars

Monday, December 21, 20159:15 PM

A few days ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened and has since shattered minds, captivated imaginations, and fulfilled the dreams of fans like me ever since the disappointment of the dreaded prequels. The music alone made me giddy. The opening crawl, with it’s nostalgia and effects made me smile from ear-to-ear. But soon I realized how good the movie was and how much fun I was having in the theatre. The Force Awakens is the Star Wars movie long-time fans deserved and newer fans need to continue (and maybe redeem) the franchise’s legacy.

My Tweet below holds true for this post, too. You will find no spoilers here!

But what the heck does any of this have to do with education? Sure, I sit here writing this looking up at the 1977 vintage A New Hope poster framed on my wall, but this post isn’t just for fans like me. Star Wars is about more than that.

Star Wars is more than the story of good and evil, a sci-fi Western, or heroes in space. It's one about family, friendship, legacy, hope, and education. Luke Skywalker may be destined to bring balance to the force and redeem his father's mistakes but he couldn't have done it without his teachers and friends. He learns to be a Jedi from Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and the force. But he also learns how to be a hero from his friends; whether it’s learning a little recklessness and spontaneity from Han Solo, about family and leadership from Princess Leia, or even about how to stand up to adversity and family against Darth Vader, Luke learns how to be a hero because the teachers he has along the way.

Star Wars is a story about balance, making a better future, and transformation. The conflicts may exist a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but its lessons both in plot and filmmaking have power in today’s world of education. In fact, as I pondered the new film and it’s place in the series, along with the past and future of the saga, I couldn’t help but make connections to teaching.

"Do or do not. There is no try." Courtesy of Pintrest.

Whether you’re a Jedi master or young Padawan, or don't even know what these terms mean, the lessons of the Star Wars saga can help us all be better teachers and make real transformational change in our world and our students lives. As we look towards the break, holidays, and new year, ponder these lessons and how you can transform and grow your own practice and your impact on students. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

8 Things Education Should Learn From Star Wars

1. Respect History

The Star Wars films, including the newest, have always done a wonderful job of creating an expansive world filled with rich history and tradition. In teaching, we’re often looking forward to the newest change and fad. It’s important to look back, recognize where we’ve come from, and those who helped us along the way. Whether that’s our own friends, mentors, and colleagues or the scholars and educationals theorists upon whose ideas we depend, it all started somewhere. If even Han Solo recognizes the truth of the force, we can all recognize and honor the past even as we grow into the new year.

2. Look to the Future

While we reflect and honor the past, we need to always be looking forward, too. Today’s world of teaching is experiencing huge reforms and transformations. We may not be looking to overthrow the Galactic Empire, but the edreform resistance is thriving in many ways. Like many stories, Star Wars is one of children making up for the mistakes of their parents and trying to create a better world. Like Luke, we need to strive to do better, resist the dark side, and to make meaningful change in not only our students lives and learning, but in our schools and communities as well.

Jedi to the Future courtesy of Pintrest.

3. Appeal to All Audiences

When I say that The Force Awakens made me laugh, cry, think, smile, and cheer, there’s no hyperbole. The film was raw emotion and pulled me along with it. That’s nothing new for Star Wars--rewatch A New Hope and you’ll likely laugh, too--it’s funnier than I remembered. The films are clearly sci-fi fantasy, so they might seem to only appeal to a specific audience, but I really think Star Wars has it all: action, adventure, heart, love stories, and more. Men, women, young, and old--it hits all four quadrants. We, as teachers, can’t forget to appeal to all of our audiences, too. Not every student will like the content area I teach or enjoy class every day, and that’s life. But it’s essential to find ways to relate to, engage, and to meet the needs of all learners--even those without the force.

The Force Awakens cast photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly. I love that the leads are strong and diverse, reminding us today’s learners don’t just look like Han, Luke, and Leia.

5. Kids are Complicated!

The central conflict of Star Wars involves the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. In his aftermath, Luke and our heroes must atone for the wrongdoings of the now Darth Vader and become more than the heroic archetypes they started as. Luke can become the Jedi Master, Leia more than the damsel in distress, and Han outgrow his roguish ways to find love and purpose. Our students are more than archetypes, and as much as I love Luke and friends, our students are more than that, too. It’s easy to generalize and group them into trends and grades, but we can’t forget to value our students as individuals, as learners, and as the unique people they are.
A page from Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown

6. The Force is Found Where You Least Expect It

Luke may be a wanna-be pilot with a destiny, but he never expected to have the power to change his world. As the Jedi masters teach, the force is everywhere and is a constant in life. While I’ve yet to find it in our world, don’t be surprised at where the magic happens in your classroom. I love when the teachable moments pop up, lessons take a turn, and students achieve and new and different ways. The spontaneity and art of teaching is one of my favorite things about it--it’s real, it’s fun, and it can be messy. But, like the force, it’s a part of our world, even when it’s least expected. May the force be with you.

GIF from Genius.com

7. Great Teachers Are Everywhere

Luke learns about life and heroism from all sides: the Jedi, light and dark, and his friends. Anakin, too, learned from many mentors along the way. We all have great teachers in our lives and our schools who deserve recognition. Recently, I’ve been participating in learning walks in my school, and it’s been such a pleasure to spend a few minutes in other teacher’s classrooms and to get the powerful reminder that we are all working hard, teaching well, and putting student first. Just keep them away from the dark side, please.

Another image courtesy of Pintrest.

8. Learn From Your Mistakes

I think the prequels say it all. Enough said?

This week, my loves of Star Wars and teaching collided, and it was beautiful. I was left loving a new movie, seeing the enthusiasm The Force Awakens in my classes, all while making strong, positive connections to my classroom practice to end the year on. As Yoda said, “Pass on what you learn.” So whatever it is you learned from Star Wars, share it in the comments or connect on Twitter. And if you haven’t watched the series, you now have your New Year’s resolution.

Yoda’s parting words from GovLoop.com

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  1. Star Wars taught about having confidence...

    General Dodonna: "...Only a precise hit will set off a chain reaction. The shaft is ray-shielded, so you'll have to use proton torpedoes."
    Wedge Antilles: "That's impossible! Even for a computer."
    Luke: "It's not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two meters."

    Luke, a simple farm boy from Tatooine, is part of a small group of rebels about to take on the most powerful weapon in the known galaxy. A task so daunting, that it rocks the confidence of established x-wing pilot Wedge Antilles. But Luke looks at this challenge as something surmountable, heck he just rescued a princess from a Star Destroyer with an old man, a scoundrel, a fur ball, and two robots. Star Wars is all about having confidence and believing in one's self.