Passing the Mic

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If you think about it, saying goodbye to our students every year is incredibly unnatural.  When else in life do we establish relationships with individuals, grow with each other, and just when it gets really good, must turn to them and say, “Have a great summer!”

After consoling students who were struggling with this instant separation, I walked back into to an empty room and gave myself permission to let my own guard down.  Needing to pull it together to join teachers for a celebratory lunch, however, I reached a level of composure that satisfied me.  In order to walk downstairs with an actual smile, I quickly reminded myself of the same powerful line I had just shared with students only moments before; this is just the beginning.

Back in September, we set out to have the “best year ever” and those three words stayed on the board until the last second of the last day of school.  As I think fondly of my superpirates, I realize that because of this, we learned together to embrace everything, good and not so good.  We feared that if we didn’t we might miss out on something life changing.  My students became hungry for inspiration as well as the chance to inspire and what I recently discovered is a phenomena I have never witnessed in a class before.

Inspired by Caine’s Arcade and the Imagination Foundation, last week we celebrated our service learning mission as students ran their very first cardboard arcade.  As I watched students and teachers from other classrooms play, it was mind boggling to me the level of creativity, empathy, and leadership erupting from my special crew.  In that moment, I knew they had become a force rapidly moving past me.   Staring in disbelief, I remember thinking, “I may have just reached a new level of leadership.”  I sat back, became the official raffle ticket ripper, and smiled for the rest of the morning.

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Perhaps the most beautiful part of the arcade was my superpirates stayed true to their name and created games with either a superhero or pirate theme.  Looking at the beautiful signs they created so it could be known to the world that this is who we are, I was so proud to just be a part of it.  In reflecting on our superpirate journey and all of the amazing superheroes and pirates we welcomed with open arms this past year, I realized that maybe my greatest strength as a leader is letting others in.  My students learned to learn from anyone, to open their hearts and minds, and as a result they opened themselves up to learning from each other.

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How they got to this point is the result of a transformation all students made a commitment to embrace.  In my last post, “Pirates to Superpirates, Embracing It All,” I was honestly in a superhero daze, completely blown away that one person and one curriculum could empower my students in just one week.  In this post, I hope to convey the next scene, changing our lives forever.

When Lourds Lane walked into our building, no one really knew what was coming.  We knew we were putting on a superhero show for potentially the whole school, we knew the basic outline, and we even started to practice a little.  We had “skyped” with Lourds several times throughout May and the beginning of June and since there had been an immediate connection, we were nothing but thrilled she would be joining us for a three day adventure.

June 15th, 16th, and 17th will now be dates we always remember.  In three short days, my students became real live superheroes with real life superpowers empowering an audience of 600 people to have a voice. Quiet students screamed, shy students grabbed the spotlight, and every student played a significant, but different role.  “I am a Superhero” became the theme song not just for the show, but represented a transformation with every student and teacher involved. From breakdancing to backflips, each act exploded with courage, humor, and camaraderie.  Together students were able to write scripts, work together, shine as their superhero selves, and show off their talents.

Perhaps the most moving scene was when students passed the mic to each other as they declared their superhero names, their superpowers, and how they’re going to change to the world.  This rock star “call and response” moment embedded in the curriculum was monumental as every child and adult in the audience affirmed each student’s superheroism.

Here is Mr. Kindness saying, I’m Mr. Kindness and I feel empowered.”  Then, the whole school responded with, “Go Mr. Kindness!  We feel your power!”  What 10 year old wouldn’t want to experience this?

Mr. Kindess’s Superhero Declaration 

As if the show wasn’t enough, students became the stars of a one of a kind superhero music video that has already spread like crazy.

Yet with both the performance and video, the common line for all of us went something like this: “I never thought I could do that!”  So was it a miracle?  No.  At least I don’t think so.  In speaking with Lourds, who was equally blown away by this special group of children, I think two important things took place.  My students were already confident “pirate” learners and leaders, were advocates for the “You Matter” movement, had just starred in their own “Genius Hour” presentations, were now working toward a service learning mission based on a combination of their passions, and had already experienced many of the SuperYou lessons including making their own superhero costumes.  These engaging and meaningful experiences had certainly become a part of my students, but they still weren’t enough to pull off what we pulled off in the short amount of time we had.  There was still a missing link to this beautiful equation.  I like to think of it as the clutch hitter who knocks it out of the park, only this time the kids ran the bases.

Lourds Lane, a unique individual like no other human being my students and I had ever met, was up to bat.  She radiated energy from the moment she walked into my classroom with nothing but genuine interest in each of my students.  One can’t help but bring his or her “A game” just to meet her energy halfway.  Although full of wonderful imperfections, this is what she brought out of each of us- the very best we could be.  Students were put in situations every moment of the day where they were forced to think on their feet, collaborate, problem solve, sweat, and persevere.  Even I was at times out of my element not accustomed to the live performance world and intense level of commitment required to survive it.  As their leader, however, and ultimately the person in charge of making the performance happen, I passed the mic to Lourds and the results are clearly invaluable.  Indeed, she hit the ball out of the park and every kid scored.

Together, Lourds and I joined forces to create a new mindset for my students and they were able to see themselves in a different light.  As superheroes, students used their superpowers to get through everything from social and emotional situations to academic and physical challenges.  In fact, after running a 5K last Saturday, two of my superpirates came sprinting up to me screaming how they had just used their superpowers to help them finish.  One student used perseverance to help her keep going and the other used creativity to think of a way to encourage herself to keep running.  I have never seen students so excited to tell me anything.  They were proud, because they had dug deep and conquered something they otherwise may not have.  It’s clear students are taking our experience with Lourds and her SuperYou curriculum beyond school and into every aspect of their lives.  And the thing is, they get it.

A few letters to Lourds that say it all.

“Dear Shine, Thank you for making these the best 3 days eva (Boston accent). You made me a much better person. Let me tell you something I was a really shy kid and ever since you came and empowered me, now I’m not afraid to wear something or do something. Now I want to empower others who are shy like I was. I hope this is not the last time I see you. — Gumball”
“Dear Lourds, Thank you. That’s all that I want to say. Thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for bringing me out of my comfort zone. I feel so empowered and so inspired. Thank you so much for creating the “Super You” curriculum because it has really boosted my confidence. A LOT. Before I used to be so scared of life, but now, I’m not afraid to do anything. I mean, I won’t bungee jump off of a cliff… well, maybe! 🙂 It actually sounds like fun!! Also, I wanted to thank you for playing the piano with me a couple of days ago. I don’t know how, but I just blanked on the notes. So, THANK YOU. 🙂 Your curriculum has really made me feel like I can do anything. You did an amazing job creating this program. THANK YOU. 🙂 I am truly a superhero. Tigris.”
“Dear Lourds Lane, I had the most fun I have ever had in almost 10 years (I am 9 turning 10).” — Pink Crayon
“Dear Lourds/Shine, I can’t tell you how much we all miss you! You have empowered and inspired all of us, especially me! These last 3 days have changed me so much as a person and a superhero!” –Tenacity Tiger
“Dear Lourds…Lastly, I have changed by becoming more courageous and imaginative. I still cannot believe that I got up and spoke up in front of 600 people! If I looked back a month before we met you and before I became a superhero I would never imagine me getting up in front of 600 people and talking so THANK YOU for helping me become the superhero I am. –Imaginaire”
“Lourds…I just really wish you were back! I REALLY MISS YOU! We all were crying when we got home because you left. Hope you Skype with us soon! Love, Teddy Bear.”
“Dear Shine, I think it was great when you came. It was REALLY FUN!! I’ve felt like I can do ANYTHING. The last few days I’ve changed into someone that is a lot more courageous!! I have crushed my fear of standing in front of an audience. Thank you, Courageous Creator”
“Dear Lourds, the past few days have been cool and great. When it was Monday I got out of bed as quickly as possible and I ate breakfast and went to school. It was awesome but Tuesday and Wednesday were the best days ever! When you left we were all sad but then we skyped with you which was great! You were and always will be a superhero. As soon as I saw you I knew that day would be fun-filled. I hope to see you when I come to New York this year. — Mr. Kindness”
“Dear Shine…You have changed my life and the way I think about myself and others. Now, because of you, I realized that the world would not be the same without me…and YOU, and anyone…–Love, Rainbow Woman”
“Dear Lourds, I love the SuperYou Curriculum and the energy you brought to school every day inspired me and made my day the best day ever!!!!!! In fact you have made the best year ever better. I hope you keep all your empowering energy and destroying people’s minds with your awesomeness. –Go To Man”
Mind Mage’s slide in a presentation for parents.

Not only are students empowered, they have learned to empower each other, depend on each other, and to put each other in the spotlight even when it means they must take a step back.  Never in a million years would I have asked this brave question Lourds asked yet what took place was historic.  In trying to figure out who should start off a section of the show, she simply asked my students, “Who should lead this section?”  Within seconds a decision was made with no hard feelings or jealousy. Because all students truly believe in their own superpowers and that they all have something to give, they have reached a level of confidence I would have never discovered on my own.  This belief in themselves allows them to encourage each other and right before we put on our show, students brought this concept to life.  As we were hectically setting up, we asked students to rehearse their lines without us.  It wasn’t until I saw the picture below that it really hit me the level of heroism my superpirates had achieved as they were being heroes for each other.

Here they are in a circle going over their lines and working together without any adult supervision.

June, the month where kids typically start to check out early, showed higher attendance than any other month and for the first time in eleven years, I was able to report perfect attendance during our final week together.  I receive emails daily from my students begging me to reopen school.  They still crave be inspired, to inspire others, and connect with each other.  They are driven to lead and to be led, to open their minds and hearts to learning from people who care about them and who care about changing the world.

It’s through working with Lourds that led me to the conclusion that my superhero self, “Lioness Pirate,” uses my superpower of “courage” not only to empower others, but most importantly to allow others to empower me.  For the first time in my life, I rallied a crowd and for the first time in twenty years, I played the drums in front of several hundred people and had the time of my life.  If I had been the only leader to hold the mic, my special crew would have been a wonderful group of students who had a good year with a teacher who cared deeply about them.  By extending my classroom to extraordinary people and their work, however, like Dave and Shelley Burgess, Angela Maiers, Paul Solarz, and the unforgettable rockstar Lourds Lane, I was able to pass the mic and shape a crew of students who like no other class before became bigger than big.  Most importantly, I transformed as a leader and as a result, my students led me.  They now know how to rock the mic and just as importantly, when to pass it.

I do believe we accomplished “BEST YEAR EVER” as it will be remembered as the year that began a life changing journey. The Superpirates of Crew 202 will fly and change the world together.  After all, that’s what real superheroes do.

Real Life Superheroesk

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These three superheroes learned “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” the day before the show for our talent segment, which embraced several superpowers.

SuperYou Graduation Through Skype


IMG_0227IMG_0230Giving High 5’s to Lourds as we receive our certificates.  I’ve never seen students so proud.


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We are who we dream to be and we dream of changing the world.IMG_3464

by Colorful Creator
by Colorful Creator


Kelly DaRosa, without your artistic expertise and passion for working with students, our superhero artwork would not have come to life as it did for the performance.


SuperYou FUNdation (including SuperYou Curriculum, music, testimonials, videos, and much more!)

Pirate to Superpirate, Embracing It All

We are forever grateful to Richie Calvache for his energy and brilliant videography he brought to my students and school. Thank you, Richie, for allowing us to shine.


And Lourds Lane, you are a light that shines for all of us.  Thank you for your commitment to changing the world and thank you for putting your heart and soul into everything you do.  YOU are a superhero, I had a blast flying along with you, and our journey with the Superpirates of Crew 202 has just begun.

2 thoughts on “Passing the Mic

  1. I have so much to say. You give proper credit to amazing students and amazing leaders yet you are humble in your self. Wow! Nili, you have inspired me to do even greater things at my school and you continue to make everyone around you a “Superhero”.

    Liked by 1 person

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