My school district found the perfect way to get the staff riled up for the new school year. We had a keynote speaker this morning in a district-wide assembly, and to our total delight and surprise it was one of the 5th graders from town. She wasn’t from my building, but man was this kid something else. She paced the stage and used her headset mic like a motivational speaker on TV. She told us not to give up on her and her classmates because for some of them we’re all they’ve got. She knows working with kids can be tough (and for this she yelled out to the crowd, “Can I get an AMEN?!”), but the kids need us. She asked if we believe every child in our district can graduate high school ready for college or the workplace (“YES!!”). And she asked us to believe in our colleagues and believe in ourselves.

She was outrageously good, and the whole auditorium was with her. Towards the end she began to forget her speech a little, and just as she was winding up to a finish she completely forgot what she was going to say. She stood for a minute thinking, getting really nervous, looking upset, and then we were all on our feet giving her a standing ovation. She remembered her line, thanked us, and ran offstage. And I’ve never seen teachers make so much noise. They brought her back out and gave her some flowers, and she got another standing ovation.

And that was all it took to knock the back-to-school blues out of everyone. She is the reason we do what we do, and she reminded us of that. It was perfect, and we were ready to get down to work. It was the best speech I’ve ever seen.