I spend a lot of time “Up North” each summer enjoying the peace, quiet and beauty that northern Michigan has to offer. That is until the Canadian geese fly over my cottage each evening in their familiar “V” formation honking away like mad shattering that tranquility. You can hear them honking back and forth at each other long before you can spot them and long after they fly out of view again.
I decided I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about so I Googled “Why geese honk In flight?” It seems there are a couple different theories about this. One theory is that they honk to communicate with each other — sharing important information like where they are in the formation. Another theory is that they honk to encourage each other to keep going during their long flights. Both theories are pretty cool, but I especially like the second one!
It reminds me of a quote from James W. Newman’s book (Release Your Brakes) that says,
“If you have ever played on any kind of athletic team, you know how dramatically productive it is for someone on the squad to ‘talk it up.’ It is contagious; before you know it everyone is more energetic, better coordinated, and expecting to win the game. That surge of positive self-talk within the team and the resulting feelings do increase the chances for victory.”
I’ve played on many soccer teams from the time I was in 8th grade right on through my college soccer playing days at Western Michigan University — and beyond. I was never the most skilled player on any of those teams. However, it was rare that I found someone that could out ‘honk’ me during a match. My mouth was often moving faster than my feet yelling to players on my team to keep going and cheering them on. I wouldn’t shut up! Even from the bench you could still hear me honking away.
I’m sure I irritated quite a few players and possibly fans from other teams just like the geese do to me when they fly over each night. However, I knew that it was important for someone to keep the team fired up and pressing on as the game wore on and we began to tire.
I always knew it was a good sign when players on the opposing teams stopped talking during a game. It usually meant that they were starting to tire out or lose belief in their chances for victory — like when a boxer keeps leaning on the ropes. In fact, I knew that when players on the opposing team started yelling at each other or the referees, the game was ours for the taking. As soon as I heard that, I would honk at my team louder than ever letting them know this was our moment to deliver the knockout punch.
It seems with all the challenges we face in education right now, we need to take a lesson from the geese and start honking like crazy at each other and keep honking throughout the long journey ahead. I know in my district, we have some major mountains to climb this upcoming year. Instead of going in and complaining and moaning about all the challenges we have before us, my goal is to talk-up the team as much as possible — to as many teammates as possible. I’m going to talk up my team of students as well.
Moaning and groaning will only further help to drain our energy and desire to push on with the hard work that needs to be completed. Talking the team up and cheering them on will hopefully make them want to play harder and help keep the energy level high.
If James W. Newman is correct in saying that talking up the team can become contagious, my hope is that soon there will be a whole flock of us honking away — encouraging each other and pushing us on to victory.
I challenge you to join me in making some noise this year. Honk at your students, their parents, and your colleagues — and keep honking to help make this the “Best Year Ever!”
Remember, you have the power to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
*Original Published Date - October 2015