The Director’s Chair

Recently, I was watching an interview with Quentin Tarantino where he described his journey toward becoming a director and some of the lessons he had learned along the way.  The interview was intriguing to me as a movie lover, but I also found many of the points he made were relevant to my role as a school principal.  Here are some takeaways that I found useful for the world of education.

Know your story: When asked about directing his first film, he said he was extremely nervous, because everyone seemed to know more about things than he did.  The lighting and sound crew knew their jobs, the production crew were all seasoned, and it was the first time he had directed professional actors.  The only thing that kept him focused and his confidence high was that he knew the story better than anyone else.  He had written it, polished it, and knew how he wanted it to be told.  Holding tight to that vision of how the story would be told made him the expert and helped him through all of the areas that he would learn as he went.  School leaders need to know their story as well.  We don’t need to be the expert in every area, but we need to have a vision of where we want the school to go.  If we can do that, everything else will fall into place!

Failure is okay: Coming off several hit films, Quentin Tarantino said that he started to feel that audiences would follow him where ever he led.  His fourth film, a box office disaster, showed him that wasn’t the case.  He described the experience by saying “I felt like my girlfriend just broke up with me…and my girlfriend was planet Earth!”. The failure caused him to redouble his efforts, start fresh with a new story and pour his heart and soul into another film project.  The attention to detail was so intense that he shared he did 34 takes on one scene that lasted only a few seconds.  It had to be perfect!  The next venture was a success, but he never took that success for granted again.  As educators, we need to be willing to take risks, fall on our face, and then brush ourselves off and try again.  The more we model risk-taking the more our students will do the same and learn to look at failure as a stepping stone to success.

Make them shine: Quentin Tarantino is often credited for taking overlooked or forgotten actors and spotlighting them in his movies.  He has launched, resurrected, and jump-started many careers.  He said in the interview that he often sees actors in films serving in minor roles and thinks, “If I could give them a good role, I know they would shine.”  How true that is for our teacher leaders as well!  If we give teachers the chance to shine and the freedom to dream big and act big, then they will do so and the result will be more successful students.

Do what you love: The constant theme throughout the interview was his love of movies. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t just make movies, he studies them, emulates them, pays homage to them, and loves everything about them.  It was amazing to see his vast knowledge of directors, actors, genres, musical scores, and techniques.  He mentioned several times that he sees himself as a story teller and loves every part of that process from writing, to directing, to producing.  In the same manner, we know that educators who love what they do are the most successful.  You can’t fake being a good educator, because students will know.  We need to bring our passion, our drive, and our love of teaching with us each and every day to school.  Yes, there will be tough days, but if we are doing what we love, those tough days will fade away and we will be left with happy memories and the satisfaction that we did our very best for every child.

As I reflect on that interview, I realize that those of us in education will probably never have a fan base, never get interviewed, and never achieve fame and fortune.  That’s okay, we get our reward with each smile, each hug, and each life that we make better.  As you prepare to start a new school year, remember to know the story you want to tell, don’t be afraid to fail, make your students shine, and most importantly, remember to have fun and do what you love.  For me, that means serving students and staff in the job I love…a school principal!

photo credit:


  • “I have loved movies as the number one thing in my life so long that I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t.” 
  • “I am a genre lover – everything from spaghetti western to samurai movies.” 
  • “My plan is to have a theater in some small town…I’ll be the crazy old movie guy.” 

Some Summer Laughs with Gerry Brooks! 

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