Meet Julie Coles
I live in a house. I’m surrounded by tranquility. But the place I feel most at home is . . .
Imagining some of the most illuminating ideas with creative friends. Say “hello” to Talya and Brittany—two extraordinary educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with and mentoring.
Our creative brainstorming sessions sometimes produce ideas worthy of nurturing. Daydreaming is where I cultivate thoughts that eventually blossom in the most unexpected ways.
Taking the time to bring ideas to fruition is a gratifying experience.
Writing America’s Educational Crossroads was one of those moments.
Upon achieving that milestone, I took some time to indulge in a moment of celebration with friends, family, and colleagues.
I enjoy daydreaming . . . a lot. My habitual daydreaming often serves as a catalyst for inspirational ideas.
Like working with my sister, Deb, to produce a video of her favorite holiday memories.
When guardrails are occasionally needed to rein in my tendency to imagine a wee bit too broadly, I seek sage advice from my brother, Jim. He’s good at cutting to the chase. Warnings like "You might just wanna leave that right there . . . alone" are so appreciated.
And then there was the time I wanted to play the baby grand, but discovered I didn’t know how to. But how sweet was the thought of tickling those keys?
Thankfully, I found extraordinary artists, and willing partners, Juho Lee and Cindy Severino. Working collaboratively with Juho, with his extraordinary artistry as an illustrator, and Cindy, with her highly creative video production skills, made it possible to transform a written description of something I had imagined into a blueprint of what a potential model of integrating students’ academic and career aspirations with their education experience throughout their years in high school could look like. (Interested in learning more? See Backstory: How The Collaborative High School Campus Model Happened)
Inspired by Messages and Messengers . . .
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
When others express doubts about my intentions being overly ambitious, I work through all of the noise by finding solace in reminders like this message . . .
Thank you, Lady Gaga
Whenever facing unexpected challenges requiring the need to rise up and speak truth to anyone, but particularly to those in power, sometimes it would result in being targeted with some form of disapproval—a kind way of saying retribution. Expressions of constructive feedback were well received by leaders who were competent. Competent leaders didn’t fear professionals with divergent points of view. Fortunately, I did not meet those moments
with fear. But whenever I was confounded by how my decision to speak up could have resulted in a response of disapproval . . . and one so disproportionate to my remarks, I relied on an
Albert Einstein quote.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Albert’s wisdom serves as an inspiration for me because he had a knack of being acutely aware of our human and sometimes inhumane foibles. I find his message encouraging because it reminds me of my right to find joy in my ability to be imaginative, and when necessary, to not be afraid to take risks. It’s also a reminder not to expect everyone I encounter will understand the way I think.
Following the Example of Others for Whom Deterrence, Exhaustion, and Despair Have Never Been an Option . . .
My life has been influenced by the Malcolm Xs, Shirley Chisholms, Martin Luther Kings, Harriet Tubmans, and so many others whom I don’t know—mostly due to the absence of their heroic contributions in our history books. Much of my admiration is for the extraordinary strength possessed by many to meet moments where they literally gave their lives for the betterment of others. Being among one of the later generations who benefited from their legacy and determination to eradicate systemic racism, in later years I would come to realize that my trajectory from classroom teacher to school leader was made possible by activists like them. My tenure as a school leader would not have been possible at one time because Blacks in America were deemed intellectually inferior and not capable of leading anything—including schools.
But the honor of being a school leader for a 98% minority student population filled me with a sense of an obligation to continue what those before me started. After all, were it not for the contributions of those courageous people who preceded me, and fought for the rights of my generation to advance in ways they could not, it likely would have resulted in the continuation of dreams being deferred: theirs, mine, and generations of students to come. They are my inspiration for wanting to perform exceptionally well as a teacher, school leader, and now author. Honoring their legacy is my way of thanking them for instilling in me a desire to carry forth what I inherited from them: an obligation to continue the educational advancement of African Americans.
Aspirations to Continue Educating
As a lifetime educator, I devoted much of my career to examining—and where possible, removing and replacing—institutionalized barriers of educational oppression. And that mission continues. Fortunately, launching my new career as an author with America’s Educational Crossroads provided an opportunity for me to continue imagining ways to improve education for all students. As is often the case when barriers are dismantled, then replaced with nondiscriminatory and higher-quality practices beneficial to everyone, and not just a few, ultimately the changes both enhance performances and work at an accelerated pace.
The era of applying reforms to education has not produced sustainable academic achievement. It is time to discontinue proposing reforms that feel more like safety nets designed to capture and prevent further decline in student academic performance—usually among those performing at the lowest academic levels—and instead target ways to improve performances.