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What’s greater than great? The surprising connection between edcampHOME and the 80s Lakers

The word great gets thrown around like a wrecking ball sometimes- we want to see greatness, to achieve greatness: greatness in our athletes, greatness in our teachers.  Heck, I’ve tweeted about the concept of greatness often:

Trying to be great2

When I was a thirteen years old, I was lucky enough to see greatness. It happened on May 16th, 1980 in Philadelphia.


Thank you Dr. Buss for recognizing greatness and finding ways to support it. 

A young rookie by the name of Ervin Johnson, a point guard by trade, played the game of the century. The Lakers best player, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a top ten all-time great injured his ankle and couldn’t play in game six of the NBA championship. Most NBA fans assumed the Lakers would lose the road game. We in LA were just praying that Kareem would be well enough to play in game 7. Up to that point Kareem was averaging over 33 points a game in the series and we couldn’t picture us winning without Kareem.

By the way Kareem was my 2nd favorite Laker of all-time, I know many people never connected with Kareem, but I was always the tallest in my class growing up, I loved to read, and kinda hung out by myself, or with a small group of friends, Kareem was my perfect role model. For an example of Kareem’s wit you can read his philosophy of gift giving. 

Luckily, Ervin had some special magic reserved for that night. Playing center against a very good center Daryl Dawkins,  Erving (Magic) Johnson rolled out the following stat line:

PTS: 42 FT: 14/14 REB: 15 AST: 7 STL: 3 BLK: 1

RESULT: Lakers 123, 76ers 107  Lakers win the NBA championship in six games.

Great game huh? So my two favorite Lakers were: Magic and Kareem.

Top 2 Favorite Lakers

Those two were the very definition of greatness. Magic Johnson won five NBA championships and Kareem won six. Together they averaged around fifty points a game- pretty amazing right?  But you can’t win an NBA game averaging 50+ points a game, you need more. You need teammates. Luckily during the 80s the Lakers had two more of my favorite players

Next Two Favorite Lakers

Michael Cooper guarding Larry Bird (left) and Kurt Rambis being Rambis (right)

Michael Cooper won five NBA championship rings and Kurt Rambis won four NBA championships. Now no one is ever going to write a book about how Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis were great NBA players. They were very good NBA players, Cooper was GREAT at playing defense and Rambis was GREAT as inspiring his team with his toughness, but they were not great players… they were good players. I don’t think anyone ever spent much time trying to get them from good to great, they were happy we had such good players on the team.

So what does this have to do with edcampHOME Theriault? Thought you’d never ask… towards the end of the second edcampHOME session I muted my mic and jumped into a session on #showyourwork aka #showANDgrow with Sean Ziebarth, Greg Smith and others. The session was about the importance of sharing what you and your students do online. We harassed Greg a bit for his blog (he has a blog, but no posts) and asked him how come he doesn’t post or share more of what he does online.

He proceeded to tell us that most of what he sees being shared online is pretty cool and his co-workers do some amazing teaching so who is HE to share what he does.

To me he seems more worried about WHAT you share then HOW you share, or that you even share at all. Last summer I told Greg about how I ask my students to stay silent at the beginning of the period for about five seconds to provide a sense of transition, focus, anticipation, and community. In the edcampHOME Google Hangout he shared that he is doing the same thing and really likes it. Why can’t he share that online? Is he worried I’ll see it and wonder why he didn’t attribute it to me? Is he worried that it’s not interesting enough?

I think a big problem with sharing online is that we are caught up in what people will think of WHAT we know and choose to share. I think we get paralyzed by this idea of greatness. Why clutter up the internet with ideas that are derivative or perhaps B/B+ quality when, with a little sleuthing, you can find something great.

We constantly hear from consultants and educational leaders that we need to work on going from good to great. As Americans we are constantly told that if you are not number 1 you are a loser. This is killing the the willingness of some teachers and students to try new things or to share their first or second attempts.

I am here to tell you that talking with and hanging out with Greg is GREAT. I would pay money to spend time with him. His ideas are top notch- he is a master bullshiat detector. He’s a librarian AND an AP English teacher. And yet he’s unsure of himself when it comes to sharing. It makes me mad.


Greg Smith at #beerCUE and Greg Smith being someone’s hero

THERIAULT– what about edcampHOME and the Lakers? Oh yeah… so here’s the deal. I’m not a great teacher, seriously. Probably my greatest talent is I’m willing to try new things and I know how to get out of the way of my students being awesome. No one is going to spend two hours on a Saturday watching me talk about myself. But… BUT I can CONTRIBUTE to greatness by being a part of something bigger than myself and the SHARE my thoughts, my actions with others so they can take THAT contribution and combine it with their ideas and the ideas of their friends and co-workers and contribute to creating something else that’s great.

We don’t have to be great on our own. We are a part of a community. We can work together towards greatness. I mean just look at #edcampHOME.

Kelly part II

You have Kelly Kermode doing Google scripting ninja stuff


You have Shawn White embedding all of the live and recorded videos on our edcampHOME website WHILE he is suffering from the stomach flu

You have Kevin Ashworth who not only created the moderator badge from edcampHOME 1.0, but made an edcampHOME 2.0 badge for participants.

Drew Frank

You have Drew Frank who asked for and created a Twitter List for all of the edcampHOME participants so we could follow each other- we didn’t even think of asking for that.

This amazing video overview of the whole event from Katie Ann


You have Karl’s calm leadership keeping the ship running, steering us in the right direction, keeping us focused on edcamp values and ideas.

It was a complete team effort. No one person needed to be Magic Johnson, or Kareem, just a group of teachers all working towards one common goal of trying something great together. Of CONTRIBUTING to something greater than ONE could hope to achieve by themselves.

Even if you only share your failures you would serve the educational community with your honesty. On of my favorite lines from The Scarlet Letter, comes towards the end of the novel.

Be true, be true, show if not your worst, then something where your worst can be inferred.

We need to know that we are not alone in the world when it comes to things not working out the way we hoped and imagined. In fact I can guarantee you that if someone ever started a site, not a joke site, a real site called #honestteacher it would become popular… very quickly.

You don’t need to be great to have value. Let me repeat that again YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GREAT TO HAVE VALUE.


Aristotle said: The key to happiness is making yourself necessary to someone else.

That’s why parents love being parents, it’s not about what your kids can do for you, or what they can give you- it’s about the joy we get when we are there for people. It’s why true leadership is about service, not telling people what to do.

The secret to happiness is to find some hungry people, people who need something and then organize a potluck and bring ONE dish. You don’t have to feed the whole table, heck you could just be the one providing the place to eat, or organizing the event, setting the table, or washing the dishes. Those are all important roles in a fulfilling meal.

I always tell my students: be the guy who brings the donuts to work. Find something you can do to make your world, community, workplace, family better and then do it. Not everyone will throw a party for you if you bring donuts to work, but someone will appreciate it, feel loved by it, work harder and better powered by a bacon maple bar.


click to see the larger image and read the story behind those donuts

Kurt Rambis brought donuts to work

Michael Cooper brought donuts to work

Bring donuts to work

Let’s rework that Tweet about greatness that seemed to resonate with so many:

While every student might not have a great teacher, every student deserves a SCHOOL trying to be great.


While every student might not have a great teacher, every student deserves teacherS working together building something great. #bettertogether




hmmm only 1 favorite so far… give it time- it’s a good idea looking for a great occasion: something like an NBA championship or edcampHOME.


If you have some extra time… you should read the other blog posts about edcampHOME there are some great ones here. Thanks for visiting, thanks for sticking with my spiral narrative- thanks for being a part of something great: the online world of a learning revolution.

edcampHOME setup for me


  1. Another inspiring post… Love me some donuts AND Edcamps. Toss in the sports and you have me hooked. Plus you mentioned BACON!

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