A “Break the Script” Mindset


Chip Heath and Dan Heath in The Power of Moments define breaking the script as “defying people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold.” 

Lately I’ve pondered the idea of a “break the script” mindset as I have had the honor of working with an educator who understands the importance of straying from the plan, being spontaneous, and creating moments for students and staff.

I believe a “break the script” mindset is difficult to accomplish.  One must be present every second and so in tune with those around them, it’s almost like a sixth sense.  Chris Basile at Elmwood School exemplifies a “break the script” mindset, knows her students inside and out, and gives each and every one a voice.  When kids show up to health and PE, they know they matter, they know Mrs. Basile will listen, and whether they’re learning about drugs and alcohol, working out to Star Wars challenges, or creating videos in hopes to stop bullying, each student knows he or she will leave the room having learned something that will last a lifetime.

A couple of months ago, I was in the library right next to where Mrs. Basile was teaching a health class.  I was finishing up an activity with a small group of students when I heard her ask for help.  The Epson speakers were not working and she had a lesson that of course required sound.  As someone who has transformed with use of technology and social media, I knew she had done everything she could so I simply changed the output back to her laptop and then switched it back to the Epson.  Honestly having no idea if this would work, I thought to myself just in case I should have something ready to play that won’t distract the kids, but fit into the theme of their lesson.

Not only were they well into their bullying unit, this class is also known as the “Friendship Class” and is immersed in Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® lessons through Thrively.  They continuously bring out the best in each other with their amazing teacher, Dena O’Shaughnessy, leading the way.  So naturally, I found Count On Me by Bruno Mars and hit play.  What happened next most certainly broke the script.  Students began to sing along and knowing Mrs. Basile, I let it happen.  So did she.  Suddenly, every student had gathered around me and Mrs. Basile was videoing this incredible moment.

Immediately, Mrs. Basile’s “break the script” mindset was on full blast as she came up with the idea to perform Count On Me as a surprise at our March Meeting of the Eagles.  This special event occurs every two months as a time to come together, sing, and celebrate.  I had bought a ukulele in the fall so naturally offered to teach myself the chords.  None of this was in her lesson plan for that period, yet the kids left thrilled and on a mission.  Mrs. Basile and I left smiling.  Two months of practice, practice, practice came next and three teachers who were thrilled about what was yet to come for our whole school to see.  The best part of all was that I knew I could truly count on Mrs. Basile, Mrs. O’Shaughnessy, and her whole class, and they knew they could count on me.

The big day was finally here.  The plan was for the students to sing (and for me to play) with background music from a video just as we had practiced many many times.  Only the plan didn’t go accordingly.  Two students spoke proudly into the microphone and shared our story beautifully.  We were all set to go and the music even started to play, which I was grateful for since my own plan was to blend right in.  Then the music stopped.  Suddenly, against all plans, I was the music.  My heart began to pound.  As a passionate technology integration specialist, I chose to ignore what was happening with the technology.  Although nervous, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we couldn’t play on.  In a matter of seconds, we defied what we ourselves expected as we simply kept going.

Check out a glimpse of our Count On Me performance, one I was honored to be a part of.   I felt the need to explain the risk we took right after the song (to over five hundred people) and Anne Carver, our wonderful principal, shared a statement that made every second of both practicing and performing completely worth it.


As I continue to to connect with students, staff, and administrators I will push myself to be more like Chris Basile.  Her “break the script” mindset is an example for every educator in the world to get comfortable with straying from the plan, the norm, and the every day routines.  Her ability to make magic happen and create unforgettable moments stems from the passion she has for connecting with children, and as a result, a whole school was impacted.

And of course Mrs. Basile was sitting right on the floor with a gym full of kids singing along.

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