Music Video: We’ve Got To Be That Light – A Gift to America’s Teachers

 Posted by DrJeff on August 25th, 2011

 Copyright 2011  |  About this blog




A heartfelt thank you to

teachers across America

for their unwavering dedication

to the next generation.


Teaching is the eternal bond between young and old that is at its heart—joy.







Symphony of Science Remix
Keynote Address “Science – It’s Not a Book of Knowledge … It’s a Journey”
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference
March 2011, San Francisco, CA


Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education


John Boswell
Symphony of Science



Is YouTube Blocked For You?
The video below is ported from YouTube, which is the best way to view it. But if you’re blocked from watching YouTube, you can download the video to your computer.
Download mp4 file (87.5 MB):



If this video moves you, and you have a desire to say how, you’re invited to leave a comment at the bottom of the page:)


Accompanying essay The Art of Teaching


Why We Made We’ve Got To Be That Light
America, what has happened to joyful learning for our children? Should that not be their birthright? What has happened to joyful teaching for our teachers? Have we as a nation lost sight of this noblest of professions, and its selfless calling?


From shore to shore it seems clear that we as a nation are in the midst of an educational transformation away from joyful learning for students—and teachers. The national strategic need to increase student performance is now following the path of educational least resistance, and with education becoming the slave to testing. Couple this with the economic contraction at state and local levels, and the burden on our teachers is becoming unbearable. These remarkable professionals—to whom we entrust our children and therefore our nation—are losing their passion. They are leaving teaching. Speaking as both an educator and parent, this causes me immeasurable anguish. I need to ask … is there anyone at the helm of this great ship? Is the iceberg not in plain sight?


On a greater stage, Americans now live with an uncertain future about our nation’s role in the 21st century, and how that role will impact the way we live. But the future is not yet written (do you feel me shaking you right now?), and I firmly believe that the future resides in how well we teach our children.


For all these reasons, John and I created this video to herald in the new school year. Right now, in this very moment, we wanted to poetically and passionately reaffirm to teachers why they went into teaching, and for the millions of teachers across America, recognize their selfless and noble dedication to lighting the way.


We also wanted to help our nation recognize that teaching wells from what it means to be human, and the need to link past generations to the next. Learning is not driven by the need to get a good job or to earn money. it is driven by biology. And for those that cannot see beyond jobs and money as the motivation for education, and testing as the means to get there as a nation, I say loudly and clearly, let us embrace joyful education leading to joyful employment. Let us embrace student ownership in learning and exploration. Let us embrace the notion that our children are born to learn, and the gift of teaching is to patiently and artfully help our children in their journey.


This is why we tell stories. Ths is why we teach.

To pass a piece of ourselves to the next generation—

so that the young can aspire to cross frontiers none have crossed before.

– drjeff



About This Music Video and Future Projects
I had the distinct honor of delivering the Keynote Address at the NSTA National Conference in March 2011, and I am indebted to NSTA for both inviting me, and providing the video footage. You might want to read my earlier Blog Post on the Keynote, which provides a description of the talk, and what I was trying to accomplish.


I knew of John Boswell’s work at Symphony of Science, and was stunned by the magic he performs on just raw video of people talking. I was just off to graduate school in astrophysics at Penn when Carl Sagan’s Cosmos aired. Sagan reaffirmed why I wanted to study the universe, and why I also wanted to have a hand in national science education. What John has done through his music videos to bring Sagan to a new generation is remarkable.


John wants to bring science as symphony to the public … and so do I. This music video is the first of a number of collaborations between us. Rarely does one get to work with an artist of this caliber, and John, thanks for taking that first phone call!


John and I ask you to stay tuned in the coming weeks, right here at Blog on the Universe, for  the next video—A Sense of Majesty—addressing the nature of our existence in a greater Universe, and which is also a remix of the NSTA Keynote (I covered a great deal of ground in San Francisco.)  We will also be releasing the planet-wide version of We’ve Got To Be That Light, for teachers across the globe, as well as the NSTA Keynote Address broken into multiple chapters on YouTube. You might consider subscribing to this blog for notification of new posts.


I’ll also be putting up a video of a memorable Family Science Night presentation I did at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for 400 students, parents, and teachers in front of Apollo 11 (part of the footage is in the video above.)  I think I’ve done at least 100 of these after-hours presentations in this most visited museum on the planet—I love the place (read this). Finally, my plan is to tape an entire library of videos based on my essays found in this Blog’s posts and resources pages—a library addressing Earth and space science topics with the goal of conceptual understanding at an emotional level. See, e.g., the following posts:


How big is the Moon? (You’ll never look at the Moon the same way again.)
If I Could Gift Wrap the Moon


How can we make Solar System sizes and distances (like the size of Earth, the size of the Sun, and distances to the Moon and Sun) understandable?
My Really Long Drive with Jordi


How many stars are there?
The Milky Way: Our City of Stars



To Teachers—Make Your Own Slideshow
We’ve Got To Be That Light almost has the look and feel of a slide show. The images of joyful learning will seem very familiar, but these are not images of joyful learning in your classroom, in your school, and in your community.  If this video moves you, and you want a hand in owning the story, you can download just the audio file for the song below, and create a personal slideshow around it using, e.g., powerpoint. It might be a slideshow reflective of just your classroom, or maybe something school district-wide to share with all teachers. When it comes to education we are all in this together, and from Seattle Washington, to Tampa Florida, this is our story.


If you’d like to send me your powerpoint as a .pps file, together with a jpg that captures one of your moments of joyful learning, email it via the Contact Dr. Jeff page, and I’ll see about getting it posted at this Blog.


Download the audio file:


Join Me on Twitter
If you want to join me in a conversation about education, and see what we can do together, follow me on Twitter:
@DoctorJeff (


This Blog
Blog on the Universe is dedicated to science education as conceptual understanding at an emotional level. All posts and resource pages are designed to be central content for a lesson in the classroom. Many of the posts even have hands-on activities. Read About This Blog, and explore the Teacher’s Lesson Planner with essential questions for most of the blog posts.


You should also visit the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education page that provides a comprehensive list of Blog on the Universe posts listed by category.


Follow This Blog

You’re invited to subscribe to this Blog for email updates of new posts, including notifications of new videos.


Dr. Jeff on the Road?

I also wanted to pass along, schedule permitting, I’m always open to travel to communities across the nation and address audiences of teachers, and deliver programs for families and the public. My time for travel is limited, so it makes sense to travel for large audiences. That said, I’m a firm believer in community-wide engagement, and these programs involve audience participation—by the entire audience—regardless of size. One possible approach might be to fly in, conduct a family/public program in the evening, the next morning talk to teachers, and then … fly back to the nation’s capital.


If you’re interested in exploring the possibility, you can read about a great number of presentations, and see what folks thought about the experience. The family/public program is really the “road show” of the family program we do at the National Air and Space Museum, and through my Center’s Journey through the Universe initiative. It can be advertised as a school-district wide event, and you can read about recipes for success in hosting such a program, and assessment results.

Continue the Journey

Here are some essays for teachers that I’m pretty sure you will enjoy:


A very personal thank you to teachers everywhere.

The Art of Teaching


Our place in the greater universe and the sacred role of teachers.

The Nature of Our Existence


I’m obviously biased, but here’s an essay I think every teacher of science should read.

The Power of Models


Dr. Jeff on mathematics education.

Let’s Ban English in School … Except in English Class


What is it like to meet your hero? What is the nature of human exploration?

An Apollo 11 Personal Story


How will the next generation view the era of the space shuttle?

Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, Make it a Teachable Moment
Cross-posted at Huffington Post.


Do Americans understand what is at risk if we don’t take science and tech education seriously? (At Huffington Post)

Troubled about America’s Future


I come up with some cool stuff with a cup of coffee in hand.



We need many flavors of heroes, and not just athletes, musicians, and movie stars. How about …

Scientists and Engineers as Heroes


Maybe the human race needs some humility. (at Huffington Post)

The Address of a Self-Important World: Humanity Needs a Reality Check


In my mind, education is the answer to many things. (at Huffington Post)

September 8 and September 11: Joy, Pain , and Hope


Social Media, a powerful tool for education. School districts across America – we need to bring education into the 21st Century. (at Huffington Post)

The Remarkable Power of Twitter: A Water Cooler for the 21st Century


STEM Education Programs for Your Community?
As Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, I oversee a number of national programs that embrace science education as journey, student as scientist, a Learning Community Model for community-wide engagement, and the means to tailor a program to a community’s strategic needs in STEM education. You might like to explore a program for your community! In tough financial times, these programs do indeed cost money (I learned long ago that vision without funding is hallucination). To address this, we have relationships with funders across the nation, and have a great track record of finding underwriting for interested communities. As a non-profit, our program costs reflect just full cost recovery. I invite you to explore the Center’s website, and some of its programs.


National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE)


Our Center’s YouTube Channel


Student Spaceflight Experiments Program
grade 5-12 students across a community designing a real microgravity experiment to fly on the International Space Station


Journey through the Universe
programming in the Earth and space sciences for an entire community



Wishing you and your students the most wonderful academic year!

Dr. Jeff




Lyrics—We’ve Got to be That Light


Every generation must pass on
The wisdom of the previous generations
If we don’t keep the next chain connected to the ones that came before it
It’s all gone


And who’s the glue between those chains?
It’s you, it’s you


This is a sacred trust
As educators and parents
A sacred trust
We’ve got to be that light


We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way
We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way


A classroom is a sacred place
It’s not a room in a school
It’s any place
Any place where a teacher helps a child
Patiently and artfully
In their journey


In this sacred place
We must nurture the gift of a question
In this sacred place
The teacher lights the way


This is a sacred trust
As educators and parents
A sacred trust
We’ve got to be that light


We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way
We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way


We have to ensure
That testing serves education
We have to ensure
That education does not serve testing


We as a nation now
Are teaching to the test
We as a nation now
Are beating all of the joy out of our classrooms


The book of knowledge is not written in our genes
What’s written in our genes is the journey
We should be nurturing that gift of a question
We should help frame that pathway to an answer


The teacher’s the guide
It’s a student’s classroom
It’s a student’s classroom
They are remarkable explorers


This is a sacred trust
As educators and parents
A sacred trust
We’ve got to be that light


We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way
We’ve got to be that light
That shining light that guides the way

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27 Responses to “Music Video: We’ve Got To Be That Light – A Gift to America’s Teachers”

  1. Lenny Sue French Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Awesome as usual, Dr. Jeff! It is difficult to put into words why this work is so important but you do it beautifully. The days are long and sometimes the road is hard but….for the last 23 years it has ALWAYS been worth it to me. Unfortunately the culture of education in the U.S. has changed drastically and we are losing GREAT teachers who feel that the autonomy of the profession has been lost to standardized testing and Value added data based on those tests. GREAT teachers are being told that they aren’t good at their jobs even though they inspire and educate everyday. The spark in a child’s eyes. The fire in their belly to know new things. That’s not measured on these tests. It’s not right and I’m glad there are others who want to stand up for this just cause.

  2. Blair Morris Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Great job and inspiration Dr. Jeff! Truly moving and encouraging. I couldn’t help but notice the faces, excitement, with the kids in the video. One of the best feelings in the world is when you’re in front of children, trying to show them your passion, your excitement, for knowledge, and you can tell the wheels are turning. When hands constantly are raised, no matter the questions you receive, it’s a special feeling to know that the younger generation is interested, even if only for a day.

  3. Lollie Garay Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Dr. Jeff, what an awesome combination or prose, music and images! Hats off to you and John Boswell! I will use the video and have been inspired to create my own slideshow as well. Thanks for another timely teaching tool. I’m passing this on 🙂

  4. Julian Fietkau Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    I really like this first collaboration you’ve done. (In case you’re wondering, I got here via @musicalscience on Twitter.) Looking forward to the “international” version, which I’ll be passing along to my teaching friends here in Germany.

    Watching the video, your passion about the subject is almost palpable. I’ve always had a soft spot for teaching and I really hope to be able to incorporate it into my future career in some way, even if it’s just giving talks and lectures and putting them online.

    August 25th, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Thx for this email! I will share this video with my new and returning educators at our first staff meeting of the school year to remind them of our journey together to educate every child, and their role in that journey. The video is a great reminder of why we chose to be teachers in the first place. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  6. Margo Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    W-O-W!!!!! I am speechless!!! THis is AWESOME!!!! Keep going!

  7. Leslie Graves Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Love this Dr. Jeff gtstoogie..

    Will pass on over as many networks as I can!!

    @Leslinks (on twitter)

  8. Bob dmiston Says:
    August 29th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I agree with the “sacred trust.” I also firmly believe that we have not been meeting the needs of too many children. We continue to have achievement gaps in socio-economic groups. We cannot look to the past for solutions. Education needs to look, sound, and feel different than it was for so many of us. In the end I agree with the need for passion and commitment. I also strongly believe that the future of public education relies on powerful changes and efforts to better meet the needs of ALL children. If we do not embrace the change, we will lose public education, and the repercussions of such a loss are nothing short of eroding the very foundation of our country. I love public education. We MUST do better by moving ahead not looking back!

  9. Cheryl J Says:
    August 30th, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Just what I needed on my first day back to school. Thanks!

  10. Sara Says:
    August 30th, 2011 at 10:34 am

    This gave me chills because it is so inspiring! Thank you to Annette Iwamoto who shared it with our school staff at our first staff meeting of this school year to empower us and remind us of how special and “sacred” our job is as educators!

  11. Hildy H Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Wow. Brought tears to my eyes- a lump in my throat-I am ready to shine that light!! Thank you so much for that video gift!

  12. DrJeff Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    You are very very welcome Hildy:)

  13. BLS Says:
    September 2nd, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    This is a great testament to what our job really is as a teacher and what the focus should be in every classroom. I feel though, especially now, that it is very difficult to keep a positive attitude when legislation and our own school administrations continue to make the demands and choices for us as to how we should teach regardless of our education or years of experience. Test scores drive our school success so that is the focus of our efforts and not teaching students to love the subject or the quest for knowledge beyond what they have to know to pass. What can we do when every attempt to voice our concerns and needs is ignored by those above and we just seem to act as puppets in our profession.

  14. Julian Maytum Says:
    September 5th, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Dr. Jeff I discovered on Twitter and I have to say he may as well share the same mind as I do. This was a fantastic video. Very inspirational. I Hope he continues his prolific twittering as I learn so much from him that I can share with my own children. Keep up the great work Doctor!

  15. Mary Barnett Says:
    September 9th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    wonderful! A great reminder that we are all connected and that we can all be the light to one another and keep curiosity burning bright in our children! Thank you for that.

  16. Dr. Chris Deibler Says:
    September 14th, 2011 at 7:10 am

    A most excellent tribute to educators at any level. Thank you for making it and sharing it with us. I will certainly pass it on to my teaching staff and all of my co-workers who work with students in any capacity here.
    Well done!!

  17. DrJeff Says:
    September 14th, 2011 at 10:09 am

    HI Chris-
    You are very welcome:)

  18. La Shawn Says:
    September 19th, 2011 at 6:30 am


  19. Marsha Miller Says:
    September 23rd, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    An uplifting message for a tired Friday afternoon. Thank you for putting this together and putting into the e-sphere. This message will do good far and wide. I think you’ve demonstrated, too, the power of music and how we need it back in schools – not for art or entertainment’s sake – but for the humanity of it and how it propels our creativity, intuition, and innovation.

  20. David A Says:
    September 28th, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Thanks so much for this enduring message for teachers, and parents — and for all those who have the right to let our legislative assemblies know that the power in education, the exploration and gleaning of knowledge, cannot be judged solely by a requisite standardised test at the end of it all.

  21. Mark Skinner Says:
    September 28th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Terrific resource – thank you for sharing your light, gifts, and passion.

  22. Glynnis Fleming Says:
    September 28th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    What has been compelling for me is having the JOY of learning be part of our mandate as teachers. This is our moral imperative, every bit as much as the content.

  23. Chryssi Says:
    November 13th, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I cannot watch without crying. You nailed why we need good teachers. I have shared it with my daughter’s principal and teacher and they are chuffed but most of all, I hope they are inspired and buoyed. I hope it makes a Monday morning not quite as difficult as they can be. I think the inspiration and the passion must be cultivated with our teachers. And thank you for sharing the light amidst the darkness. I think this should be our National philosophy, not just for the lucky ones who have seen it. If only we could stop the teaching for a test mentality….it IS beating all of the joy out of the classroom.

  24. James Says:
    November 15th, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Superb video and song. Life is a journey of discovery, not testing. Examinations are only a small fragment of education. You don’t need a certificate to swim, and having one won’t save you if you can’t swim well enough.

  25. John Says:
    November 28th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Great video! How great it would be if the politicians driving and controlling so much of education could view it and truly understand……

  26. James Dunbar Says:
    November 30th, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Awesome! I was at this talk in SF! It was fabulous and I had the chance to meet Dr. Jeff after it. I had no idea I was watching a music video in the making.

  27. DrJeff Says:
    December 6th, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    (he he he) Dr. Jeff