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Brangelina: What Celebrity Divorce Can Teach Us About Education

By Megan M. Allen — September 26, 2016 5 min read

Preface: This is not the headiest post I’ve ever penned, but I sure had a lot of fun with it. I hope you do as well!

I must admit: The whole Brangelina divorce announcement caught my attention. I love a good Hollywood love story and I am a romantic at heart, so the news of their divorce filing this week took a little wind out of my sails. But it also had me thinking about how it relates to education. You know you have the soul of a teacher when even celebrity relationships remind you of education.

So what can we learn from Brangelina? From their relationship, marriage, and divorce, I’ve been thinking of some connections to the classroom.


  1. Put the kids first. With a brood of 6 children, the eternal optimist in me thinks that this will hopefully be a priority for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Just like in public education, we need to ensure all the decisions we make and actions we take are in the best interest of children. We need to put the children in the center of every conversation. From the policy table in Washington, DC, to the PLC circles in our neighborhood school, our students should be the guiding light in everything that we do. And not just with lip service, but in actuality.
  2. Things aren’t always what they seem. Perception is not always reality. For many years, Brangelina has seemed like the perfect, happy couple. Traveling together, collaborating on philanthropic projects, and toting around their super-cute family. But under the surface, there must have been something a’brewing. We never know what it’s like in a relationship unless we are in the thick of it. Just like in public education, it’s easy to make assumptions about what is working or needing improvement. But unless we are in the classsroom, we don’t have our fingers on the pulse. Want to understand what is really happening with learning and education? Ask a teacher.
  3. Relationships take work. They don’t just happen. Relationships take time, commitment, and lots of work. And when you have a family and/or lots of little people running around, they take careful planning-much like in education. Want to know the keystone to working with students? Colleagues? Policy makers? It’s the same thing: Relationship. And these take a while to build and develop-they don’t just pop up over night. So much like Brangelina put in the work to make their relationship work as long as they did, we must put in the same in order to do our best work in education. We have to put in the work long term in order to build relationships with all stakeholders. There is no magic formula.
  4. Trust is everything. Have you checked out all the Jennifer Anniston memes regarding the Brangelina split? Many of the them allude to the apparent timing of the beginning of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s relatonship and the ending of Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt’s marriage. You know what I’m talking about-that Brangelina may have been a thing before Jen and Brad called it quits. I can imagine that trust was a big topic of conversation in the Brangelina household if cheating may have been a piece of their history. Circling back to point number three above, trust is a huge part of building relationships. In fact, it’s everything. Our students must trust us if they are to learn and grow. They must trust their teachers if they are to take safe risks and challenge themselves. Teachers must trust each other if they are to learn from and with one another. Trust is everything.
  5. We could all be more public (with our teaching). So the downside of being a celebrity couple like Brangelina is that you are pretty much forced to live a life in the open, with limited ability to keep anything private. Now, I’m not recommending that we air all our dirty laundry as educators. I’m thinking about how we can make the learning and teaching that happens in our classroom visible. Opening up our doors and being more transparent about what really happens in public educaton. We must go public with our teaching. There are so many misconceptions out there...let’s clear the air about what is really happening inside those classroom walls.
  6. We need to think more globally and take care of one another. One thing that I did admire about the Jolie-Pitts (or Pitt-Jolies?) was their global mindedness and their emphasis on helping others. With Angelina’s work with the United Nations and abroad and Brad’s work in New Orleans, they always seemed to be working to make the world a better place. I think we all could take a lesson from them on this, and especially in education. I think we need to be more mindful of what it means to be a 21st century learner, to think globally, and to work to make the world a better place. From what is happening on our streets with Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Keith Lamont Scott (and with a heavy heart I say this list goes on and on), to what is happening in our poorest schools, we must work hard to take care of our community. Our people. Our students and our country.
  7. Rumors stink. So part of me doesn’t like the fact that I’m buying People magazine to get my updates on other people’s personal lives. That I’m caring about what is happening with other people. But I’m practicing self-forgiveness and acknowledging that middle-school girl side of myself, then focusing on the bigger lesson. Rumors stink. Gossip stinks. And there can be a lot in school buildings and teacher’s lounges. Gossip can bond teachers and staff members, but not in a good way. It can be damaging to developing solid school cultures where the adults not only get along, but collaborate and focus their time and attention on the well-being of the students. Let’s work on keeping things positive and leaving the rumors and gossip behind.

So after writing that last sentence, I’m putting my People magazine in the recyling. I’m taking my lessons learned from Brangelina and divorcing myself from reading any more about their troubles. And I’m applying what I’ve learned to engage in more conversations about how we can improve pubic education. Won’t you do the same?

Photo courtesy of GabboT.

The opinions expressed in An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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