I first came to know Mark Weston as I trepidatiously took on Twitter. I had joined only a few months before and was a reluctant tweeter, when this gracious person came from no where and began encouraging me. I was unsure, so I hung back only to realize that this was part of who he is. Mark helps so many educators navigate this social media platform, gain new followers and find their voices. I knew when I began the Personal Playlist Podcast that I wanted to interview him. I was so fortunate that he agreed to share time with me. I appreciatively consider him the mayor of the educational Twitterverse.
Mark is the kind of person who began our conversation asking questions about me. He is a giver. While he has retired, he continues to offer so much to education. He and his wife live up in the mountains of Colorado. His adventurous spirit and appreciation for the outdoors adds to the feeling of openness you get when you interact with Mark. I have read his blog posts, and he is very descriptive about many things, especially the settings where he has lived or hiked through. He appreciates the the big picture and the details.
Mark’s P3 began with a description of the era in which he was raised. His opening described classic rock influencers like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. He referred to these music legends as driving forces behind why he has always tried to, “make a difference, make a better word, and sing a happy song.” His nostalgic song is a continuation of this prelude referring to the backup group for Dylan who became important contributors to this genre of music. What was once called the band in reference to the famous folk singer became The Band- a group that wrote “new songs that felt old and earthy and organic.” As he continued his introduction, Mark invoked a counter culture road movie called Easy Rider. This journey story had his nostalgic song on the soundtrack that Mark sees as a parallel to his life. His nostalgic song is The Weight by The Band:
Mark referred to The Band as a metaphor for the collaboration that educators do, referring to the band’s instruments and how they created lasting music that really made an impact. If you see the Scorsese film The Last Waltz, you can see why Mark refers to this as possibly, “the best rock musical ever.” He encouraged the listeners to consider the “synergy” and how we connect with each other through social media and in our schools considering how we each, “play different instruments but…together we can make something that’s really magnificent and beautiful.”
While Mark tried to justify his insistence on having two identity songs as something about his age, he really felt as if he had two distinct identities to share. He told the story of his sister, Pamela, who was terminally ill and how she lived vicariously though him, though he was unaware of this role until much later. Mark’s deep sensitivity and caring for people and his sister helped him see the reciprocity of putting out positivity. He introduced the band Ten Years After, who named themselves after the decade that had passed since Elvis created rock and roll. A key part of marks identity is about sharing the good. As always, he bring this back to the field of education and fuels himself and others with the same positive energy to which the song refers. He said, “ I want to be a positive force of encouraging people, supporting people, but also giving people hope and inspiration.” While he refers to the quotes that he shares to send positive messages on Twitter as little things, I am among those who have found them uncannily timely and profoundly encouraging. Here is Positive Vibrations by Ten Years After:
Mark’s second identity song compelled him because of the duality that Mark feels that he has. He believes in putting good vibes out there, but he also accepts what he attracts by being open and welcoming to what is reflected and returned. Mark has made a pledge to himself to accept what comes into his life, believing that if we stand together and by each other, we can do so much. For him, this song reflects the reverberation of the positive energy and the required support that people need. The greatest compliment we can give any body, according to Mark, is the message of the song, and he has proven that he is willing to do this for so many. Here’s I’ll Stand by You by The Pretenders:
Education can feel lonely, and Mark is one of those people who help to make sure that there is someone out there with whom to connect. Some of the insights he shared here need to stand on their own a his quotes:
- In teaching, you bring your best, but there isn’t an endless supply of it. We have to replenish.
- We stand together, we support each other, we speak to the tears in someone’s eyes.
- Each year is like an adventure in personal growth. Try to be sensitive to that and encourage people to connect up with each other in supportive sort of ways.
- Make a commitment that we’ll live in the question and grow from there.
I could write a page about each one of those important insights.
The last song in Mark’s the playlist is one that he has played over and over in his car or through his headset. He has even listened to it for hours straight letting it play, “over and over and over because it…sets loose some of that energy that when you feel you can’t go any further and don’t have any more to give, the best thing you can do it take the next step.” “My life has had plenty of pain and anguish.” While it gives the listener pause, he also shares that it has been the source of his deepest growth and his abundant sensitivity and sympathy for others . “Bob Dylan has been a consistent source of inspiration for my entire lifespan,” describes Mark. He mentioned others who perform Dylan’s songs and then own them, like Jimi Hendrix and All Along the Watchtower. He quoted Dylan saying, “Jimi Hendrix played my song as if I was Jimi Hendrix playing my song.” When we listened to Mark’s pick-me-up song, although it was more than that, it was clear that Alisha Keys owns this song now. Her piano power ballad speaks from the heart and soul. For Mark and all of those who use music to help them have the courage to persevere and move forward in spite of everything that’s happened to them, here is Pressing On by Alicia Keys:
The higher calling of Mark Weston is hard to qualify. He invokes a daily personal invitation to open his eyes to those who need him and those he needs. He invites them to come forward so that he can, “…bring the positive, give the support, stand with them and, as I do that, I encourage myself and them to live the life that each of us were put on this earth to live.” Mark believes that people should be active, engaged contributors, and these songs are really the inspirational soundtrack of his life.
Mark took a moment to thank a person who helped him in his life and share his gratitude for their support when he really needed it. He believes in paying it forward through the big or small acts that he does daily to model his appreciation for his life. I want to take a moment and thank Mark for sharing his time and his playlist with all of us. Here is Mark Weston’s P3.