“Burn Your Ships!”


Hernando Cortes (photo courtesy of Photobucket)

Hernando Cortes (photo courtesy of Photobucket)

In 1519, Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortes landed on the shores of Mexico with 508 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses, determined to conquer the Aztec Empire, the Western Hemisphere’s most powerful nation.

According to legend, after reaching the shore, Cortes burned the ships to the ground.  He wanted his men to understand their options; win or die.  Retreating was not possible.  One can imagine the result of this action on Cortes’ men.  Knowing their options were limited, the soldiers would fight harder and with more determination.

The intriguing part of the story is not so much the determination of the Spanish soldiers, but the effect of the ship burning on the Aztecs.  After word of the ship burning spread, the Aztecs knew that the Spanish soldiers were literally fighting for their lives, and forcing a retreat was not an option.  The Aztecs were fully aware of the commitment the Spanish had made to victory.

Do They Know You’ve Burned Your Ships?

If you are a teacher, I believe that you have already burned your ships!  You are fully committed to the education of your students.  You pour your time, energy, and resources into teaching, and retreating is not an option.

But do your students know that you’ve burned your ships?  Have you told them that you are fully committed to them?  Do they know that you will never retreat?

Let your students know you won’t retreat:

  • Tell them they are important to you, not just as students, but as people!
  • LISTEN to them and treat them with respect.
  • Don’t accept their excuses.
  • Make it impossible for them to think you don’t care!
  • Help them find their passion.

I know there are other ways to show your students that you are committed to them. Share your ideas in the comments!


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