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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Show Them What You're Made Of

I made that sketch a few years ago to capture a thought.  The initial spark happened just before I was to speak to a few thousand teachers in Nebraska. I looked out at the sea of faces before me. I wondered who they were.

A classic piece of sage advice when public speaking: Know Your Audience. I can usually cobble together a general profile, but I suddenly thought: "I wish had an hour or two to speak to each one individually to find out a few things about them." 

Here's what we'd talk about:

What grades do you work with? 

What subjects do you teach? 

If you could add something that you'd like to teach (not necessarily part of the official curriculum) what would that be? 

What inspired you to become a teacher? 

Who were your favorite teachers growing up? 

What interesting fact about you do few people know? 

What would you still like to learn? 

What is the most challenging part of teaching? 

What has been the best part of teaching?

And so on.

My quick estimate of how long those conversations would take was about 167 days (building in some downtime to sleep and eat - although I do love dinner table conversation too!) 

Well, I only had two minutes of extra time before my talk began, so I'd have to ask my audience a few questions as I went--and hopefully find connections with my audience about  learning, creativity and personal navigation. 

Without having had my "one-on-one's" I was confident that the room was filled with very interesting human beings. While I didn't have the luxury of getting to know each of them, it occurred to me that their students had about 180 days to get to know them. It also occurred to me that--at least in public schools in the United States--we don't build in much--or any --time for teachers to share with students who they are. 

Imagine if students knew the answers to the questions above? (They could skip the first two questions--hopefully--if they are paying attention.)

I have forgotten the names of quite a few teachers my own educational journey. (The ones that took us chapter by chapter through the issued text book.) The educators I DO remember shared who they were. Their own stories. Their own adventures. Their questions. Their frustrations. Their passions. Their service to others. Their lives beyond the walls of the school. 

One of those funny "aha!" moments when I met my third grade teacher, Mrs. Smith in the local supermarket buying pineapples.

"What is she doing out of school??"

"She eats pineapples?"

It began to dawn on me that teachers were allowed out of school and that they actually had a life beyond those walls.

I feel strongly that students benefit from knowing more about the amazing teacher there to inspire them. Discovering that your teacher is an interesting person, is curious, isn't perfect, has talents, has hobbies, has dreams, and is still learning. That is a powerful lesson.

So, go ahead and show them what you're made of. 

(By the way, this goes for parents too!)

2 comments: said...

This is so true, Peter. The teachers I remember most are the ones who shared more of themselves, even if it was just being completely themselves in the effort of teaching instead of everything "by the book."

jeannettestgermain said...

Love that scribbly person:) Yes, knowing your audience is a higher priority than to be able to speak well!