Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections of an Educator - Guest blogger Tonya Thompson

A few days ago, Justin and I got the privilege of spending a few hours with the ever-insightful and inspirational author and speaker Mark Sanborn. We had unknowingly crashed a professional public speakers meeting, and we got a chance to have an experience that was both unusual for us and really, really interesting. While Mark’s speech was directed more at the business end of being a public speaker, I felt like I took away some great ideas that easily translate into my career as an educator.

* If you don’t know the biggest titles and the seminal works in your area, you’re not an expert... 
“Whaaaat? I teach, that means I know things! Of course I’m an expert!” Could we even name the most important titles in education today? Sure, we all read Harry Wong in college. But how many of us have picked up a book that’s been written in the last 10 years? 5 years? We ask our students to read to learn and keep their minds sharp, but are we following our own advice? Whether it’s a book on theory, or methodology or subject-area specific… all of us could use a page-turner to stay fresh.

* Forward to normal. You can’t benchmark normal in the past; it has to be in the future...
I don’t think anyone would argue that the times are a-changin’. Just look at the kids in your classroom. Are they the same kind of kids you had 5 years ago? Basic kid things aside, of course they’re not. Their attention spans are shorter, their outside influences are crazier… these are different kids. So why are so many of us still operating on the “if it ain’t broke, it don’t need fixin” mentality? If we don’t have the same kind of students, why is education as a whole still operating the way it did 50 years ago? Change has to start somewhere, so decide what’s going to be “normal” for your classroom and go charging full-speed ahead.

* Being different is worthless, if it’s not valued…
A few years ago, we had a student that had (I kid you not) an 18 inch high blue mohawk. Most of the teachers probably just viewed him as another potential problem child, so the mohawk and tough attitude were worthless to them. But the other kids in the hall… they watched him with wide eyes and a fearful sort of reverence. He dared to stand out and that had value to the general population of students. 
You could tap dance and sing at the beginning of every class, and while that would certainly make you stand out, would it necessarily add value to what you do? You’d be entertaining, but would you be a better teacher because of it? If you read “The Giver” (Lois Lowry), as everyone should, you’d remember “sameness” made for misery. Even as adults and educators, we have to learn to separate ourselves from the masses and be willing to stand out, even if it’s not popular. Embrace new ideas, because someone along the way WILL find value in them.

While Mark doesn’t write specifically about education, his books are certainly worth a read. Be sure to check out “The Fred Factor” and/or “You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader”.

This post was written by guest blogger Tonya Thompson (@thompson_shs). Ms. Thompson is a Library Media Specialist at Seckman High School in Imperial, MO. This is Ms. Thompson's 2nd guest blogger appearance. You can find her first blog post here: The School Family