Clip this onto educlipper

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My thoughts on the Teacher of the Year Award

Here is the story from the newspaper

Just want to take a minute and express my gratitude this morning. I am thankful for the many people that have guided, directed, taught, and helped me throughout my life. I would not be the person I am without everyone who has been there for me; family, friends, colleagues, teachers, students, neighbors, and all else who have in some way shaped my life. Thank you.

When I started I never imagined that I would spend the first eight years of my career working with at risk and even post risk students. Yet it became the most important and pivotal moment of my life. It was difficult, tough, and stressful. There were days I questioned myself and wondered if I was really making a difference and helping these students out. Yet there was something almost magical that happened along the way. Students that previously were failing all their classes were now not only passing but in many cases getting A's and B's. I realized the impact one could have when you followed the ever famous phrase "no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." It has become the theme of my style. It is one of those truisms like the law of the harvest. "you get out of it what you put into it" While I have put in much I have received much more in return.

I was quoted in the article as saying I am humbled and excited at the same time. I truly am. I am proud of my profession and the wonderful people I work with and have worked with. It is great to work with such committed and caring people that are there to help others out. Too many times we hear the negatives about schools, teachers, and students. There is much more good being done than not. The teachers I know are committed to helping out and doing what they can to work with all of their students.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the students themselves. I am inspired daily by them. I enjoy each of their personalities, even the tough ones. Every day, every class is different and unique. We learn and we have fun at the same time. In my book that's the best way to do it.

Finally, it was especially rewarding to receive this award with my wife and kids present. It was neat to see and feel their excitement. It will be a treasured family moment in which we all shared. Hopefully it will inspire them to be their best and to make the most of the opportunities and their lives.

Thank you all for your kindness and support.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Marianne's story in her own words

I never thought about taking an honors class until my counselor mentioned honors geography. She explained to me how it worked the same as normal geography, just a little more advanced. I thought about this for a while and eventually I decided I was up for the challenge.

I have always been a good student but never a great student. I knew I could do better but all I needed was a little more motivation. My dad recognized this and made a deal with me early in the year saying if a I kept above 3.5 GPA I could get a car my junior year and every time I got a 4.0 he would move the date a month earlier. That was just the motivation I needed to make a goal for all A’s every term, but I never could quite reach it.

I thought the only solution to get all A’s was to work harder and get easier classes. Before the second semester I told my counselor I wanted to quit my only honors class, which was geography. I really did enjoy the class, the teacher, and the activities we did. It would get hard for me to keep up because the work was much more difficult and I felt the students in the class were so much better than I was because they were already 4.0 students.

After class one day near the end of second term I went up to Mr. Fawson to tell him I had switched out of his class for the next semester. He looked disappointed at this news. I explained how much I liked this class but I couldn’t reach my goal because it was difficult for me. Mr. Fawson said he knew I could do it and then added, “Go talk to your counselor one more time and tell her you changed your mind to get back into this class. I know you can do it.”

A couple days later I went into school early to switch back into Mr. Fawson’s class. After that, I went to tell him, he seemed very happy of my choice to get back in.

This term I worked harder than ever before. I did countless extra credit for every class, stayed before and after school to retake tests, and did all my assignments. When the reports cards came out I was very anxious. I ended up getting not only a 4.0 and all H’s. I was so proud of myself. After school that day I walked into Mr. Fawson’s classroom with the biggest smile on my face. I handed him my report card. He looked it over for a minute then he looked up and smiled, I could tell he was very proud also. He looked at me and said, “I knew you could do it, you made a goal and worked hard to achieve it.”

I’ll never forget this moment. He got me to believe in myself when I didn’t. Now for high school I plan on taking more advanced classes with the same goal of a 4.0.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Never Give Up on a student, even if they are ready to give up on themselves

Okay so that's really too long of a title for this post, but I don't know any other way of saying it. Last week marked the end of our third term and with it one of my favorite moments of the year. Sure we all enjoy teaching those that get it all the time. They think we are more clever and funny than we really are. They make our jobs and even our lives easy. This is not a story about a failing student that got an A, or even a D student that improved. I have often felt that one of the toughest things to do is to go from good to great. This story is about a B+ student who is a good student, but didn't see herself as an A student and therefore was discouraged, frustrated and ready to give up.

At the end of second term Marianne approached me. (Note: names have been changed) I need to begin by saying that Marianne liked class, she was a good student. But not a great student. Like a lot of students she had gotten by doing a good job and getting an A throughout most of her life. She signed up for honors geography and learned real quick that she was going to have to do much more to get an A. I know she was disappointed. Both 1st and 2nd terms she got a B+. This was below her standard and like many students she wanted to transfer out to the regular class to make sure she would get an A. When she approached me at the end of 2nd term she had already done so. Marianne was totally capable; she just had to believe and work more efficiently and study a bit more.

Funny thing was she didn't really want to transfer out of the class. She said, "this is my favorite class and you are my favorite teacher I just want to get an A" I understood what she meant and realized that in today's climate where A's are so sought over and mean so much to self esteem and parental pressure that this was a natural response for her to have. We spoke for a few minutes and finally I said, "I don't think you should transfer out. You can get an A. You just have to act like an A student. You need to do all the work and make sure it is high quality, complete, and in on time. You can do that. You might need to study more, but you can do that too. I think this is important for you to keep at this and work harder and make this happen."

I know that Marianne never wanted out of the class. I know she liked it. But she needed to make a few minor changes. Most important of which she needed to believe that she belonged with all the other honor students. It can be an intimidating climate when everyone is an alpha and really is intelligent and hard working. I said, "You are as smart as anyone in this class, but you don't always believe it. It's time to start believing. I don't want you to transfer out and I don't think you really want to either."

She smiled and said, "Well what can I do, I just transferred out?"

I responded, "That's easy. How did you get out of the class? Tell your counselor you had a change of heart and you are up to the challenge."

Marianne agreed and had a look of determination that she didn't before we spoke. Later that day she found me and told me she was back in. I reiterated how important it was that she believed she belonged and that she had to see herself as an A student.

Grades came out a couple days ago. Marianne not only received an A, but also got an A in every class. Something she hadn't done all year. Equally impressive were the H's in citizenship that went with the A's. She came in after school to show me. It was a nice moment for both of us. She got to prove to herself she could do it and let me be a part of it. I said, "I hope you realize that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. This wasn't as easy as you would've liked it to be, but you made some personal changes and set a goal and you made sure you achieved it. You have learned a valuable lesson in life at a young age and most importantly you have proven to yourself that you can."

Priceless smile.

Getting students to believe and then do what is necessary to achieve is what this is all about.