Bird Droppings March 17, 2020
Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration
My mind wandered back fifteen years to a county-wide teacher kick-off meeting perhaps since we as teachers are on vacation so to say still monitoring our lessons from computers but not in the classroom. Many communities are banning gatherings of fifty or more. With a wife in health care, I hear the medical side and being an old fart, I would rather stay home and be safe. Back to my story, traditionally the county would have a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome back for the new school year hosted by an outside speaker. The county would pay big bucks to an inspirational speaker. Paid to come in and inspire us as teachers I found out quite a bit. It could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seemed every year the county would try a new approach. Not too long after this one the superintendent with austerity cuts, cut this program out first which most teachers did not have an issue with.
Although I would have paid to hear and would enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe Jimmy Carter but so far, no such luck. In the past, before the county cut out the startup program, we would carpool over to the high school gym nearest the county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub.
A recent speaker to my current high school senior class reminded me of that meeting nearly fifteen years back. A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point quite powerfully. In the proceeding minutes before the start of the program, not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. The guest speaker for our seniors made this point as well about first impressions. So, I start today with a quote from a young college professor.
“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III
Prior to at aforementioned annual teacher’s inspirational gathering in the county, this same professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta or Monroe where the school is located he was just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards the podium and then the hip-hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world-wide consultant and motivational speaker.
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather
We, teachers, sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting student’s attention.
“In teaching, you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun
New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the classroom inspiring students to learn. It has been over fifty years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have sat at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and as a professional management training coordinator.
“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder
I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly thirteen years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward
This is what teaching is about, it is an inspiration and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting an example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow it does not sink in with most teachers. So, as we head towards a school end for the summer and End of Course Tests the next few weeks at our school please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)