Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings August 24, 2022

Quietly listening to Hot Tuna and pondering the word inspiration

Nearly twenty years ago, at a county-wide teacher kick-off meeting, traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome before budget cuts. This was the startup for the new school year led by a brought-in speaker. They would pay big dollars for someone to come in and inspire us as teachers, it could be a comedian or professional speaker, and it seems they try a new approach each year. I would much rather enjoy hearing Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu, maybe even Jimmy Carter, but so far, no such luck. In the past, before budget austerity cut the county startup program, we would carpool over to the high school gym nearest our county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such; most teachers would 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 young black man dressed in hip-hop clothing stood in front of us, and he made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd before the meeting. 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

Before the 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 a 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. A distinguished man in a business suit rises and heads towards the podium. Then the hip-hop fellow moves toward the mike, takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a worldwide 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 students’ 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 change students’ lives immediately, and it does happen, but the fundamental differences are 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 genuinely great teacher in the classroom, inspiring students to learn. It has been over forty-five years since I was in his class, yet I still consider him one of my best teachers. Over the years, I have sat at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and industrial seminars, and I did my job 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 people’s skill and virtue at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder

A former student came by to visit me a few years back. He had walked across the stage nearly eleven years ago to accept a particular education diploma. He then went on and officially finished high school, 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 teacher’s meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the critical component in teaching it is our example. It is setting an example for students. I have heard that before, and 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 your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

 Mitakuye Oyasin

 (We are all related)


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