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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Great Teachers are Gardeners



Gardener GardeningImage via Wikipedia
"It is so exciting that you are publishing a book! I already signed up for the e-mail list. I can not wait to buy it.

By the way, does Westwood teach a film class? I think I remember you telling me that you have a class based around video production, but it is only a semester long. If such a class exists, I would love to sit in on one of your lectures. Also, keep up the good work!

Others will come around eventually, and when they do, you will be admired and rewarded for your astonishing ability to think into the future rather than think about the future... Each day, you pushed the bounds of my mind to question the impossible, dispute the certain, and reach for the unreachable.

You will always be remembered, revered, and respecting in the minds of the young men and women that you teach. Our success is your success. Our achievements are your achievements. Thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do."

I do friend former students on Facebook. I got permission from a former student who is now at Full Sail University to share today's Facebook message to me. He is from my "early years." We were doing cool things but he was around when I was just beginning this Cool Cat Teacher thing.

His email brought joy to my heart. Such messages also bring meaning to my life.

I particularly wanted to re-share this:

"Our success is your success. Our achievements are your achievements."
 Oh, it would be nice to take credit but we know deep down that we cannot.

If we can find that kernel of greatness inside every child and water it with love, nurturing and practical knowledge we can be a gardener.

Great teachers are really just great gardeners.

Don't let the dirt under your nails hold you back

The tough thing about teaching is that I think most of us (me included) see where we fail. I fall short of the ideal "Carpe Diem" Robin Williams style teacher who just has it all together. My students see me at my worst: when I'm tired, cranky, and have a million people pulling on me. Even reading his letter, I still doubt myself.

I have a folder in Evernote and my filing cabinet where I file these called "At a Girl." Someone told me early in my career to keep any letters and positive reinforcement and I have them going back to 1991 when I was a senior in college. They help me. They give me "validation" as I was mentioning in yesterday's post.

Remember that you will never have all of the students love you. You will sometimes make mistakes that still make you cringe and you know that those kids (and their parents) may talk about you one day as something NOT to do in teaching.

The Iron Law of the Universe
But the iron law of the universe is that you do reap what you sow! (Parents need to remember that too!)

If you sow kindness, thought provoking assignments, meaningful discussions, challenging projects, and real learning experience into your classroom, you will get letters like this. I get more of these the longer I teach. Maybe it is because I've been teaching now for 10 years at the high school level.  Or maybe (I hope) it is because I'm becoming a better teacher.

So, take the time to do this:
  • Make an "at a girl" or "at a boy" folder in Evernote and your filing cabinet. Put things in there that you receive.
  • Look at those letters when you have a tough day and...
Know Your Customer
Every day think about what you can do today that will cause kids to thank you in six or seven years. That person is your customer. Right now, they'd rather you let them sleep or go makeout behind the outfield fence but that is not what you're there. You're not there to be popular, you're there to be a great teacher.

Be a great teacher. And know that you never know who is going to send you the "at a girl" that you least expect.

Thank you, my student, for this message. You have no idea what it means to me.Thanks for the validation.

Remember your noble calling teacher (and parents)...find those kernels of greatness and get to watering!
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