Today’s smackdown prompt.

Our talented Director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation has our educators in the middle of an awesome #FifeTwitterSmackdown. Thank you Elaine Smith!

Today’s prompt is “Who was your favorite teacher and why?” Such a cool question to ask teachers. Choosing one favorite teacher is a rugged chore.

Here are three of mine and why.

Stewart Elementary School was a tiny school when I attended, starting in 1967 or so. One classroom for each grade level. I had the same teacher for 1st and 3rd grade. Mrs. Mary Rawlings. For some reason, I can bring to mind many memories from that long ago time. She was a wonderful teacher. I loved when she read to us especially. Brilliant. At one point in my 3rd grade year, I promised to buy her a fur coat. Not sure why, but there you have it. Probably because I loved her. Fast forward 20 years, I’m teaching away as a middle school teacher. A kind looking, slightly older woman, slid into the classroom and took a seat in the back. She didn’t look too threatening, so I just continued on with my schtick. Eventually I asked if I could help her. And she said, “No, I’m just here from the school, to observe.” Oh ok. “What school?” “Stewart Elementary.” I about fell on the floor. She was my beloved Mrs. Rawlings come to see me teach. Wow! And she mentioned the fur coat. That part of the equation hasn’t come to pass, but how cool is it that she found one of her millions of students to swing by and say hi?!

My other two favorite teachers were both from high school. This is not to slight my junior high teachers. I had some fantastic junior high teachers. And this is also not to slight my own dad, who was one of my teachers. He’s just in a different category altogether.

Mr. Jim Taylor was my senior year AP English teacher. AP was in its second year at my high school at the time, and the English class was the only AP offering. Mr. Taylor was hands down brilliant. A searing sense of humor. A depth of intellect. He oozed intelligence. And ooze was one of his favorite words. One time I was popping off to impress my dudes in the class. He called out, “Nelson, your face.” “What about it?” I retorted. “We’re going to have a class discussion.” Well that pretty much just shut me down completely. The last thing I wanted to do was to hear my colleagues discuss my face in class. Yikes. I didn’t realize how much I had modeled my teaching self after him until after he had passed away. I ran into his wife at a grocery store. She and I were also close. I had done my student teaching with her, just before being hired as a teacher. She is a monster teacher, gifted in her own right. Anyway, she was acting very strange and distant. I asked her if she was ok. And she said, “It hurts too much to be around you. You remind me so much of Jim.”

Wow.

Mr. Taylor, also a world class drummer!

And finally, Mr. Ken Edmonds. Mr. Edmonds was a great teacher, but where he had the largest impact on me was as a coach. He was the jv wrestling coach. He made a point of coaching all the kids, not just the superstars. He saw potential and through a combination of toughness and compassion, moved you forward as an athlete, but more importantly, as a young adult. My favorite thing about Mr. Edmonds is his greeting anytime I see him. He acts like there is no one else in the world he’d rather see and greet than you at that moment. That is a good technique, and one I bring to action as often as I can.

Mr. Edmonds, a fantastic role model!

We are all the result of the combination of our influences. I am lucky to have the influential teachers I’ve had in my life.

Thank you all.

Getting uncomfortable to learn and grow.

Our superintendent met with me recently to talk about my professional growth goals. One of my goals is to closely, uncomfortably, and necessarily challenge my own biases and understand my privilege. A colleague recommended the two books below. I’ve finished So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and am about a third of the way through Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.

Why, at this point in a 36 year career, is it important to examine biases, prejudice, and privilege? Because to do better work as a leader, a learner, and communicator, I need to understand from where I come, from where my thinking and opinions come, and challenge them. I know I can do better.

A couple of quotes that are guiding my thinking and learning now.

“Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to do better?”

“Yet I don’t believe that avoiding all potentially upsetting conversations serves anyone.”

“Right through my senior year of college, life exposed me mostly to other versions of myself and the customs and traditions I considered normal.”

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anais Nin

“Privilege is a strange thing in that you notice it least when you have it most.”

And this whomper quote,

“What else don’t I know?

Your playing small does not serve the world.

Can’t get that idea/quote out of my head this morning. Part of the line,

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.

Which is all part of the entire poem:

Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

Why do we play small sometimes? Or often? Convenience? Fear? Laziness?

Let’s check ourselves and let our lights shine. The kids and our colleagues deserve our best light.

Parent, Family, Community Engagement

We have 4 district strategic goals. These goals were developed through a series of interviews and meeting with 13 different groups and over 150 people. The goals center around: Academic Excellence, Transition Readiness, Parent/Family/Community Engagement, and High Quality Work Force.

I will now brag on our educators in the area of Parent/Family/Community Engagement. I might also mention how modeling practice pays off.

Our Director of TLI asked everyone in the department to develop an aspiration for the year. My aspiration has been the same for two years. To get our leaders to write more, as a means of reflection and learning. And I take the point in this effort by writing a blog. This is my 141st blog post since I started. Practicing what I preach.

We don’t have any building leaders doing blogs just yet. Still hoping on that one. But we absolutely have building leaders writing. All of them. And just got word from one of our principals that her teachers are now writing as well. Sharing good news and information from the school and classroom.

Here are a few examples!

All of this serves the Parent/Family/Community Engagement strategic goal literally by definition! We are engaging with all of those groups. We are NOT working in isolation. We are telling our story. We are being transparent.

Congratulations to all of our gifted educators for doing this work!