What Teachers Make

This story was shared today during my Department meeting by my HOD. It was a simple story, but it really inspired me and reaffirmed my belief in what I do.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest; "You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make?"

(She paused for a second, then began…)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental. You want to know what I make?"

(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)

"I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life ."

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

"Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…

You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?"

True Teaching

Sometimes when the work of teaching drains me, it’s always important to return to the heart of teaching. Often this happens as I share my burdens with my Dearie and we talk about what should matter the most in our teaching. I have also recently been searching for inspiring teachers’ blogs and I’ve discovered Teach on Purpose, which is really down-to-earth yet extremely inspirational journal of a Spanish language teacher in the U.S.

Some highlights, based on what I’ve read so far:

  • March 18, 2009 entry
    She shares about how students in her class rose up to the occasion to share and encourage each other after a student in the class committed suicide. And this is how she ends off, “I have said before that when a teenager invites you into their world and offers what is really going on inside, it is ALWAYS a sacred moment, and no curriculum or agenda is more important than that.”
  • April 3, 2009 entry
    She shares about how she overcame her own fears and uncertainties to say something really harsh but important to a student.

    “When a kid’s in trouble…don’t hesitate to have that conversation. EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY. Pray as you walk to the hallway and then open your mouth. Even if something life-changing only happens once, it’s worth a 1000 times of feeling stupid and having nothing to say. I mean, isn’t life-change the reason we got into this profession anyway?”

  • March 2, 2010 entry
    She writes about how she abandons her lesson plan to allow her students to run outside and play with snow. She writes about the power of ‘influence’ and how we can win students over by showing them that we are willing to go over and above our duties to have a fun lesson.

    And influence IS GREAT. Influence gives me the right to ask for their attention during a less-than-captivating lesson. Other times, influence allows me speak challenging and difficult words into their lives. Influence is why I can tell them to go, stay, start, or stop-and they listen. “