Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm a Minority



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I'm A Minority

To read that title than look at me one might laugh. One might get upset. 6’5” Caucasian white man calling himself a minority.  Some would stereotype me and call me the man….the reason they can't get ahead. But stay with me….As I sat this past weekend at the EdRising National Conference in Phoenix…...Yes it was Hot…..really Hot….I surveyed the large room of over a thousand students proclaiming they want to be the future of education. It was a very diverse room. One that reflected well our current student population in the U.S. According to EdRising statistics 51% of their 30,000 student members are of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These students competed in numerous activities to showcase their amazing talents and dedication to the profession. What was more amazing is that they basically ran the conference. The future of education is looking good. Hedieh, our student from the ILC, took 5th in the nation in her category.
Super proud of her hardwork and dedication. Not many seniors give up a week in the summer after they graduate. 

Then my attention shifted to the teacher leaders. What were their backgrounds? You guessed it….a majority in the room were white females. The minority of lead teachers  in the room were male. So there….. I’m a minority! Are you?  

I had aspirations of going into the medical field. I then decided to become an environmental scientist. I even worked with the EPA in Florida for an internship. Lined up a job out of college but soon realized I made more money working in distribution. When the EPA offered me half of what I was making working at a warehouse through college. I stayed the course with distribution, was making great money and landed in management in my mid 20s. But something was missing. I discovered teaching. Made the sacrifice to go back to school and teach at a private school which offered me a third of what I was used to making in a warehouse. But now I can honestly say that if I did anything else I would be settling. Teaching…..Education…. that's my calling.

We need to toughen up. Teaching is not a one gender profession. Men are needed on this field. Students are coming to us fatherless and empty.  Young men are looking for their role models.  I'm not saying female teachers can not fit this bill. Many of them do and that is amazing.  But men need to realize that students need us. Not just to teach but to be there. And not just to be a coach. Far too many believe that males only teach so they can coach. Then these teachers only care about their sports and players. I'm not saying you need to be a big teddy bear and hug every student.  But you better believe that offering a simple affectionate gesture to a student in need could go a long way when they've never had a positive male role model in their life. 

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Tough love is in fact the opposite of what you think. It's when we love because it's hard for us. Its showing love to the hard students.  To the ones that society says don't deserve it.  That's tough love!

The pay is terrible…...I don't have the patience for kids….teachers are not respected….I hate bureaucracy….this generation is soft....I can't stand the technology….I’m too smart to teach...teaching is beneath me….please stop with the excuses! I'm tired of it!  The greatest sacrifice anyone can make is to neglect their own comforts for the sake of others.  That means you find a way to squash every reason not to do it and realize that you teach for the kids. You teach to help others discover how to build their legacy. Yes….teaching is at the beginning of all other professions. It's the spark igniter! There is something special about being the one to fan the flames.

Keynote speaker Nate Bowling opened the EdRising conference with a unique perspective.  His passion is advocating for the underdog. His research... studies.... life have lead him to the conclusion that a student's housing situation can set the tone for their future. Again, I'm in the minority. Growing up in a divorced family and living with my mother...who at times worked three jobs before remarrying just so we could live in a small rental trailer or with my grandmother. On free and reduced lunch. I grew up in the foothills of eastern Ky along the Ohio River. Not a very affluent area. If anything it was a quite depressing area in which many of the local steel mills along the river were shutting down. We didn't have much but we made the best of it. I was one of the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, the first to graduate with a Master's, and the first to pursue my Doctorate. Again...in the minority. While Mr. Bowling’s research is interesting and I'm sure we could all learn from it.  I want make sure we don't allow ideas like this to become a crutch. Yes….we should empathize with those less fortunate and for those that struggle.  As a foster parent I've seen kids born into circumstances beyond their control. Addicted to drugs and exposed to pain far greater than I've ever imagined. But yet when you ask the pediatrician what is the one thing that will change their life the answer is simple. A loving environment! 

So….let's do that. Let's recognize that the playing field for our students is not the same. Their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will affect them but it should not define them. Let’s love our students for being uniquely different and bringing with them whatever baggage they carry. Let's be encouragers. Let's be mentors for the next generation of influencers. Let's make what the public envisions as a minority….caring teachers…. the true majority. Because if that is what being a minority in education is all about then yes…..I'm a minority!

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#HappyToHelp
John

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Roundabouts


Driving on my way to school I have a couple of reminders about life every morning and they seem to be very popular in central Ohio…..roundabouts. Just look at this sign….nothing can go wrong here. These things are so much fun that a co-worker of mine has been known to eat his lunch at a picnic table overlooking a roundabout just so he can people watch. Clearly it’s a blast because he invites people to join in on the fun.




Roundabout.jpgSome mornings my daughter gets in on the action as I drive her to school. It’s a constant decision to stay on the main road or duck into the back roads to bypass the roundabouts. But how often is life like trying to maneuver the roundabouts? Take my daughter for example. It’s been a rough year for her. We seemingly unbeknownst to us bought a house that has been plagued with sickness this year. She missed more school this year than ever before. She had tough time adjusting to a new school….a new school district...and just plain dealing with the move as a tween. For the first time this year she was caught cheating. Taking the back road to avoid a consequence. Now let me explain. She is not a bad kid. Actually, I wish I could be more like her at times with a smile and heart of gold. She forgot to get my signature for a practice sheet for one of her classes. Which I am not a fan of signing forms that enforce kids have to do stuff at home. It’s like the reading logs from the elementary school days. While I understand their purpose we all know they are typically forged in that last moment as the kid goes rushing out the door. I personally feel they don’t really make an impact except to serve as a grade holder and unnecessary item of stress. Not really the best accountability tool. So….here my daughter is forgetting to get a signature and not wanting to face punishment she simply (digitally) copies my signature on her iPad and  transposes it onto the due log sheet. The teacher had no idea she even did it. But...guilt set in. My daughter felt bad about what she had done and reported it to her teacher. A lunch detention was served. The first!

That day after school with tears in her eyes she tells me about what happened. I was not upset about the grade or the detention. As I told her I was more upset about her character decision. Not wanting to make a big deal I just couldn’t let it go. Why did she place grades over character? Why not just take the hit and let the consequences be? In her own words she did not want to get a bad grade. First, we never stress the overall importance of grades as much as we stress doing our best and stretching ourselves. Doing the uncommon to get uncommon results because everyone can be average. Why is there this fear? Was it teacher induced stress? Yes...I am guilty of telling students to get good grades well, at least I did. Now, I simply look for their best knowing that students operate at different levels. In the end she simply said that it was self induced. She didn’t like to get bad grades. Then just last night she was crying in the kitchen because she believes she is going to get a bad grade in Math. She thinks she is getting a B. I literally started laughing. That's bad! Reminded about what one of my Doctors stated in our introductory course into my Doctoral Program….translated so she would understand it…. I stated the following as captured by her...


I think she got the point!

What drives us all to think this way? Push some of us to place societal norms over good character?

Maybe it’s the NFL combine syndrome. We place all these exceptional athletes on a super stage and expect every single one of them to be better than the next. We give them all scores based on how fast they can run, how strong they are, and how high they can jump. We turn them into quantifiable numbers so we can grade them. Then on an even bigger stage teams declare a draft and select the best. As a society we then believe that everything we do can be graded in this manner and end up forgetting about character and GRIT. We just want the bEST even if it means we sacrifice in other areas.

I believe it is because we live in an ..EST mindset society. Craig Groeschel does a great job explaining this and I’ll do my best to summarize but it makes complete sense. We tend to have the mentality that we want to be the greatEST in whatever it is we do...the fastEST in any race...the tallEST in the class or on the team...the strongEST in the gym...have all the newEST gadgets....be the smartEST to earn scholarships or have bragging rights with class rankings. The thing is we will never be our bEST if we stay focused on our own EST. To become our bEST we have to help bring out the bEST in others. We must be able to identify the who or what that defines our life. Because until then life will be a lot like being stuck in a roundabout.

Just like those roundabouts. To navigate them safely you have to watch out for others. Sometimes you are yielding to those in the roundabout so they can be on their way. Sometimes you are letting others in so they can get through. Don’t get caught admiring the other lanes. Even though it may be moving faster than yours you know the second you switch lanes it will start moving. Then because you we so worried about what others were doing you get stuck in the center only to go full circle again. Stay in your lane and learn to navigate it to your absolute bEST. Don’t get caught having EST envy. You are in your lane for a reason!

Just a thought....

#HappyToHelp
John

Let me know what you think and share your thoughts in the comments! Look forward to see what you have to say.