Sunday, April 3, 2011

Friends, influences, and inspiring strangers

Well, school is back in session for me; Spring Quarter is in full effect, as the young hip kids say. Or at least they did when I was a young, aspiring-to-be-hip kid. Anyway, in one of my classes (classroom management, a class I am fully psyched about) we were asked to think about and share a memorable teacher with the group. I'll get to my choice in a bit, don't worry...As I thought about that question I was struck by how fortunate I have been to have had many wonderful teachers; but then I thought, "hey, teachers aren't the only people that shaped me into the burgeoning educator both of you are reading about today!"  To give credit where it's due, today I'll share a list of the people that have influenced me, helped me along, or simply earned my admiration.

  1. My parents (and my wife's folks) - No explanation needed here, I think, but you'll get one anyway. Years ago, the wife and I were talking with a friend and we realized that all our parents were still in their first marriages (25+ years in each case). Today, our parents are in the 40-years of wedded bliss ballpark. This is so inspirational to me as these people have made it work, through all kinds of circumstances, for a long time. It is uncommon to see today, and we can all learn from them. How did they get through the challenging days? What's their secret? If I could bottle and sell it, believe me I would. Good job moms and dads, and thanks for the example.
  2. My wife -  Insert sappy "awwwwww" here if you must, but Mrs. M. is five-feet, two inches of awesomeness. She is an A-mazing teacher and cares more for her students than any three normal people would be capable of. She has supported me in every step I have taken since we've been together (14 years of together-time and hitting 12 years of married-time this year), and believe me, there have been lots of steps. And, best of all she is the best mom EVAR. Which leads us to...
  3. My two girls -  Madzilla is 8, and the Lolamonster is 1.5. The cool thing about kids is they are always learning something new. It's a great lesson for the rest of us. Seize each day and learn something from it. Why are my kids so cool? Maddie is a bundle of creative energy; always drawing, writing songs or a new story, she is constantly interpreting her world in some new way. Lola is a fireball! She takes on her world with all the confidence available to one unaware of consequences. It's so much fun to watch her explore and learn. While I'm in school I'm also a full-time, stay at home dad. This allows me to learn and share so much with them and I count myself incredibly lucky to do so.
  4. Tom, Ari, Mike (and others...), my friend -  Each of these guys have made great things for themselves in life. When I check in on what's new with any one of them I find something awesome. Tom and Mike are both new dads and  I can relate to both of them in new ways now and appreciate their journey even more. Ari is an uncompromising individual and I am always finding my thinking or world-view challenged in some way by his stance toward our world. Thanks guys, you've been awesome.
  5. Sir Ken Robinson. Watch this and if you aren't challenged, concerned and inspired about educating the youth of the world, Google his name and watch some more. If that doesn't move you....I don't know what will. He has quickly become a major influence on my educational philosophy. Seriously, check him out; He'll make you think  
  6. Bill Gates - Not because he's loaded; not because of Microsoft; and not completely because of the Gates Foundation. The spirit of philanthropy he carries with him is phenomenal. He has given away billions ( more than a third of his personal fortune...) to help make our world better. I don't think it's practical for us all to follow suit exactly, after all he still has billions to spare; but, we can all be inspired to do our part when and how we are able.
  7. OK, OK, I'll get to the teachers. Like I said before, I have been blessed with many wonderful teachers. All of them inspired me in some way to be a teacher by the example they set. Three that stand out for me are Randy Crump, Melanie Shelnutt, and Linda Morrison. Coach Crump was the first to really challenge my thinking, and the first teacher to tell me to "get my ass in gear;" Yes, a direct quote and yes, I deserved it. He saw potential in me and opened my eyes to many different ways to look at the world. Ms Shelnutt was and is such an inspirational spirit. She founded and advised the Future Georgia Educators chapter in my high school and gave me my first chance to work with kids in a school environment, tutoring first graders. Finally, we come to Mrs. Morrison. She challenged us, pushed us and respected us all as not only students but as future participants in our democratic society. Even today, she calls on her students to voice our opinions (well supported of course) on the world around us. The reason she was noted as my "memorable teacher" in class the other day is this story: At my high school graduation, she was handing off diplomas on my side of the stage before we walked across to shake the principal's hand. As I approached she held my diploma back and asked me one question. "Are you going to teach?" she wouldn't hand me the thing until I said yes. I'll never forget that story and I'll never forget the teachers who have inspired me.
There you have it. These are folks I admire in some way or another. If you're on the list, thank you for all you've meant to me. Hopefully I've made you proud in some way as well. I'm ready to move forward and get to teaching, so I need to go do my homework now. Sorry it's taken me so long to make good on my promise Mrs Morrison:)

1 comment:

  1. Tim, this is awesome. And inspiring. You were always one of the people I looked up to, and once you became a dad that admiration just grew. A lot of people talk about becoming a parent and how it changes their lives as a difficult thing to come to terms with, but from the first time I heard you talk about Maddie and when I first saw you with her, it was clear that you embraced her and your family not as a thing that changes who you are, but as a thing that allows you to become who you are supposed to be. I'm so glad you're becoming a teacher. Bill Gates may have tons of money to spread around, but I think the world could use a lot more awesome, and you, my friend, are brimming with that.