Educators, do you have to go to work? Or do you get to come to school? There’s a BIG difference between the two…
I enrolled my 5 year old son into a hip hop dance class. The sessions are held in a sound proof studio with a window that allows parents to observe. It’s taught by an 18 year old kid (let’s call him Junior), with a high top fade (YES! They’re back!), wearing sagging skinny track pants (I still marvel at the fact that skinny anything can sag..) with half his boxers showing. I couldn’t hear the instruction, the kids’ questions, or Junior’s responses to their questions. As an educator myself, I wished I could because I felt myself slipping into observation mode. As I slipped deeper into observation mode, I realized that just like in the classroom, I don’t need to focus much on the teacher; I can gather a lot of information from observing the kids.
I’m not sure any of the kids blinked during the entire hour long session, as their eyes were fixated on Junior, and everywhere he moved around the room. Every kid immediately and enthusiastically vaulted into action following direction. Kids’ faces were beaming with smiles and the room filled with laughter following apparent jokes from Junior. Each kid’s body language screamed pride: straight posture, chest out, chin up. When Junior asked questions, all hands shot up in the air, and no mouths moved until Junior called on someone, and only that one mouth moved. Because it was sound proof, I couldn’t hear what was taking place. But through my observations, it was very clear what was taking place: Junior’s passion for his craft was overflowing, contagious, and positively infecting kids!
A “classroom” filled with kids from 4-10 years old, at 7 o’clock in the evening. My 5 year old son gets up at 7:00am, and is at school until 5:00pm. On this evening, he came home, ate dinner, played for just a bit, then was right back in the car on the way to dance class. I can’t speak for the other kids in the class, but this makes for a long and exhausting day for my son, constantly on the go. I make this point because during the hour long session at 7:00pm in a room filled with kids 4-10 years old, not once did a kid: ask to go to the bathroom, want to see the nurse, request to get a drink, or lay his/her head down during instruction. Not once did Junior have to send a kid to the hallway for a “timeout”, or call the front desk for help managing behavior. Why? Because he is passionate about what he does. Kids don’t want to miss out on instruction. Kids don’t want to miss the next dance move. Kids don’t have the urge to find something better to do, like poke a friend or make faces at someone across the room. Kids want to hear Junior’s next joke, answer his next question, receive his next high five.
“Yeah, but Sam, the kids choose to be in this class so Junior has an automatic advantage.” Not true. I can’t speak for the other kids, but my son actually did not want to be in this class–and specifically, he didn’t want to be in JUNIOR’s class. He had a great past experience with another teacher, Tracy, and if he couldn’t be in her class, he had no interest. We enrolled him anyway. Now, he LOVES Junior.
There’s no reason the classrooms in our schools should be much different. To be clear, I am not saying kids should never go to the bathroom, need the nurse, get thirsty, or be tired. I am not saying teachers shouldn’t redirect our kids, or seek appropriate support when necessary. What I am saying is that our educators’ passion should be evident, overflowing, contagious, and positively infect our kids. This is a great way to combat disengagement and win over reluctance (student & parent!).
I challenge you to ask yourself, “Am I passionate about kids, teaching, learning, and education?” If you are not sure, just ask your kids, parents, and colleagues. Because they know.
An educator passionate about kids, learning, and education, with a bachelors and no experience who gets to come to school? Or an indifferent educator with 20 years experience, 2 masters, and has to go to work? Give me the passionate educator every time. They will find a way to make everything else happen.
I would love to hear the top characteristic on your list when thinking about who should be in front of our kids.