Goal: Reach Out

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 12

One of the best teacher trainings I attended had nothing to do with technology. Instead, the speaker related how much a smile and a gesture can make a difference in a student’s life. He told an anecdote of how he was warned by his principal of his bad mood. He made a change. He stood at the door and began greeting every student who came in with a handshake and a smile. At first, he admitted it was insincere. The act itself was just in response to getting in trouble and there were some students he really didn’t appreciate having in his classes, yet he told each one this as they walked out the door. You know which students, the misbehaved children that many teachers fear. One day, one of these students wrote the teacher a thank you note. This student was contemplating suicide and had told himself that if one person had wanted him around he wouldn’t do it. After this, the handshakes became hi-fives and the smile sincere.

The Challenge

When I began this challenge, it was a way for me to jump start myself in accomplishing my own goals, some which I have been trying to accomplish for over a decade. When I first began using social media less than a year ago, I noticed that I was beginning to achieve my goals and set higher challenges for myself. This was at a time I was depressed. I had suddenly moved to a foreign country, did not know the language, and had given up my favorite job in the world. Life happens to us and having a support system makes the difference. Everyday, I look forward to a kind gesture from my Personal Learning Network (PLN). It can be a song on Blip.FM,  a comment on Facebook or my blog, a DM on Twitter, a Skype call, a nomination for an award, and the list goes on.

Your reaching out has made the difference in my life. Reaching out makes a difference in your students’ lives.

Recently, I read Marti Side’s great post, Check Yes or No,  where she related how a student thanked her for being the first teacher willing to help him. This was my response to her:
Sadly, I am not surprised by his experience. I ran a creative writing program at at-risk schools and alternative schools in my city. They had the lowest reading scores and faced incredibly difficult situations in their personal lives. I thought the teachers would have a passion for helping these students. Instead, I frequently saw the opposite. The teachers called them stupid and told them they would amount to nothing. The principals walked the hallways and ignored the teachers yelling. I know what it is to grow up in a really poor area, I went to an at risk school. I was fortunate to have very loving teachers but how about my friends who had the ones who were burnt out by the job? Teachers have such an impact on students. A kind smile and help goes a long way. This is one reason I’m so passionate about building a support network for teachers. The less that are burnt out by the system then perhaps the more teachers we will have that are passionate and will make a difference in their students’ lives!

Reaching Out to Teachers

For this reason, I am passionate about helping educators build a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Perhaps, we can help burnt out teachers by reaching out with a nice gesture online and offline? Perhaps, we can just listen to them and offer encouragement? Perhaps, we can introduce them to a strong PLN who engages, supports, listens, shares, and collaborates? Perhaps, we will ignite passion in them so they can profoundly impact the students they impact year after year?
Let’s face reality, teachers who are burnt out will always be in the system. Teaching is challenging. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated. We are the passionate ones, can we create a movement of passionate teachers? I believe we can. Let’s start by reaching out in some small way today with the long-term goal of reaching out in big ways for the rest of our careers.
Challenge:
Reach out to your students, teachers in your schools, or to members of your PLN.

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If you are new to the 30 day Goal challenge, then you may want to read this post with more details!

This is goal 12 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please read this post!

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Care to share your experiences with reaching out?