Monday, May 16, 2016

Quick Story over a Long Time

I'm at a church meeting for a couple of days. If you can't find teachers to hang out with, church meeting people are a good substitute. Selfless, friendly and some pretty good stories.

But what if you meet a teacher at one of these meetings? Boom!

John had many stories, most of which are not mine to tell. But he did tell about teaching in England in the 60s on a Fulbright year. On the ship over, they showed To Sir With Love. (One of my all time favorites. Must see teacher movie.) When he gets to East London, that's the school he's teaching in! Were they really that cockney? I ask. "Oh, yes."

At some point he became the first dean of students for a nearby high school. Since one of our greatest challenges with student teachers is building classroom culture, I asked what he advised. He said there's no short answer, but let him tell a story.

He's teaching chemistry, and a student came in to find out if he really needed the class. "What do you want to do?" "I'm going into biological research." "Well, you're almost certainly going to need chemistry." So he takes the class, and does brilliantly. One day they're working with condensors, and John warns the student that this is expensive glassware. The student accidentally lets it roll off the table and it shatters. The student is broken up about it and worried, so John consoles him. If you do what you're planning on, you'll pay society back many times over.

At this student's 50th reunion, John gets to see him after his PhD in biology, and a career working in medical science all over the world. He got to collaborate with two Nobel prize winners. John shares the story from high school, and all are amazed and touched.

It turns out John only became a teacher because of getting a second chance when he was in high school. But the moral is the same, I think. We're investing in people. Teach your students, love your students, and you have no idea where your adventures will lead you or them.

Good night!

ps. if you ever get to meet John, ask him about the dynamite.

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