Teachers Gonna Teach

 

family-business
All in the family. Image via metromba.com.

I say it often: Teaching is pretty much the Family Business. My mom was a school nurse in East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond for 30 years. My mother-in-law taught elementary school for 21 years, and now in retirement is a classroom aide in Las Vegas. My older brother was a civilian instructor for the Navy during his 30 years in the Army reserves. And my uncle (an engineer and then a lawyer) taught middle school math while he was in grad school.

It’s what we do.

My oldest son has his heart set on police work, which is cool. I personally think he’d make a great history teacher, an area of personal interest for him. But in the meantime, he is (among other things) a Life Teen Junior Core Member at our parish. So, he’s doing a little teaching, usually in small-group settings but often addressing a room full of high school students after Mass on Sunday evenings.

So Sunday morning he’s preparing a talk he’ll give to high school students later that night about “accepting difficult teachings”.

No pressure, right? Also, somewhat ironic.


Image result for computer frustration gif
Image via photobucket.com.

Staring at a blank google doc that stays blank is very frustrating. Especially when the clock is ticking.

It’s his talk and he’s gotta write it, but… Can I help? Because 900 performances a year for 14 years has to be worth something to somebody. And, teachers gonna teach.

So, hoping to give him some guidance on building a coherent and compelling talk,  I pose two questions: “What’s your takeaway for them?”, and “How do you want to hook them in at the start?”

And thus I introduced my oldest to the Backwards Assessment Model and the concept of a hook.

He settled in on using some anecdotes from a concert that we (and several of the kids he’d be talking with) all attended the night before. A comment made by the lead singer while introing a song really stuck with him, and I suggested that if that line spoke to him, it probably would resonate with his audience too. It was a common experience that they could all use as an anchor. He was wise enough to see that would be a great tool for getting buy-in for his talk.


Image result for typing cat gif
Image via imgur.com.

Now that he’s on a roll, I dish out a handful of tools from my Blog Writing 101 bag:

  • Type words and phrases as they come into your head. before they evaporate. Don’t worry about complete sentences, or even punctuation. You can flesh it out later. Get the important points down and go from there.
  • Use all your resources. Life Teen publishes a guide book with suggestions for each Life Night. Is there anything in there you can take and run with? Especially with the more technical parts of your talk?
  • Develop a theme or conceit. Is there a phrase that summarizes your point? A little repetition can be a valuable tool for getting a point to stick.
  • Write like you talk. The Talk has to be in your voice. I could tell it sounded like him just by peeking over his shoulder and reading a few lines.
  • Get another set of eyes on it, especially for proofreading (grammar and spelling).
  • And one from my radio days: Read it. The whole thing. Out loud. You’d be amazed how a clever turn of phrase on paper turns into a tongue-twister when spoken aloud.

He’s been in their seats, just a few years ago. He knows what kind of Life Night talks kept his interest and what kind went in one ear and out the other. “Would I want to sit and listen to 10 or 15 minutes of what I just wrote?”

Lastly, we talked visuals. Wifi is a recent upgrade to the Life Teen Center, so he had the option to punch things up with media. He ended up using a piece of  the VeggieTales episode “Dave And The Giant Pickle“, and this one:

Writing themes and persuasive essays was not my son’s idea of a good time in high school. But here, a few years later, given an opportunity to tell a story that mattered to him, he put together a solid presentation.

He came home Sunday evening feeling like things went pretty well.

Cool. I was happy for him. And glad I could lend a hand.

Because Teachers Gonna Teach. In and out of season.

 

 

 

My Hall Of Fame

Sunday afternoon. Sunshine. Driving thru a blue-collar neighborhood in my town. Looking out the passenger window, I saw a family out for a walk: mom pushing a Little One in a stroller, dad with Toddler Son riding on his shoulders.

Not quite a “record scratch/freeze frame” moment, but for me, there was a definite double-take. It’s one of those iconic moments of fatherhood that we all look forward to. And that dad didn’t know it, but for a millisecond in my mind, we shared that moment.

Because: It was me, not that long ago. I remember what that felt like. Exactly.

Going For A Ride
Father and Son, ready to tackle The Strip in the sunshine.

It’s birthday season for my boys. That guy on my shoulders up there? As the last day of March, he’s a teenager. My oldest? He’ll be 21 within days.

Our little ones, all they want is to be Big. To see the world from where Dad sees it. And all we want to do is to hoist them up on our shoulders, bursting with pride.

Image via rudyinternational.com

And that never goes away. We boost them up physically when they are little, when it’s kind of a cool dad thing to do, and spend the rest of our lives giving whatever support is needed, when it’s the hard work of grinding out a life, sight unseen, day by day by day.


Gary Works
US Steel’s Gary Works. Image via nwi.com (story link)

The encroachment of Colts-wear north of, say, Rensselaer notwithstanding, Northwest Indiana is by any measure under the sphere of influence of the Chicago Bears. But my particular town has long been a bedroom community for US Steel’s Gary Works. As such, there are plenty of Pittsburgh transplants here. My dad worked 40 years at Inland Steel in East Chicago. We’re Region people (and Bears fans) to the core. But you don’t have to be a Steelers guy to love Jack Lambert.  His 1990 Hall of Fame enshrinement speech is a classic of the genre.

As my career in the School City of Hammond lengthened, as I started to look like a lifer, I thought of that speech often.

Lambert pull quote
Image via http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1258951-the-20-greatest-pittsburgh-steelers-quotes-of-all-time

I pictured myself at my retirement dinner, in front of family and a few teacher friends, sharing drinks and memories. And I’d steal the money line: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d be a high school math teacher. And you damn well better believe I’d be a Gavit Gladiator.”

But there was more to that Hall of Fame speech. A lot more.

Man of Steel
Image via si.com (see link below)

The guy who made the cover of Sports Illustrated, who was selected All-Pro and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, who heard the roar of 60,000 voices wash over him, that day stood on stage, receiving the highest honor his sport can bestow, and he thanked coaches, equipment guys, team doctors, teammates. By name.

And… family.

Lambert saved the best for last. He called out his wife and children, by name, pointed to them and said, “There’s my Hall of Fame.”

It’s OK if you get the chills reading that. I do, every time I watch the speech.

Spring Break is great. Aside from Birthday Season (and occasionally Easter), it’s an opportunity to recharge, to take stock, to gear up for the last 10 weeks of school, to think about how the year has gone, what I can do better next  year.

Always trying to get better. You know why?

I won’t be a Hall of Fame anything. Not teacher of the year, month, day, or hour. But I’ve got a Hall of Fame around me in my classroom(s), six periods a day, 180 days a year…. and at home, 16 hours a day, every day.

I’ll take that. You damn well better believe….