Jul 1, 2014

Are you a runner or a rider?

One of the most outstanding presentations I have been to so far at the ISTE 2014 conference was a vendor sponsored session featuring Ron Clark (The Essential 55, Ron Clark Academy). Not only is he a great motivational speaker, but he walks the walk. When he talks about being passionate as an educator, he puts into practice the very things he asks educators to do. This is evident when he talks, but it is also evident when you watch his students, which were there for the session as well. His students preached and practiced his rules.

But this post is not about his specific tips for educators so much as the start of his message, which pointed out that there are 4 kinds of teachers in a school.

Runners - those who show up early, stay late, and never stop going. Full of ideas and always ready to jump in.

Joggers - think they are runners, have a few great ideas that they do every year, and are always passionate about those things.

Walkers - feel as if they are dragged along and usually do so while complaining.

Riders - those who sit by and complain, usually about how the system affects them.

Now, I wouldn't want to guess which one of these I am, and wouldn't begin to label others as being one or the other, but what I took away from this session is that no matter where you fall, you can be a Runner. Yes, we all see these people in our buildings and we get a little tired of seeing them, hearing them, and if we really want to admit it, may be a little jealous of them, but we all can be a Runner. Part of the reason Runners bother some teachers is that on some level they are worried that Runners (and their administrators) will expect them to do the same things they are doing. Ron pointed out that it doesn't have to be that way. He doesn't expect teachers at his school to rap or stand on the desks and dance (although he did all of this in his presentation). He just wants them to be passionate and happy about what they do.

So what is the point of this article, and what is his point in his presentation. Ron points out that when students in his school are asked, they say they want teachers who are happy about what they do, genuine in really wanting to know about the students, and are pleasant to be around. Teachers who are willing to try new things, but be OK with making mistakes.

After hearing Ron talk today, there are three things that I would like all of our faculty members to take away:

1. I have always been one of those people that likes to try new things, but usually when there is limited room for risk. But as I have grown as an educator, I have found that the only way to get out of my comfort zone is to realize that there will be mistakes and there will be risk. So don't worry about failure - just get out and try. Even the most successful people are fearful of change, but they try.

2. Be happy about what you do - and if you're not, fake it until you make it! Kids can pick up on negativity and it creates a negative response. You will get more out of your kids if you show respect first and a firm hand in your expectations. If you put forth a pleasant atmosphere and respectful attitude, your kids will respond. Trust me!

3. Embrace change. This one may be the hardest for some people. But think of it this way. You know the old question, "You're on a desert island. If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" If you've ever answered this question, or posed it to someone else, you know that the catch is that no matter how much you love that food, it will quickly get old and you will get tired of it and welcome a little change. That is the important thing to remember. Students get tired of the same old thing. This analogy doesn't mean that you constantly have to change how you present your content. But what I am getting to is that we as a society have been teaching kids the same way for nearly 100 years. But all the while, society and technology have changed around us, while we have changed very little. It is time for us to embrace the tools that are around us. Students crave the ability to use in the classroom, the tools they use every day.

All that being said, I don't want anyone to read this and take it as a criticism, but more as a self assessment. Where do you fall on the scale? Are you a runner or rider? Do you embrace change, or fear change? Do you dread coming to work, or look forward to it? Think on that for a moment as you enjoy your summer and plan for next year. How will the next school year be different for you?


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