We do not learn to shine by studying the practices of those who are sub par and then vowing to do the opposite. We learn to shine when we observe people - no, surround ourselves with people - who shine and then emulate those characteristics we consider responsible.
Mrs. Telford shines and, if anybody else at Grapevine High School is watching, they can't help but also notice the creativity, passion, and commitment of this tenth grade Social Studies teacher.
My oldest son Ricky would gladly spend a fifth hour swimming laps each day if he thought it would absolve him from having to do homework. He's smart and he's curious, but he's also be a minimalist - especially when it comes to doing school work he considers boring. Mrs. Telford's history assignment is one of the only times this year Ricky has gladly engaged in school work.
Cover all six sides of a tissue box with pictures and information found while researching art from the four ancient civilizations. Simple, practical, and hands-on enough for a kinesthetic learner like Ricky.
I wanted to meet the teacher responsible for snapping Ricky out of his complacency, so earlier this week I arranged a meeting. I arrived at Grapevine High School to meet Mrs. Telford and to thank her for shining at her work.
The exchange was telling and went something like this...
Walk into the classroom and find Mrs. Telford speaking with someone on the phone. She was making plans to video tape a Holocaust survivor she arranged to have visit her classroom today - Thursday.
After she hung up, I introduced myself and got right down to business. Thank you for shining and could I photograph samples of her creative project to share with my loyal blog readers? She agreed. I, after all, thought the tissue box idea could be adapted for holiday gifts. Surprise grandma and grandpa by replacing pictures of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent with notes and family photos. Fun, inexpensive, and functional.
The story would have ended there, but immediately I realized the memory card was not in my camera and that I would have to return home.
Mrs. Telford explained she could leave the classroom door open for me, but that she could not be there, due to a leadership meeting she must attend at 4:15.
That's what we did. I went home, came back, photographed the tissue boxes... and then couldn't help but look around. Here's what I saw...
Walls covered in student art work, posters, pictures, postcards, and maps of all sorts. Seats arranged to foster discussion, a desk piled high and deep with enough papers to warrant a sign reading "Pardon our Progress," and an entire wall of nothing but awards and photographs she'd taken with students.
Here's what I know...
- Not all teachers challenge their own creativity by assigning projects hard to grade, but easy for students to get excited about.
- Not all teachers make the extra effort of having a Holocaust survivor visit their classroom to share a personal account.
- Not all teachers are so passionate about their work they are willing to create even more of it, by taking on the red tape associated with securing a video camera.
- Not all teachers are on their way to a leadership meeting. Only those who are viewed as worth following.
- Not all teachers build a classroom environment that feeds all the senses and leaves you wanting more.
- Not all teachers get close enough to students to show up in the same photograph - never mind to have a whole wall full.
- And, not all teachers have been presented with 8 Distinguished Teacher Awards.
Mrs. Telford shines. There is no question.
Here's what is most amazing. I arranged to meet Mrs. Telford because of one creative project she assigned to my son. Everything else I have shared with you, I learned by being in her classroom for less than five minutes.
You know what that means?
It means it's true. It means we at Highlowaha are right. People who shine don't just shine at one thing. They radiate! They, like Mrs. Telford, don't know how to apply shine to only one area of their life. They apply excellence to everything they do, making the world a brighter and more worth while place.
Shining bright like Mrs. Telford is nothing to sneeze at. It's a way of life we want to reinforce every chance we get. This post, coupled with a Shine t-shirt, is on its way to Mrs. Telford as we speak.
How about you?
Whose your Mrs. Telford and how will you let her know she shines?
Signing off until tomorrow...