Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nothing to Sneeze At

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...


Heather said...

Here's what I LOVE about people who shine. They never believe that they are that outstanding! Take my administrative assistant for example. She SHINES! She is so good at her work and when you get the chance to talk to her (it takes a lot to get her to open up) you'll hear stories that quickly tell you she Shines at being a mother, a wife, etc...but she always and I mean always believes she has room to grow, develop, and get better. You really have to convince her that she is pretty darned fantastic.
I bought her a SHINE shirt that I haven't had the time to present so I will take the time to get that together with a nice handwritten note on the back telling her how great she is.

Danko Family said...

I had 2 teachers in high school that radiated just like Mrs. Telford. Heather will remember them too...Mr and Mrs. Toadvine. Not only were they the best Spanish and Algebra teachers, but the were also missionaries and raising their grandson. Mrs. Toadvine had the entire algebra book memorized and could answer any question without looking at your book. Mr. Toadvine was the BEST Spanish teacher I've ever had. He was very regimented in what he did which helped kids to learn. The best part of these 2 teachers is that no one EVER acted out in their classes. There was a mutual respect that was uncanny! They were the epitome of SHINE.

My sister's husband and his family are really close to the Toadvines, so they were invited to their wedding 5 years ago. They both remembered me and I had a really nice time with them. A few days later, my parents received a thank you note from them for inviting them to the wedding and how nice it was to see me and my sisters and my parents. They not only SHINE, but they definitely RADIATE in every thing they do.

Heather, I think we had Algebra III together with Mrs. Toadvine...didn't we???

Peggy said...

I see a 'vine' theme going on here.

I think it's an Ancient Civ thing too... Sissy's class is the one that reminded me of the toilet paper mummy wrap! Also in this class, they took a stuffed animal, de-stuffed it... then mummified it,wrapped it, included worldly goods and buried it in a tomb (shoe box).... I don't know how hands on you can get with Geometry.

Still looking for my SHINEr.... it's nasty in the midwest today, rainy, dreary and about 38 degrees! I'll have to go draw something that SHINES!

Katie K said...

The thing I love about people that SHINE is that they don't realize it because they think they're just living their life the way they're supposed to. They embody SHINE so much that they don't see it as anything extra-ordinary.

I have a friend who I believe truly shines in everything that she does. She doesn't just advise a homecoming committee and then show up for the event- no, she's the one running the cotton candy machine and gets covered in cotton candy, but loves it and lives it up with the students. She's the one talking to every student that walks by about living up Homecoming week and getting to know something about each of them.

When you tell her how amazing she is? She says she's just living her life. She's just being an advisor. What she doesn't see if how much she SHINES above the rest. I think that's what I love the most about people who shine- they just do it. Without thinking twice about it. And sometimes, without even realizing they're doing it.

Heather said...

Oh Kate you overestimate me! I stopped at Algebra II...I had a teacher who didn't SHINE and wouldn't help me with the work so that was the end of my high school math journey!

I do remember the Toadvines though...I can think of a few other high school teachers who shined: Mrs. Kohl (I think Bridget would agree), Madame Claypool, Patty Mueller, Mrs. Dunn, Ron Otte...we had a good group of teachers for sure!

Cheryl said...

Just a quick moment to check in as work is busy this morning. I'll have to think about who my Mrs. Telford is. :)

Happy Day

sue said...

Wow; Have not checked in a while and was surprized to see some of my old teachers mentioned as well. I also had the Toadvines and agree with everything that was said.

Claudia said...

Wow! What are the chances three people visitin the same blog in cyberspace would have a shared teacher experience!

The Toadvine's certainly sound like they Shine! Do they need Shine shirts?

They sound like great ambassadors to our Rayvolution.