I attended a Teacher Talks series at the McGlohon Theater in Uptown Charlotte on Wednesday, March 15. It was an evening of inspirational talks by six teachers in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School district. The background for each teacher varied both in their teaching position and in their life/teaching experience. They ranged from elementary to high school teachers and from Science to Physical Education teachers. Some were teachers straight out of college and others worked in the corporate world for a while before moving into the education field.
For me, these various backgrounds were what made these talks so interesting. I loved hearing about what these teachers did, or were doing, in the classroom, but I am equally as fascinated with how they arrived in the position they are today.
The quote at the top of the page is from the last speaker, however, I am not sure it is entirely hers. I think she said it might have come from her principal. She went on to explain how the heart work is why she teaches. I hope I am not misquoting, but it was a great line that stuck with me throughout her speech.
Katie Weed shared her personal story and her topic of Grit: Passion and Perseverance. The line above was something she said towards the end. She proposed the idea of bringing our passion into our planning meetings and not just the test data we have on our students. She urged us to follow our passion or find our passion. It gave me a lot to think about what I bring to the classroom and to each of my lessons.
The next speaker was Mary Soliman and I do not have a quote from her. I hope this does not appear as a lack of interest on my part. All of the speakers were equally captivating, and at times I was more involved with listening, than trying to save a quote on my phone. She spoke about creating independent learners in the classroom, as opposed to spoon feeding them the information. She said that teachers should illuminate the way for students, like a candle.
Peter Panico was the next speaker and accompanied his talk with some great videos and images of the work he was doing in the classroom with his students. I was particularly impressed with the cardboard roller coasters he had the students create to teach force and motion. He also spoke about “finding your tribe” or a group of people that you relate to and relate to you. The establishment of strong, positive relationships is stressed by so many educators and I don’t think it can be stressed enough. If you are going to teach with passion and do the “heart work”, you can’t do it alone. You need that strong, positive support.
Doug Smith led the next talk and started off by getting us up and moving. He had us stand and do some quick activities that got our bodies moving after sitting for about 30 minutes. This was the introduction to his talk about active and healthy schools. He stated that “sitting is the new smoking” in terms of how damaging it can be for our bodies and minds. How active are we? How much time do we spend sitting – at school, in the car to and from school, at home? How are we bringing movement into our classroom and giving our students a chance to be active and healthy in order to do their best work? He mentioned some pretty shocking statistics, but he also recommended some simple activities we can do throughout the day to help get kids moving and stay focused. He also mentioned two books in his talk:
Brain Rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school – by John Medina
Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain – by John J. Ratey with Eric Hagerman
Melissa Ligh was the next speaker and used the term “screenagers” to describe the students of today. She brought a positive view to the use of technology in the classroom. I could relate to so much of what she was saying, although I don’t think I have the same level of interest for online shopping as she does. The quote above was another one that stood out to me and put into words the reason why I started a blog. Since starting this blog three weeks ago, I feel it has had a major impact on how I reflect on my experiences in the classroom.
Jordan Todd rounded out the evening. Her talk was filled with passion as she explained why she was a teacher and why she did the heart work. I decided to start off this post with her quote because it seems to describe all of the teachers who spoke. They all do the heart work and it was clear in the way they spoke that night and the work they were doing in the classroom.
The evening also featured an introduction by a student from Northwest School of the Arts and musical performances from West Charlotte High School and Myers Park High School.
I realize this post does not do justice to the inspiration and motivation that these speakers provided. I think a video of this teacher talk will soon be available through the CMS Foundation. If this is the case, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to what these six educators have to say. It will be time well spent.