During lunch my coworkers and I share snippets of celebrity autobiographies which can be quite entertaining. One celebrity described her mother’s excessive lifestyle; another star described a mind-blowing epiphany she had while making toast – entertaining, indeed.
Reading teacher biographies can also be entertaining but there is an added bonus of learning what master teachers do to ensure their students’ success. Many teacher autobiographies feature idealistic teachers determined to make a difference in challenging schools filled with students who are overwhelmed with the struggles of poverty. There isn’t anything these super teachers aren’t willing to do to connect with their students such as taking the coolest field trips, chugging carton after carton of milk just to elicit an answer from reluctant students, or demonstrating military trained round house kicks that would put Chuck Norris to shame.
Their determination inspires me; however, many of these star teachers are single, and soon after they perform teaching miracles, they write books and leave their teaching careers in the dust.
What about us teachers who are in it for the long haul, who want to achieve amazing results with our students, but would still like some personal time to hold hands with someone we love? There is at least one phenomenal teacher who has shown immense dedication to his students, authored books, and has continued to teach – while married – Rafe Esquith.
Rafe pours his passion into his teaching, and he describes how he does this in his book, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire . My favorite message gleaned from this book is to be truly present when working with students. The title of this book was inspired by an incident where Rafe was so intent on helping one of his students understand a science concept that when his hair got too close to a Bunsen burner, it caught on fire. Rafe was so intent on proving to his student that he would not give up on her, that he did not notice his flaming hair. Another student alerted him to his follicle fire.
I love this reminder of the importance of giving students your full attention. When I coach my students while they are struggling to learn new concepts, I will be present when they share their ideas with me. This action always helps me build strong relationships with my students. If that doesn’t work, I can try to impress them with my smooth Jazzercise moves.