Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Teachers Need to Share Their Stories

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

I am going to connect a couple of dots here in thinking about personality and teaching. Stay with me -- and please let me know what you think.

Early last Sunday morning -- as in 4:15 a.m. early -- I had just gone through the security check at my home airport in Portland, Maine. I was booked on the 5:38 a.m. flight to Atlanta. I settled into one of the rocking chairs scattered throughout the departure area and pulled out my book.

Jim Moulton and George Johnson (right)

Credit: Jim Moulton

Soon after I sat down, an older couple came along. The man nodded to me in passing, and I nodded back. Experience has taught me that 4 a.m. at the airport tends to be a time and place when and where folks are most comfortable staying within themselves. This makes communication -- beyond the nod I had shared with this gentleman -- rare, and I reasonably assumed the nods would be the end of it. But when his wife headed for the restroom, this fellow strolled over to me and said, "Hello, I'm George Johnson, of Bailey Island, Maine," or something pretty close to that.

Suffice it to say, within 20 minutes I knew that George had been fishing lobster for 64 years and is still, between his boat and a nephew's, fishing over 1,000 traps. I knew that his first wife had died of cancer 15 years ago. I knew that several years after his wife's death, he had headed out of state to track down his current wife -- a former flame from high school days who had been widowed -- and that they had been married some seven years ago. I was told about his home and that the property had been in the family for generations.

I soon knew that he was recently featured in Esquire magazine as one of its "What I've Learned" voices. I knew that the location of his house has drawn more than a few folks from far away, who, having driven as far as they can toward the Atlantic, are bold enough to ask if they can take a look at his view of the rocky Maine coast. This, in fact, is how he ended up in Esquire. You see, a certain editorial type from the city stopped in uninvited, was met with hospitality rather than hostility, and, like me, received the gift of getting to know George.

Arriving home, I was thumbing through a current edition of a magazine belonging to my wife and I saw an article that began with something like, "If you want to go places in your job, don't simply bear down harder on the tasks at hand -- try being more friendly and smiling more" -- and that reminded me of George.

Here was a man who has lived a long and rugged life. Trust me; lobster fishing in Maine for 64 years would wear most anyone down. And yet, he was outgoing and cheerful -- not Pollyanna-ish, but clearly upbeat and positive. He was willing to come right up to me, smile, and say, "Hello, I'm George Johnson, of Bailey Island, Maine."

Classroom teaching makes for long and rugged days. String a bunch of them together and you'll have, like George has had, a long and rugged life. And schools, just like airports at 4 a.m., tend to be places where teachers, like bleary-eyed passengers, keep within themselves. Besides friendships with close colleagues, the only connections we often have to other teachers are those nods in passing as we move through the halls en route to class.

And what about your student-teacher relationships? Are they limited to little more than nods in passing, or do you, from time to time, stop and say something along the lines of, "Hello, I'm George Johnson, of Bailey Island, Maine"?

Hello, my name is Jim Moulton, and I'd like to hear your story.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
Related Tags:

Comments (64)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Richard Rarick's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

First of all this is my first time blogging, well my second, I tried to post a reply to this article about 10 minutes ago with no luck. I am more of a face to face person when it comes to communication. I am also a very out oing person in and outside of school. When I see someone walking down the road if I am in my car or working on my lawn or garden I wave. I strike up conversations with people that I have never met before in while waiting to get into a football game, movie, etc. When it comes to my colleagues I have the same approach. If someone is closed off I tend to break down their walls with a nod and a smile. I think that an open communication is paramount to a good working environment. So next time somone greets you with a smile and a nod, greet them with a "hello and how are you this morning?" You might just make a new friend at work and brighten someones day in the process.

Richard Rarick's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

First of all this is my first time blogging, well my second, I tried to post a reply to this article about 10 minutes ago with no luck. I am more of a face to face person when it comes to communication. I am also a very out oing person in and outside of school. When I see someone walking down the road if I am in my car or working on my lawn or garden I wave. I strike up conversations with people that I have never met before in while waiting to get into a football game, movie, etc. When it comes to my colleagues I have the same approach. If someone is closed off I tend to break down their walls with a nod and a smile. I think that an open communication is paramount to a good working environment. So next time somone greets you with a smile and a nod, greet them with a "hello and how are you this morning?" You might just make a new friend at work and brighten someones day in the process.

Michelle O'Hara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Richard,
This is also my first time blogging as well. I tried Sat. but no one has responded. So I'm hoping that this time it works. I completely agree that communication is key in any working environment not just in education. Without communication could you imagine the kind of world we would have in our school? Right now as a new teacher in the building, (even though I've been in the district for five years)I sometimes feel like that novice teacher again. However, communication is so important for me because it is helping me understand the traditions and rules that are set in the new building. I also think communication is where we can learn so much from one another as well. We share and bounce ideas with each other and keep teaching interesting.

Kristin C.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the simple reminder that we need to be making sure we don't get lost in ourselves and instead that we take a moment to get to know the people around us. After all we have no clue the effect we could be making on society with just a simple hello!

Katie Shaffer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello Yuliet,

As a newer teacher, I am still trying to formulate relationships with teachers at my school. I would love to have the "home" feeling at school since I send so much time there each day. It would be a wonderful feeling to have many other teachers who I could go to if I need someone to listen to anything I may need to discuss. I am one of those people who is afraid of the feeling of being disapproved or rejected by other people. I am often worried about what other people will think if I bring up certain topics so I often keep them to myself which makes me feel alone when dealing with those issues. If I would be able to openly communicate with other teachers at my school, I feel I would feel more positive about teaching as I would be able to hear others who have been dealing with the same issues.

Michelle O'Hara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jessie,
I completely agree with you about staying on top of everything and positive is a hard thing to do when teachers have so much to teach and yet only such a little time to teach it. We often get caught up in the moment due to these time limits and forget that these students might just be looking for someone to notice them to give some sort of hello. Something actually happened today with an old student who didn't think I remembered her. She emailed me to let me know that she has moved to another state and school was getting harder and she shared how she missed me and remembered how I used to stand at the door to give hugs and say good-bye to everyone at the end of the day. Those moments only take a few minutes and may make another persons day if you only stop to say hello or good-bye and have a good day.

Connie McMahon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jim-
My name is Connie McMahon and I am a young teacher. I have only been teaching for a few years. I really like your point about how teaching can be long and rugged and how many teachers will walk through the halls not saying much more than a hello or just a wave. I have already seen much of this behavior, and I try to make it a point to say hello and ask how their day is going even if we are just passing by. I think it is very important to have communication with in the school just on a friendly basis because otherwise when you walk through the halls the atmosphere feels cold instead of inviting. I also feel that if people view their job as a teacher as long and rugged then they need something to cheer them up or change their mind. Unfortunatley we are not going to be able to know about everyones lives but it is important to know about some significant things in their life.

Thanks for the good article.
Connie McMahon

Andy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you Jim for reminding us of how important it is to connect with colleagues. Teachers tend to stroll in every morning and lock themselves in their classroom. School needs to be a place where students and teachers look forward to coming. By simply talking to people about everyday experiences can open up doors to discussion. One can learn a lot by opening up and discussing not only school issues but also life long issues that people can relate to or even learn from.

Mary's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello! My name is Mary and I'm also getting my Masters online through Walden University. We have been talking a lot recently about what traits and skills must be present to be an expert teacher. I graduated from Mercyhurst College for my under-graduate work less than a year ago. I have a dual degree in Elementary and Special Education and am working towards my Masters in Elementary Reading and Literacy. The course I am taking currently has been a bit of a challenge because I have not yet had my own classroom. I am feeling so much the opposite of an expert teacher. It has been extremely beneficial however to be able to read my peer's advice, opinions, and thoughts on our classroom discussion board. Everyone has been very insightful and offered a ton of helpful and encouraging words. In my opinion an expert teacher does not necessarily have all of the answers, but strives to do his or her best each day to provide a safe environment in which students of all different learning styles can most effectively meet their academic, social, and behavioral goals.

Kosmer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jim,
It sounds like George has lived many rough days and years fishing, but it has not stopped him from smiling and loving life. Teaching can be very strenuous at times and there are days where you just want to get out of the school. It is so important to stop and talk to someone instead of nodding and just smiling. George was an example of human compassion and as teachers we need to learn from this story. A child might have had a rough day just like us. Stopping for a minute on your way out or checking in with certain students only takes a few minutes. Instead of nodding and smiling a few minutes of a talk can help a child and yourself have a better day. Every week my students and I get in a circle and talk about what is going on in our lives and at the end of the week we close with something about the week and wish everyone a good weekend. This year is the first year that I feel that I know every student, their family, and what is going on in their lives. I can nod and smile to one of my students, but now that I know them I want to stop and talk to them about what is going on and how everything and everyone are in their life.

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.