As we are squarely in the fall school semester, educators are already making a world of difference grading papers, encouraging the introverts to participate, recruiting the rebel rousers to listen better, collaborating with faculty on best practices, upholding common core standards, and giving parental feedback face-to-face and in school portals. Educators hold the future in their hands. Their profession makes all other professions possible without which, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, people would be "leading lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."
While educators spend their days doing the important work of finding our songs, their jobs have intensified and resources decreased. We in the GlobalMindED community are taking the time this fall to acknowledge the educators -- teachers, counselors, coaches, librarians, tutors, and administrators -- who have made the greatest impact on our lives through the #MyAPlusEducator Campaign. Help us celebrate the educators making a world of difference by posting a video in appreciation of your most influential teacher, then nominate three people to tell their story or make a donation of any amount to support educators in need so that they can participate. Your stories are also welcome in the comment section below.
In my video, I give thanks to my high school English teacher John Gies. He was a former CIA agent and tough disciplinarian with German roots and basic values. When I arrived in his class, I had little to no preparation and barely any skills a student should have or want as senior in high school. I grew up reading very little, lacked in vocabulary and thinking skills, and had low ambition. My older brother who had also taken Mr. Gies' class challenged me to start reading and apply myself in a big way in order to pass and more importantly, redefine my life and my role in it.
Mr. Gies' authority and professionalism intimidated me in a way that I couldn't ignore. His high standards were a calling to me and I decided to answer since I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. He took my classmates and me through the books that shaped the world. Granted, the majority were written by white men, these writings did change the world and paved the way for women like me to step up to the plate: Machiavelli, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin to name a few. He made me write and write and write until I could make sense out of the ideas we explored. The more I wrote, the more my thinking processes developed. I didn't know it at the time, but he was teaching me how to be academically rigorous and it was a much needed crash course in the habits I would need most to succeed in college. Because of this teacher, I approached college thoughtfully and seriously, knowing that if I approached college like I did high school, I'd be living in, at best, a minimum-wage world for the rest of my life.
The other educator who made a big impact was my high school guidance counselor Chuck Holman. He said to me, "Carter, what do you want to do with your life?" I'd like to be a nurse, I told him naively. My grandmother had been a nurse and it was one of three professions I could think of when people asked the question. "If you are really serious about nursing," he pressed, "you'll have to find out if you can deal with death and dying." And then he asked me my first powerful coaching question: Would you be willing to work at the Hospice this summer? I had never experienced a family member's death much less anyone with cancer. I was seventeen. Chuck Holman knew that I needed to explore this and he was not going to let me take the path of least resistance. "You can do this, Carter." He had my commitment. And I had agreed to the biggest emotional risk of my life.
After six weeks in a class on Death and Dying I was ready to work as a volunteer with cancer patients and their families in their last two months of life. I fell in love with each patient I met -- Vivian, the hair stylist; Mack, the beer-drinking, football-watching big bear; Constance, whose love and passion was classical music; and many more precious people who were still defining themselves by their life's purpose in their remaining days. I learned about death, myself, my family, and I learned to fall in love with perfect strangers. My heart was "broken open" to the special ways in which all of us express ourselves in the world. While I realized senior year that I had more natural ability as a writer than as a math and science student, the lessons I learned from the hospice informed my life's work. Today I work with people of all ages and stages to discover their purpose, passion, and worth in the world. I hope that I am at least partially as effective with them as Chuck Holman was with me. He changed my life. You wouldn't have wanted me on your medical staff, but I can nurse your heart and your soul and show you the unique gifts you have.
Which educator made a world of difference to you? How did that change your life? Join us in celebrating educators who make an impact by participating in the #MyAPlusEducator campaign on Facebook or in the comments below. If you are an educator, join us next June at the GlobalMindED conference. You can also apply to be a GlobalMindED Scholar or nominate someone from economic need who would like to participate. As a team, we can lift up educators who make a world a difference.