Sunday, October 02, 2011

one student, one classroom, one day at a time

This question has been on my mind for a few days. "Share  one or two stories about stuff  YOU’VE done to “disturb the force.”

I could use this as an icebreaker discussion prompt.  I'd change it to "Share  one or two stories about stuff YOU’VE done to change the world."

Snap shots:

A young woman calling my name in the Las Vegas airport years ago.  She ran up to me, "Mr. O'Connor do you remember me?"  I did, her name was Crystal.  If you look at a person's eyes the name sometimes pops up. "I'm the only one in my freshman class at UNLV who knows how to write!  Thank you for teaching me."

A knock on my classroom door after school.  I open the door and see a huge man standing there.  I had to look up to see his face (and I'm 6'4").  In a deep voice, "Hello Mr. O'Connor remember me?"  I looked at his eyes and remembered the little 5th grader.

"Merlin, is that you in there?  I treated you good in the 5th grade right?"  He smiled and we talked.  He was just back from Pakistan where he was on embassy guard duty with the Marines.

Over the years this has happened often enough, both face to face an online, to remind me that the 25 years I spent teaching kids was time well spent.  Public school in Northern Nevada  left me burned out and broke, but I wouldn't change it.  It was the good work.

Face to face early 80's: Teaching a young kindergarten teacher how to start and use an Apple //.  Watching her learn more in a two day workshop than anyone I've ever meant since.  Two years later she hired me as the Training Director for a computer company where she was the Sales Manager.  She went on to be a silicon valley multi-millionaire.  I turned down her offer of a fast track job in San Jose and returned to classroom teaching a few months later. No regrets.

Snap shots of the dark side:

Sitting in a little room with the personnel superintendent being grilled and threatened with termination. (This particular guy was a chickenshit Darth Vadar type.  A typical bully, we locked horns many times.  This was the same guy who later asked me to become a principal.)

Having a school board member yell at me in an open meeting "If you don't like it around here why don't you just leave?"  (My nickname at the time was "The Tom Hayden of Douglas County". 8-)

(This one's a personal favorite.) A parent sitting opposite from me in the principal's office saying, "How dare you teach my child to question authority!"

Carrying a picket sign at a school board meeting and being reminded by a fellow picket. " I don't know how this is going to go for us.  There's plenty of holes in the desert. " I taught in rural Nevada for most of my career.  Within three years everyone who'd carried a picket sign, myself included, was gone from the district.

Online early 80's:  Getting a poem from a kid in Idaho that I published on my BBS kids writing site.

Online early 80's: Saving my school district 30k on a computer purchase because I could use e-mail.

Online turn of the century:  teaching someone deep in Alaska how to create a capital letter using a keyboard.

I could go on, and probably will, since this is a sweet writing prompt.  But I notice the pattern here. ;I'm talking about one to one interactions that have had a ripple effect in my life and the lives of others.   This ripple effect is something I believe in.  For most of my life my primary scope has been one student, one classroom, one day at a time.

Mantra,  show up and give the best you've got on any given day.  Accept that some days will be much better than others.

Over the last ten years I've taught at least a 1000 teachers from around the world in my online classes.  I know that for most, I opened doors for them. I know that I've influence hundreds of thousands of kids by helping their teachers.


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