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The Educator Motivator

Teach in the Now


In the highly successful movie "The Great Debaters," starring Denzel Washington, a student was defending her argument for the desegregation of schools. She made one comment that made such an impact on me, I now challenge my 12-year-old with it every time I drop him off to school in the morning.

The confident and determined young woman stated, "Now is always the right time to do the right thing." Very powerful words, indeed.

I've been in education for more than 15 years now; I've also had the privilege to work in corporate America, as well as for the federal government. I don't think I've ever experienced a system, however, that is more adept at putting off doing the right thing than the public school system.

Please don't shoot me down for that comment, but I'm truly speaking from experience. If you disagree, answer these questions for me: How long has teacher pay been a problem? How long did it take for us to realize that a standardized test score isn't the best way to measure teacher effectiveness? How long have we realized that higher-ed institutions are not adequately preparing new teachers for the classroom? I think you get my point.

Without coming across as too cynical about the school system, I'm proposing an idea to help you put your actions into words. No longer will you allow yourself to hold your breath waiting for your school to implement a solution you know should've been implemented 10 years ago. I call this strategy "acting in the now."

I want you to make a commitment to adopt a now mentality by asking yourself every day (for the next 7 days), "What small action can I take within the next 24 hours to move me one step closer to positive change?"

Yeah, I know that sounds rather simple and elementary, but sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest impact in our lives. I want to challenge you to make a list of everything and anything you could do to take your teaching to another level. It could be learning a new skill, strengthening a weakness, sharpening a strength, or changing an attitude about something. A great place to start is where you find the most frustration on your job (whether it be in the classroom, with a colleague, or dealing with administration).

Then, when you complete your list, I want you to pick just ONE thing from the list and commit yourself to take action on it within the next 24 hours. The action doesn't have to be monumental, just momentum building. It doesn't matter how small the action is (even if it's just a phone call or sending an email), the key is to take action on it right now.

I truly believe if you commit yourself to take even a small step toward a pre-determined end, it's literally impossible for you to end up exactly where you started. So let's make a pledge to adopt a "now" mentality, and leave the delay tactics to the bureaucrats.


About the Author

Professor Joe Martin is an award-winning educator, trainer, and author of several books, including Good Teachers Never Quit, When Students Just Won’t Listen, and Tricks of the Grade. Regarded as “America’s Top Educator Motivator," he speaks, trains, and consults with more than 50 school districts a year in the area of teacher retention and student motivation/behavior issues. Joe supports teachers through his family of Web sites at NewTeacherUniversity, RealWorld University, and Teacher Pay Raise. Click here to read his complete bio.

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