Teachers…We’re All Replaceable

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We had our closing staff meeting last week. It’s always been a welcomed development. This year, however, I experienced some interesting emotions. This was year 30 for me. In October of 2016, I’ll have 31 years in STRS and can officially retire. I don’t think I will, I’m having too much fun! But nonetheless, it’s remarkable how life zooms by.

Completing 30 BIG ONES was reason enough to be reflective, but what really got me thinking was our school’s farewell to an amazing teacher. Mike Smith is in his early 60s. He retired, and we honored him at the closing meeting. This guy is a wonderful teacher. My kids had him and loved him. He taught Physics, which many students consider impossible. And yet, he empowered them, and gave them confidence. GREAT WORK MIKE!

Our principal did a good job honoring Mike. He spoke for about 5 minutes. His speech was sincere and congratulatory. Interestingly enough, after our principal spoke, I overheard a side conversation amongst a couple of colleagues. They were talking about a young teacher they knew who was applying for Mike’s position. They were raving about this young instructor’s potential.

How interesting, I thought. This great teacher was headed out, and this new young teacher was headed in. If this new young teacher is as good as advertised, Mike won’t be missed. If this new teacher doesn’t fill his shoes, Mike will be missed…BUT NOT FOR LONG! At most, retiring high school teachers have a 3 year shelf-life. By then, all the kids who were Freshman when they taught their final lesson, will have graduated.

Some might read this post and get depressed…DON’T! There’s something magically liberating about this perspective. You’re not just some independent contractor, you’re part of this grand, wonderful, complex organism. So, chill out and take a deep breath! Life is always better when you let go of your ego.

I left the closing faculty meeting feeling euphoric. IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY! In a couple of years, it’ll be me up there getting The Golden Watch. My principal will go on about how the school will never be the same without me. That will be a lie! The school will be just fine without me. AND, THAT’S OKAY!

My book “You’ve Gotta Connect” is all about how teachers can forge strong relationships with students. You can also listen to me dialogue about bonding with students on numerous podcasts.

Connect With Students by EMBRACING America’s Changing Demographics

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Although some Christians are harshly critical of the loaded term “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS,” it often works in favor of majority groups. Could you imagine an American politician being elected president if they promoted a different faith…or a lack of religious affiliation?

I teach in a small, conservative, largely homogeneous community. A decade ago, students would have been loathed to express views critical of Christianity. They’d of been even more reluctant to claim a different faith, and even less willing to proclaim no faith at all!

In my classroom, that’s changing. I’ve noticed a new willingness among young people to express minority viewpoints. I’ve noticed a recent boldness among students, both Christian and non-Christian, to be critical of America’s dominant religious tradition.

I don’t teach in a bubble. The Pew Research Center just published a fascinating report on America’s rapidly changing religious landscape. The implications for classrooms of the near future are profound.

I’ve seen these changes at work, and they frighten many. Whether America’s changing religious landscape will have a positive or negative impact on our society is a matter of intense debate. But successful educators of the future will recognize that these changes ARE occurring! You may wish for the students you had 10 years ago, but they aren’t coming back. Accept that these changes are happening. Embrace present and future students. Connect with them…bond with them! It’s not only humane, but it’s rational.

If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”

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You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Inspiration 4 Teachers with Kelly Long #16 http:

Inspiration 4 Teachers with Kelly Long #16 http://bit.ly/1dGyaE7

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik #66 http://bit.ly/1DwrNMu

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee #34 http://bit.ly/1yaBkpe

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez #09 http://bit.ly/1sFSbBl

AJEd Episode with Adam Jones #07 http://bit.ly/1vNXBpZ

The Middle Way Society UK with Barry Daniel #54 http://bit.ly/1AQbmW

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder http://bit.ly/1yXcN89

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher http://bit.ly/1wO2GDX

Middle School Matters #297 http://bit.ly/1uO0dUh

Please visit my website http://jamesalansturtevant.com/ and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant

When it comes to controversial issues…PLAY EM’ CLOSE TO THE VEST!

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I was 24…a rookie teacher…full of testosterone and certainty, perhaps false certainty. But nonetheless, I had it all figured out. I was attempting to enlighten my class on some controversial topic ( I forget the topic…it was, after all, 30 years ago). Looking back, my exercise in enlightening my students seems more like indoctrination.

In retrospect, I believed I was engaging in a teachable moment. My beliefs were well founded. It was a teachable moment. What I didn’t realize, was that I wasn’t the teacher, but the student!

After class, a brilliant young lady informed me, “Mr. Sturtevant…you should be careful about promoting your views so passionately in class. I don’t agree with your views, and I’m not alone!”

This unsolicited student feedback pummeled me! It was, quite frankly, the most powerful teacher evaluation I ever experienced, far more powerful than any administrator’s directives. OF COURSE SHE WAS RIGHT! I was erecting barriers between my students and me. Certainly some of my students didn’t agree with me! Why in the world would I want to alienate those kids? My goal should’ve been to help students think, not to indoctrinate!

From that point forward, I played them close to the vest. My students don’t know where I come down politically, religiously, or socially. That’s the way I can form relationships with ALL my students, whether they agree with me or not!

If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”

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You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Inspiration 4 Teachers with Kelly Long #16 http://bit.ly/1dGyaE7

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik #66 http://bit.ly/1DwrNMu

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee #34 http://bit.ly/1yaBkpe

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez #09 http://bit.ly/1sFSbBl

AJEd Episode with Adam Jones #07 http://bit.ly/1vNXBpZ

The Middle Way Society UK with Barry Daniel #54 http://bit.ly/1AQbmW6

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder http://bit.ly/1yXcN89

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher http://bit.ly/1wO2GDX

Middle School Matters #297 http://bit.ly/1uO0dUh

Please visit my website http://jamesalansturtevant.com/ and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant

UK and USA Talk About Bonding With Kids!

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The lovely Kelly Long has a wonderful podcast aptly named…Inspiration 4 Teachers. I adore being on British programs. Many are unaware that STURTEVANT is a British name. Say what? Yup…may not sound British, but it is! I told Kelly this which intrigued her! She did some research and confirmed my assertion and informed me that our ancestors probably crossed paths.

I’m certain she’s right, because she made me feel right at home. Please listen to our spirited dialogue about bonding with young people.

And also…please check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”

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