Sunday, October 20, 2013

Be the DifferenceWV

It all started with a phone call.

The first week of school, there was a message in my mailbox to call Myra Robertson. I couldn't recall who this was, but during my lunch I returned her call.

"Hey, Erin! I sat beside you during the New Teacher Breakfast last week! We were wondering if the Berkeley County Teacher of the Year would like to ride in the Apple Harvest Parade."

Naturally, I responded like any mature adult who happends to work with ten and eleven-year-olds all day would:

"OOOOOOH! I'd love to - that would be so cool! Thank yoooooou!"

Yes, I really did say that - but that first week of school, when you're learning the names and personalities of 24 new people, bogged down with work, and pulled in more directions than you know exist, a little pick-me-up along the lines of "someone wants you to be in a parade" will make you about half giddy.
With Melanie Cox, Hedgesville Elementary

As I glided back to my classroom, though, I  felt a little pang of guilt. This was the first of many "so cool" things, little pick-me-ups that I would get to experience this school year. People are eager to do nice things and "showcase" me to Berkeley County and the rest of the state. It feels good to get positive attention, when often in education that isn't the case.

What about the rest of my colleagues? Not just in my beautiful school, but in my school district. There are many talented, dedicated educators who teach their entire careers without one nod of recognition...and they don't mind. Even if they do, they will keep doing their best to improve the lives of our students, because they know that's what matters most.

They won't speak on a stage and get a standing ovation. Their names won't appear in the newspaper for days in a row. They won't return a phone call asking them to be in a parade. They should, though - each one of them.

I started to think, in between sorting emergency cards and carefully writing my new students' names on everything, what I could do to make my colleagues feel special. In a way, I felt helpless and undeserving. There's no way I can do anything that would really matter. Nobody's really bothered anyway - they're too busy doing their jobs while I soak up an escalating amount of attention.
With MaggieBeth Ponton, Hedgesville Middle

Frustrated, I hopped on my laptop when I got home and swung on to YouTube. Maybe a silly video or two would change my mood.


So, in between watching Ninja Cat and Sarah Bareilles' music video for "Brave" three or four times, I got it. People get on YouTube to watch all kinds of things (let's just leave it at that). You can watch it on the computer, your phone - who needs television? Why not a web show, just about how special teachers are - and why they are the true "super stars" in a generation consumed with celebrities and reality show contestants?

And so, Be the DifferenceWV was born. Each week, I go to a school in Berkeley County and interview two teachers about why they went into teaching, what they love about working with students, and what they wish the public understood about education. The latter is important, because negative public perception brings down teacher morale. When you don't feel good about who you are and what you do, it can affect your performance in the classroom - which in turn just hurts students. Teachers are good people - incredible people. They deserve to be celebrated for their selflessness and perseverence in spite of the stressors that come from a life in the classroom.

I don't have a lot of experience with speaking on camera or playing Barbara Walters - but I like it. I'm a one woman, one camera crew that sets up my camcorder on a tripod, hits "record," and scurries around to the other side. It's fun, but more importantly, I'm giving other teachers a chance to take center stage and feel important. I feature a range of teachers, from elementary to high school, from brand new to the profession to seasoned veterans. My goal is to make it to every school in Berkeley County by the end of the year. Now that I represent all of the teachers in West Virginia, I'm hoping to feature other parts of the state as well.

Teachers are the difference. In the midst of all the hoopla this year, my mission is to also elevate the teaching profession. I hope you'll tune in this year so you can learn about the teachers in the Mountain State. You can reach my channel at this link.

Consider it my own, virtual, teacher parade.

- Erin

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