Throughout the last 15 years of my education, I have had numerous teachers, instructors, and mentors. I find that while many of the names have escaped my short term memory, there are certain educators that I have had that automatically appear in my mind. These few teachers that I think of are the ones that have had the greatest impact on my life as a learner thus far. They inspired me to be a better learner/person. As teachers, it is our job to inspire, understand, and encourage our students. Rita Pierson calls these types of teachers “champions.” In her Ted Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” Rita talks about her legacy as a teacher, and how strives to be a champion for all of her students.
Photo CC: Michael Coghlan
I’ll admit that I watched quite a few Ted Talks before finding the one that I felt was right for me to write about. Rita’s automatically spoke to me when I watched it. Like me, Rita is from a long line of educators and knew from an early age that she would follow in her family member’s footsteps in becoming a teacher. After all of her years dealing with education, she is convinced that the most important thing a teacher can do is build relationships with their students. For children with rough home lives, we as teachers, may be the only person who will smile or encourage these children. This is a sad, but true fact.
Photo CC: 401(K) 2012
At one point, Rita told a story about a coworker she had that said “They don’t pay me to like kids.” Rita was clearly taken aback by this statement. While we are paid to educate students, it is also our job to be there for our students and to let them know that we believe in them and what they will someday become. We aren’t in it for the pay; we are in it for the love. It is not enough to simply stand at the front of the class and regurgitate information all day. We have to motivate the students and teach them HOW to learn, not just what to learn.
Rita’s mother, who was also an educator, always kept food, toothbrushes, and washcloths in her desk for students who didn’t receive these items at home. If a student’s basic needs aren’t covered, they won’t be able to focus on their schoolwork and learn. Each day, Rita would have her students repeat a mantra: “I am a somebody.” She wanted each of her students to feel like they were worthwhile regardless of their home-life or abilities.
Photo CC: Dean Shareski
My favorite part of the Ted talk was the story Rita told about a student who missed 18 out of 20 questions on an assignment. Instead of writing -18 on the student’s paper, Rita wrote +2 on the top. When the student commented the next day that he had missed 18, Rita simply said, “But you didn’t miss them all.” She went on to tell the student that they would review later and that he would do even better the next time it was taken. I loved this Ted Talk because I guarantee Rita is one of those teachers that sticks out in her students’ minds years later when they think back on their past educators. Rita is a champion teacher. Rita I the teacher that I someday want to be.