I just listened to an outstanding TED talk by Rita Pierson.
Rita F. Pierson spent her entire life in or around the classroom, having followed both her parents and grandparents into a career as an educator. Quoting from her bio online I’ve learned that:
Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She was a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it was modest.
For the past decade, Pierson conducted professional development workshops and seminars for thousands of educators. Focusing on the students who are too often under-served, she lectured on topics like “Helping Under-Resourced Learners,” “Meeting the Educational Needs of African American Boys” and “Engage and Graduate your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts.”
She has qualities that every teacher should have. How do I know? Those qualities shine through every single word she speaks in this presentation. She is direct, clear, emphatic, sincere and determined in every word she shares with us. Here is a woman who believes in the importance of education, but most importantly believes in the important role that teachers have in the lives of those students they teach.
In this short presentation, Rita Pierson speaks about the value and importance of human connection – relationships – and the impact this can have on the achievement and success of students. Her talk is replete with quotable moments.
A colleague said to me one time: They don’t pay me to like the kids. They pay me to to teach a lesson. The kids should learn it. I should teach it. They should learn it. Case closed.
Well … I said to her… you know ….. kids’ don’t learn from people they don’t like!”
Rita Pierson tells it as it is. She acknowledges that while we won’t like all the students we teach, those students will never know it. Teachers are great actors and actresses she tells us. Our job is to teach and make a difference in the lives of our students. Our job is to inspire students to realise academic achievement and to bolster their self-esteem, even when their skills are low. How we achieve this she says is by building relationships with our students. Connect with them. Be real and know that you are making a difference in the life of each student.
Despite the difficulties, despite the policies, despite it all Pierson says:
We teach anyway because that’s what we do. Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think ….. Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be ….
We can do this. We are educators. We are born to make a difference.”
Rita Pierson passed away in June 2013. Our great loss.