Monday, September 17, 2012

"Insanity" in the Classroom

I am inspired by the people around me. Not always. Only when I listen. And not listen like waiting for them to stop talking so I can say something about what they just said but better or more or different....but listen like hearing what they are committed to, what drives them, listening for what they love, even if they are complaining.
Last night at our leadership meeting this one teacher was not complaining however. He could be, he teaches Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors in high school and it sounds like a rowdy bunch in Corona. He could be complaining about the insanity it is for one teacher to be teaching 160 something teens. He chooses a different point of view. One that empowers him and his students. He commutes from Irvine but he sees it as a beautiful drive. His students inspire him every day. He invited them to "Play BIG Games" this year and in their life and the walls of their class, rather than covered with rules and things the teacher wants to students to get, the walls are covered with posters of the students goals about graduating, their career choice, grades or family. THEIR Big Games are what they see every day and what they hold themselves accountable for.
This amazing teacher, let's give him his due credit shall we? Jonathan Smith, shared that he created BIG Games with his students and they are all inspired, he's inspired. And then he went home and his girlfriend said "I got the work out DVD "Insanity"" He said "Good for you."
He was NOT doing it. No way No How. He knows how insane it is. The the next day he shared about his day as he normally does, and his girlfriend's game, and the kids all chanted BIG GAME! BIG GAME! Suddenly he was being supported by his students, to take on "Insanity " workouts and he took it on. Everyday for 60 days these kids are supporting their teacher in playing a BIG Game. And they agreed that if he misses a day they won't make him wrong, like boo hiss, but they will encourage him and have him restore his integrity and repromise. They are learning through experience the difference between morality (the boo hiss mentality) and integrity (honoring your word). His students are up to BIG Games too, all things that really mean something to them. One girl is going to tell her father that she loves him every day. When Mr.Smith asked if ths really was a BIG game for her, and she said "Oh I NEVER told my father I love him, so yeah, this is HUGE."
Can you imagine being the father of a teenage daughter who has never heard "I love you" from her to suddenly hearing it everyday? How is that family going to transform?

This teacher gets that his workout is not just about his body however, it will improve of course, but his promise, his word means something to his students. He has it that he needs to get up every day at 4:30 am and do this workout because if he doesn't, as their role model, he is giving that girl who promised to say "I love you" to her dad every day, an OUT. So his workout is not about him, it's about the difference honoring his word makes in the world.

Now you may ask yourselves what does this all have to do with a math class?

Kids who play BIG Games in class and in life are excited to go to class, no matter what class it is. They get that THEY matter, their lives matter and they feel gotten. They aren't just a body in a chair, a statistic for the teacher to manage otherwise he won't get a raise or tenure. They aren't concerned with being "left behind" they are creating a new future. They aren't just an annoyance, they are actually a contribution to their whole class, even their teacher. They make a difference in their teacher's life. And, these kids get that when they are around Mr. Smith, they are listened to as GREAT. They are held to their own word, what they created, and they are responsible for causing their life to go the way they say so.

That's not just an education in math, that's an education on being an extraordinary human being who contributes to the world.
Here's to you Jonathan Smith, one of the greatest teachers I have ever heard of, and to all your students who are driving you to "Insanity" in a whole new context.

Thank you Jonathan Smith, for being extraordinary. You are creating a future I am excited for my boys to live into. Now we just need to share how teachers can get access to the tools you are using in the classroom to create this all over the country.
I am your partner.

Zen Honeycutt

The tools Jonathon uses in his class are from His passion is entirely his own.

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