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Voices: Motivated

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THIS YEAR'S FIRST-DAY-OF-SCHOOL MOTIvational speeches weren't a total loss. Lisa and Perry caught up on their reading. Larry talked about his sabbatical. Doug told me about his trip to Europe. And a speaker let us know that no right-minded educator "tells'' or "informs'' anyone about anything-- he or she "shares.''

Next, we took a minute to remember some really good friends and colleagues who were no longer with us--especially Ray, who had recently died of cancer. Before he came to our district, Ray had been a police officer, a teacher all over the world, and an administrator. Asked why he left administration, he said that once you become an "almighty'' administrator, it's too easy to forget what teaching is really like. I'll say this for Ray--he knew the only correct way to handle motivational speeches: sleep, open your eyes, pat the pens and pencils in your pocket, change position, go back to sleep.

Ten years ago, before I knew Ray's method, I actually listened attentively and once was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, the equipment was plugged in and actually worked. For another, the speaker weighed less than 200 pounds and was articulate, energetic, proud, professional, clever, and funny. The third surprise was more like a miracle-- the speaker was a teacher: a teacher speaking to teachers about teaching!

And the guy was really good.

We all looked stunned, amazed to find ourselves absolutely engrossed. I took copious notes. When he was done, damn it, I was ready for that first day and that first kid of the school year.

One idea in particular stuck with me. The speaker reminded us that every doctor and every lawyer has his or her certificates, degrees, and awards framed and hanging on the wall. But teachers? Nooooooo.

That night, I dug through boxes and boxes until I found my B.S. and M.S. degrees. I ripped those college diplomas from their folders and inserted them in brand-new frames. I was ready.

The next day, as the students entered the room, I "shared'' an enthusiastic greeting with them and began assigning seats. In about one second, a boy who was hopping into the room bumped into the wall on which I'd proudly hung my diplomas. He turned, backed sideways along the wall, and knocked one diploma off. He tried to catch it, missed, but bumped into the second degree. It also fell, shattering its frame on the floor right next to the first. ---Diane Volk
The writer teaches at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

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