(originally posted 3/27/10)
Yesterday was such a great day! It was a conference day…and as most language teachers know, it’s a rare conference day that has anything good to offer. We have gotten used to digging deep to find a way to connect what is presented on conference days to our classroom reality. But yesterday? Whoo hooo!!
The presenter’s name is Randy Judkins and he hails from Maine (apparently lots of good folks up there!). Randy is a retired math teacher but un-retired educator, juggler, jester and lover of laughter and levity. We started the day off with a wonderful presentation and worked with him in smaller groups throughout the day. Had Randy been inspired by a language teacher early on, he would surely have become a TPRSer. Because the reality of it is, that what Randy is, is a really great teacher.
Here is what I observed Randy do yesterday. With a group of about 150 reluctant (we don’t do much in the way of conferences in our district) educators. He surely recognized the reluctance, but chose to embrace it and work with it, the way any good teacher would. By the end of the day he had won over even the most critical and curmudgeon-like folks in the group. How?
- He requested, and worked the group up to, as close to 100% participation as possible. How? He made it painless, easy, and fun. He asked questions, asked for group/choral responses, and then responded. If the response wasn’t as strong as he would have hoped, he forgave us and tried again, by changing the question, or how he wanted us to respond, just a bit….until he had nearly everyone playing along. Even better, those who weren’t participating found their colleagues cajoling them into joing in.
- He was himself. He showed us first that he was not afraid to be open, honest, funny, risk-taking or silly. And very smart. He shared a bit of his own (his)story. Not details that made us uncomfortable or that were overly personal. …but the details that showed us what we had in common. (hold on to that thought…)
- He chose individuals to participate and treated them with kindness, respect, gentle humor and dignity…even when he was being silly.
- He used humor that was pure. No sexual innuendos, no overt violence, no put-downs. Humor that was based on the true, the unexpected, the silly, the fun elements we all experience every day.
- He spoke clearly and slowly so we could catch all of the humor, interest and passion in his message.
- He accepted applause graciously…as if it were a great gift.
- In workshop mode, he frequently stopped to observe and reflect on his observations….because observers see much differently than participants.
- He PERSONALIZED. He asked people what they taught, what they coached, and took note of clues that they offered (consciously or not) about themselves. Then he responded to that information.
- He laughed. At himself. There was no greater gift yesterday than the message that it never helps to take ourselves too seriously….and how taking ourselves too seriously is one of the behaviors that separates us from our students.
- He did not try to change us. He did not tell us what we SHOULD be doing. Instead, he offered us the opportunity to be students for a few moments. He showed us what laughter and love in the classroom COULD do….for everyone.
I wanted to pack him in my suitcase to take to NTPRS 10 in Chicago. I found myself wishing that I could really attend a Maine Meeting Of The Minds this summer and bring him along. I wanted to offer him a ticket to the SoCal get-together to meet Stephen Krashen and share his gift of humor and humility with all who are attending.
Since I can’t do that…I am inviting you to visit Randy’s website at www.randyjudkins.com . If you ever get the chance to see him…please GO!! You will enjoy every minute of it….as a participant, as a teacher, as a TPRSer.
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