In the past couple of months, I’ve been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show … twice.
It all started when I recorded a video of myself giving my fourth grade students a fake spelling test. The video went viral, and before I knew it, I was on my way to Los Angeles to appear on Ellen. While there, she surprised me with $10,000! Not long after, I was invited back and Ellen gave me all the gifts from her “12 Days” holiday giveaways.
While I loved going viral and meeting Ellen, there are so many other things I’ve gained. These are the life-changing lessons I learned from my experience, which I intend to use my classroom this year and for many more to come.
1. Be kind to everyone you meet.
“Be kind to one another” is not only how Ellen closes every episode, it’s also a mantra embodied by every employee of the program. From the moment we entered through the backstage doors all the way to our final goodbyes with the producers, we were treated with nothing but the utmost respect and kindness. It was amazing to see that the show truly practices what it preaches to viewers.
We should incorporate that level of kindness to strangers into our schools and daily lives. We don’t know what has happened in a person’s life seconds before we meet them. And we don’t know what goes on in our students’ lives before they walk into our classrooms each day.
When we greet our kids in the morning, it’s our time to establish a place of safety, comfort, respect, and compassion. Regardless of what we’ve gone through before our learners arrive at school, we must remind ourselves that we owe every student a smile and a kind word. When we do this, the positivity train keeps truckin’ all the way through the remainder of the day.
2. Be yourself!
As with all teachers, I’ve had pitfalls in my career. In the beginning, I found myself shunned for my extroverted teaching style and desire to make learning entertaining for kids. From time to time, I’ve also realized there are people out there who look down on ambition rather than appreciate it. Regardless of what people have to say, I’ve always stayed true to myself, my teaching style, and my intentions for my students. I’ve never tried to be anyone other than “Mr. D.”
That commitment to being myself is how I found myself sitting next to Ellen DeGeneres, chatting about education. I must say, it feels pretty great to be accepted by her and by so many educators worldwide. This feeling is one that I want each of my students, and other teachers, to experience.
The day after the show aired, I sat my students down and told them, “Whatever you do in life, do it well. You’ll be surprised where your passion and determination can take you.” Share this message with your classes. Every student deserves an opportunity to be inspired.
3. Support one another.
After my first appearance on Ellen, I was flooded on social media with messages of support from fellow teachers. Hearing about the journeys of teachers from all over the world has amazed me—I almost consider it a form of PD.
It’s also put the art of teaching into perspective. I couldn’t help but notice just how small the bubbles that we live in can be. As teachers, we are often left to master the skill of begging, borrowing, and stealing. And that phrase shouldn’t be a bad thing. We learn best from each other! My mission is to help inspire other teachers to teach with passion—the same passion that we all had when we first decided to join the education world. I can’t be the only one sharing that mindset. We must strive to help other teachers become the best we can be.
My challenge to you is this: Whether you’re a 30-year veteran experiencing burnout or a brand new teacher fresh out of undergrad, find another teacher and help them reach their maximum potential. Find a way to inspire a fellow teacher, even if it’s the smallest email of encouragement. Why? Because our students need great teachers. Let’s work together make more of them!