Illustration of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The text reads "He always knew he was a little different, but he let his light shine regardless of what others said. Be groovy like Rudolph!"
Groovy Sparks


Be Groovy Like: Rudolph!

A Lesson in Believing in Your Kids and Yourself

By Elaine Hansen

Illustration of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The text reads "He always knew he was a little different, but he let his light shine regardless of what others said. Be groovy like Rudolph!"
Let Your Light Shine

I’ve always loved the story of Rudolph…

As educators we’ve all had the different kid, the chip on shoulder, the jokester, the odd ball, the one left out.

A little different can have many meanings.

Have you ever had colleagues mutter under their breath about “the crazy kid,” though you know for a fact you witnessed a sparkle, a glimmer of something genius? I’ve witnessed this many times before. Nevertheless, as much as “the crazy kid” mindset (or another fan favorite “why waste your time”) gets under my skin, every new school year I make it a point to ask myself, “I wonder who amongst my kids will teach me the most?” Then like clockwork, every single year, I am given the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as an educator and person. As a result, out pops up in front of me the student(s) who believe in their own press and it’s my job to, at the very least try to eliminate previous programming and self deprecating false narratives.

See, most of our inventors and folks who’ve made significant change and positive contributions to our world were first thought to be “a little crazy,” which reminds me of the quote:

“History shows us that the people who end up changing the world – the great political, social, scientific, technological, artistic, even sports revolutionaries – are always nuts, until they are right, and then they are geniuses.” – John Eliot

John Eliot (2006). “Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More”, Portfolio

My advice:

Grab on to that kid because they need you.

Don’t stop doing what you know is in the best interest of your students.

With this purpose in mind, change your teaching practices. Be a chameleon and meet your kids where they need you most. Rethink your assessment practices. Adapt your classroom atmosphere. Challenge assumptions. Go against the flow.

If it’s in your students’ best interest, then certainly you must do it!

Indeed, people will talk.

They always do.

Especially about the misfits, the quirks, the shenanigators. (Yes, I made up that word.)

While it may be true, don’t let it get to you. Believe in yourself.

Above all, our kids matter. You’re not just teaching a subject, there’s a human being standing there in front of you and the potential is infinite. You make a difference. Furthermore, you are making your students’ lives, your classroom, your school, your community, the entire world a lot brighter. Cue: Newton’s 3rd Law, Action-Reaction.

Inspite of the the naysayers and name-callers, don’t let them dim your kids’ light.

Believe in your kids. Let them shine!

To illustrate, the great pedagogy thinker, John Dewey, once said:

“It is . . . advisable that the teacher should understand, and even be able to criticize, the general principles upon which the whole educational system is formed and administered. He is not like a private soldier in an army, expected merely to obey, or like a cog in a wheel, expected merely to respond to and transmit external energy; he must be an intelligent medium of action.” – John Dewey, 1895

Goldstein, epitaph to Teacher Wars.

Going against the status quo is never easy.

But then one day, out of the blue, you’ll get a message from one of those geniuses and it will go something like this:

“I’m in the Peace Corps. Thank you for believing in me.”

“When I look back at the people who have shaped my life, you stand out in neon lights.”

“I am majoring in chemisty because of you.”

“Well look at it like this no matter how great someone becomes at one point in their life they need guidance, and someone to focus their efforts and that’s what you gave me.”

In short, these are “my kids.” I am honored and humbled to be a source and beacon in their lives.

Be groovy like: Rudolph!

p.s. Teaching is the most noble profession by far, and the hardest beyond measure. It’s about time our teachers start receiving a fair and respectable salary, America.

Cue: Stepping down from my groovy soap box now…

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