We got into a discussion about parental pressure. In a roundabout way, she was able to encourage me not to put needless pressure on my youngster, but I didn’t even realize it until I was out of her presence.
Then I thought to myself, was she talking to me?
Mrs. Nesbit has a way of telling the truth so that it doesn’t offend and it’s easy to take her advice because it was evident from our first encounter on that she had my son’s best interest at heart.
From that time on, I found Mrs. Nesbit to be trustworthy, professional, and available. If I emailed her, I found a timely response in my inbox. If I or my children needed something, she could find the answer if she didn’t have it.
I spoke with Mrs. Nesbit over coffee recently, a fantastic way to start the new year. After greeting half of the people in the coffee shop because she knew them in one way or another. Here is what she had to say:
The harder I work, the luckier I am.
What do you think you did best at OCS?
I loved trying to personalize education for each student that sought me out. The students would talk to each other about my helping them, and so I was often approached to tutor, to help a student with a research paper or writing assignment, to prepare for a competition, or to apply for a summer program.
Very few of them came to me with personal problems. They seemed to know that I was an academic helper. I re-taught myself 8th grade math, studied to become certified in middle grades language arts and took a year-long course to become gifted certified so I could better assist students. You can’t be an educator and not believe in…training yourself.
I worked with every 8th grade student on their 8th grade writing assignment, and I still remember many of their pieces. That was very rewarding for me and, I hope, helpful for them.
Was there a student there that changed you in some way? How?
My 15 years in education changed me. I learned so much from so many students. I learned to listen to them and take their concerns seriously without judging them. They had excellent suggestions about how to improve teacher performance, curriculum, and assignments!
I do remember one student who was average, overweight, and ill-prepared for middle school. She lived with her humble, hard-working mother who wanted her daughter to succeed as all parents do. The students were assigned to write an essay on a skill they had been taught, and she wrote about ironing. I thought it was amazing and told her so, and she almost cried. Later that year, she forgot her student ID and it was field trip day and we had a policy that “no ID; no field trip.” She could replace it for $5 but had no money. So, I bought her a new one and took it to her minutes before the trip.
The note I received from her is very precious. In fact, I think I’ve saved every note from every student.
What skills do you feel students need now that you did not upon entering high school or post secondary options?
I think students now need experience in collaborative thinking, which is very different from the individual accomplishments prized when I was in school.
If you look at the workplace today, most of the successes are from teams of people working collaboratively to accomplish goals and solve problems. This requires a new skill set that includes individual preparation, but also must include the ability to listen and appreciate other ideas.
What is your best advice to new teachers?
Don’t be afraid to ask your students for feedback about a lesson or project and incorporate their ideas into your future lessons. Before I made any decision while I was Director of Instruction at Oglethorpe, I would ask myself: “What is in the best interest of the student? Not the teacher, not the parent, not the school.”