Baby Bison, don't tread on that pretty flower...

Baby Bison, don't tread on that pretty flower...
Custer State Park, SD; June, 2010

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Columbia, TN, United States
I am a Christian, married over 43 years to my gorgeous first wife; in 13th year as professor of education at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, TN; 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

TeacHEROlics Anonymous = TA

Recently I noticed on the Martin Methodist College faculty secretary’s desk a copy of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that she had been typing for one of the psychology professors. It made me think that a lot of that was applicable, with some slight editorializing, to teachers. I am part of a team of professional educators whose task it is to prepare prospective teachers as well as possible. The motto for our Division of Education is Reflective Educators Preparing for Service (REPS). Reflecting is a huge part of our profession; so, with some slight apologies to AA, allow me to use the “How It Works” section of their Big Book to help teachers reflect on being heroes to their students. After all, isn’t it obvious that HERO is at the very core of the Teacherolic?


[from the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, How It Works]

Rarely have we seen a teacher fail who has thoroughly followed this path. Those who do not succeed are teachers who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of teaching which demands rigorous preparation, constant flexibility, and continuous improvement. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave burnout or refusal to learn, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to change.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas, and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. Remember that we deal with students – cunning, baffling, and powerful! Without help they are too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that one is God. May you find Him now.
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His guidance and care with complete abandon. Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery and innovation for teachers stuck in the rut of dull and mundane teaching:
  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our students; that our classrooms had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater then ourselves could restore us to passionate teaching.
  3. Made a decision to turn our classroom(s) over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching inventory of our teaching methods and classroom management strategies.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another professional the exact nature of our burnout.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all our deficiencies of character education.
  7. Humbly asked Him to replace our shortcomings with positive pedagogical dispositions.
  8. Made a list of all students and colleagues we had alienated and became willing to change those relational capacities.
  9. Made direct amends to such students and colleagues wherever possible, except when to do so would violate professional distance or relational capacity with them or others.
  10. Continued to reflect on our teaching, and when we needed to change promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through reflection (prayer, meditation, journaling, networking, etc.) to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out in our classrooms.
  12. Having had a passionate awakening of enthusiasm as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to teacherolics, and to practice these principles in all our classes.

    Many of us exclaimed, “WHAT AN ORDER! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us had been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints – we are teachers; we touch the future of young lives. The point is that we are willing to grow as professional educators. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim pedagogical progress rather than perfection…Our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
  • That we were teacherolics and could not manage our own classrooms.
  • That no human power could have restored our lack of passion, dispositions, and relational capacity.
  • That God could and would if He were sought.


    Are you perhaps thinking this is a little over-the-top or “out there”? Think reflectively again. I do understand that federal law prohibits public school teachers from openly testifying about God or religion in any overt manner. We can, however, conduct ourselves and our classrooms in such a way that it is obvious whose we are. I believe that character education is the foundation for relational capacity – that mutual respect that will do more than any other one concept to form the basis for academic success and emotional growth among students within the professional classroom. Seek God reflectively in private and then model his precepts professionally in public…remembering that you can become a hero to your students by joining the ranks of TA. Reflect on the seriousness of this, if you dare!

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