Are You “Just a Teacher?”

Tiffany OttBlog, Start Here

Are You Just A Teacher?

I had an interesting experience a while back returning home from a conference. I had to practically run out the door of the conference right after my presentation, as I had a flight to catch and the turnaround time was, shall we say, a little bit tight. My good friend Jeff was at the conference presenting also and drove me to the airport as quickly as possible.

On the way, I received a text from the airline saying that the flight was delayed. On one hand, this was a great thing! We did not have to put our lives on the line racing down the highway. On the other hand, I had a connecting flight to catch which also happened to have a very short turnaround time- I was not going to make that connection.

So as you can imagine, I spent the remainder of the journey worrying about whether or not I would make my flight. I was even urging the car to go quicker, but obviously, this was out of my control. I just kept asking myself over and over again about what I’d do if I missed my flight, and to be honest, the answers I was giving myself didn’t help my thought process. I knew I should’ve looked into the private jet charter cost when I was given the opportunity because I know for a fact that there was a chance they would wait for me until I was there at the boarding gate, instead of flying off without me. Also, who wouldn’t want to travel in style when they had the opportunity? At the moment though, this was out of the question, and I was just praying that I caught my flight and my connecting flight in time.

When we finally got to the airport, my first stop was the airline desk. Before the sentence, “I think I might miss my connecting flight,” was out of my mouth, the airline agent fired back: “Oh! We have a bus that’s going to be driving you to your destination in time to make your connection.

Taken aback, I barely blinked before she handed me my ticket and directed me outside and down the road to catch my bus. I was relieved to be able to make my connecting flight, as I had a workshop to run the next day, but I wasn’t too thrilled about a two-hour bus ride.

“What do you do?”

About 30 of us hop on the bus and make our way towards the next airport. We all start chatting and it’s the typical, “What do you do?” and “Where you headed?” All the usual small talk that happens when you’re put in a situation with a bunch of strangers.

My turn comes around and a very friendly gentleman sitting across the aisle from me says, “So, what do you do?”

Perhaps some background information is appropriate at this point. At the time, I had just made the decision to change positions for the upcoming school year. I was a elementary school teacher working with 3rd through 5th grade gifted students in math and reading, and less than a week before this fateful bus ride I had decided to accept a part-time position teaching struggling 9th graders math. The other half of my work week would be dedicated to working with Teach Better, a company that trains teachers and school districts around the nation in learning, understanding, and using best practices in education.

I am very excited about this change. I love working with teachers. I love talking about education endlessly.

Back to the context of this conversation: this was a very new position for me and I wasn’t quite sure yet how to describe it. After a brief whirlwind of thoughts, I simply said, “I am an education consultant.”

The gentleman paused and simply said, “Oh. OK.”

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Hold that thought

Well, let me tell you- that is not the reaction that I have towards my career! I am tickled pink, through the moon excited about this amazing opportunity to change the world! But, let’s admit it, my job description did not make it sound all that exciting.

In a frenzy, I immediately blurted out everything about my job that makes it the best job in the world. I wanted him to feel how amazing I felt about the whole situation.

“Wait! Actually what I do is travel the country working with amazing educators on a mission to transform the world of teaching and learning and support the next generation of awesome leaders. I write, I speak, I share. I love it.”

The man chuckled a bit, and said, “Well! That certainly does sound more interesting.”

And it does! Education consultant sounds dry and boring. World changer and revolutionary? Much better.

What do YOU do?

What’s the point of this whole story?

I have heard the phrase, “I’m just a teacher,” come out of the mouths of many educators I’ve worked with.

Let’s get something straight, right now….YOU ARE NOT JUST A TEACHER. You are a life changer. You are a world changer. You are a leader, a role model, and one of the most important pieces of every one of your students’ lives.

YOU ARE NOT JUST A TEACHER. You are a life changer. You are a world changer. You are a leader, a role model, and one of the most important pieces of every one of your students' lives. Click To Tweet

You make a difference.

Our words and our thoughts have power and can change not only the way the world sees us, but the way we see ourselves. You see, the mission of education is truly to transform the world. Our goal every single day is to connect with students in ways that make them imagine the possibilities of life. We design experiences that help our students see the world for the amazing complicated troubled place that it is. We help our students design what our future will look like. We are not just teachers any more than I am just an education consultant. We are so much more than that.

I want you to change the way you answer that question. Change the way you view yourself. Be bold in who you are and what you do.

The next time someone asks you, “what do you do?” what will you say?

“I am a teacher. I’m changing the world!”