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Be the Goodness

January 18, 2021

After getting home today I was able to do three video lessons, then the weather was good enough, so I went out to do a 2-mile walk. While walking I passed up a family. I usually spread positivity to those I don’t even know by telling them “Have an awesome day!” After telling the family this, I smiled as I passed them.

Then the mother said, “Excuse me, are you a math teacher?”

I turned around and said “Yes” then did a Tim the Tool Man Taylor grunt (which is featured in my daily video lessons to give the kids a smile each day) aaahhh oooohhh.

The mother then said, “Oh my God, it’s you! You are Mr. Toups! You teach my child Algebra.” She then called Ashley, her daughter, and she came running back to the group. I didn’t have Ashley on my roll since I am doing the video lessons for the entire 9th graders in Algebra at my school.

She then complimented my lessons and told me, “I do my lessons with my daughter every day. You make it so easy and explain everything so clearly. I graduated sixteen years ago, and I am finally learning how to Algebra. You make us smile each day. We really look forward to your lessons.”

I told her "thank you" and then told Ashley the phrase of how I end all of my video lessons for the virtual kids, “You are amazing, you were created to do wonderful things, and…. YOU ARE AWESOME!” The family just smiled.

This proves a point. A teacher’s ability to spread positivity and happiness in a virtual learning world goes way beyond the walls of a physical classroom.

This story is a powerful reminder of what educators are trying to do now. Teach kids they can’t even see physically. In this instance, Ashley was a student I would probably not have seen since she wasn’t on my attendance roll. Teachers across the country are wondering if they are even having an impact on the kids they can’t even see. If you are doing what I am about to write down, you will be impacting kids you don’t see. You will be making a difference in the lives of the young kids at a time when they desperately need it.

In 1990 I started my career as an educator and one of the first decisions I made was my first classroom rule. I chose “Always Believe in Yourself” as my first rule. The consequences of this decision have been profound on my 30 plus years as an educator. I have literally changed the lives of thousands of students with this rule. You can’t make kids believe they can succeed, but you can inspire them.

Later in the spring of my first year teaching, I made it a goal for my kids to describe me with these words, love, patience, peace, kindness, joy, gentleness, and goodness. Over the years these words have become a way of life for me. My non-verbal communication of these words to my students is the secret to the inspiration that is generated in my classroom. These “ultimate teacher descriptors” are not spoken into being, they are non-verbally communicated into being. They are the adjectives that should describe who you are. While writing my second book, “The Art of Inspiration” I generated this diagram to show how these descriptors relate to each other.

As you can see, LOVE is the key descriptor. Love generates all the other descriptors in this diagram. Love and joy are directly related. Your level of joy depends on how much you love others, a key part of being a teacher that develops dynamic teacher-student relationships that change lives. I then made this diagram to show other educators how I was able to love my students.

Over my three decade-plus career I usually get letters from my students at the end of the year thanking me for teaching them to Always Believe. These letters mention the descriptors I have tried to role model to my students. It is powerful when you go back and read these letters. It truly gives you feedback on what you are teaching the kids. The most important lessons we are teaching the kids are usually not in our learning objectives. They are the life lessons that are taught through your non-verbal communication.

Looking at the first diagram I would like to share with you my knowledge of goodness. What does it mean to be the goodness in the daily lives of your students' day? When students tell you, “I look forward to your class every day.” They can also say, “This is my favorite class.”

When kids say this about a teacher’s class, then the class represents goodness in the lives of the kids. These classes usually feature kids knowing that their teacher genuinely loves them for who they are. They are likely to smile each day in the class. The kids know the teacher cares for them and their feelings. The kids know the class will be a positive force in their day. Basically, the love from the teacher illustrated in the chart is generating the goodness.

After the goodness is generated, the relationships formed in the class will begin generating joy. The joy produced from these interactions can be a powerful force in the teacher’s life. This joy can overcome the bad valleys that are a part of teaching. The valleys can include, paper jams, a bad conversation with a parent, a bad observation, a zoom class that just didn’t go right, and the list continues and goes on and on. These things can just seem to snowball if they occur day after day. If you refocus your energy back on the kids and continue to love them, the joy that is produced will overcome the bad days.

With the virtual world we are teaching in now, do your best to generate smiles with your kids every single day, virtually and face to face. You are reaching people you don’t know. Lessons posted to YouTube have the capability of reaching a global audience. Be passionate about what you are doing. Make your lessons enjoyable. Make them the goodness in the lives of your students and the joy that is produced will make all of this worthwhile. The joy that is produced from becoming part of a happy memory with a child is truly priceless.

Jerry Toups Jr

Twitter - @Toups_J

Jerry Toups started teaching in 1990 when he made his first rule Always Believe in Yourself. This rule, combined with powerful non-verbal communication skills has changed the lives of thousands of students for over three decades. You can read about his life in the book “The Story of Always Believe”. In the spring of 2019, a student made a video documentary about Mr. Toups’ career. This video went on to win 2nd place in the state competition.

Jerry Toups will soon publish his second book with Edumatch Publishing. “The Art of Inspiration” is Jerry Toups’ manifesto of how he has used non-verbal communication to inspire his students.

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