A Hug with Words · 5 September 2015

Photo courtesy Marc Hillestad

Marc, my friend, foil, and arch-nemesis (I need to come up with a super-villain name for him), told me that I needed to use the phrase “Hug with Words” in a blog post.

We were listening to our inspiring guest speaker, Simon T. Bailey, when this seemingly innocent challenge to my writing ability was given. Naturally, I accepted the challenge even though I never said anything. But I know he expects it. For I have once again stepped into his dastardly plans.

Before I go much further, I must explain a little about my friend. Marc and I have worked together for the past twenty years as fellow teachers at our beloved high school. We started together during teacher orientation when Marc was in the back of the room hurling verbal barbs out there for everyone to hear. I do not know where I was sitting, but I was not part of his impromptu motley crew sitting in the back.

Since that first day, Marc and I have become friends. In fact, we have sat together in the back of the room making comments about guest speakers before. We have shared classrooms and have enjoyed a wonderful couple decades working together. Okay, not all of the times have been wonderful, but we have endured the few bad times and bad speakers together.

Our twenty-first welcome back speaker was not one of the duds. In fact, he was inspiring. Naturally, my friend, foil, and arch-nemesis told me that he expected to see some of the words that Simon T. Bailey said that day. Marc was even more specific and said he’d like to see me use “Hug with words” in my blog. (If I was devious, I would just leave it at that quote, but that would be too simple.)

Simon T. Bailey related a story about one of his teachers in his address to our school district’s employees. He said that she made him speak in front of the whole student body. On the first day of school. I am not sure if it was the challenge or the speech that was given on the first day, but speak he did. And he found his passion. Mr. Bailey said that he was so happy that his teacher had helped him find that passion. Indeed, he said that her encouragement was how she hugged him with words. And he challenged all the district employees in the room to hug our students with words.

When Marc challenged me to use those words in my blog, I knew it would be a cinch. After all, I just had to write about Marc hugging his students with words. Oh sure, he likes to kick their tails and bust their chops. He likes to challenge them to do better and be better. But he does so with love and hugs. Even if his gruff exterior belies what is in his heart.

Good teachers still stand out in this age of high stakes testing. The pressure to pass the tests mounts each year, but the teachers that stand out are those who teach without just teaching to the test and who give hugs with their words. They are the teachers who help students find their passions. They are the teachers who invite kids to take control of their own educations and their own futures. They are teachers like my friend, foil, and arch-nemesis, Marc, who give their students opportunities to learn and grow.

Marc and teachers like him work in our district and districts around the globe challenging students to do more than take the tests and regurgitate names and dates. They teach them to think and act. They teach them to be citizens and activists. They teach them to challenge the status quo. They teach them to communicate and design. They teach them to be creative and inspiring. And they do it in part by hugging their students. With arms and with words.

I am not really sure Marc realizes he challenged me to write this blog post, but I am glad he did. Not only because I got to say nice things about him (he hates that), but because it gave me a chance to let people know that education is much more than the content teachers deliver to their students. Education is about challenges and problem solving and thinking. And giving hugs with words. Just ask the students.

Thanks for giving me the challenge, Marc (even if I do not have a great super-villain name for you yet). And here is a hug with words aimed right at you.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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