Building a Better Teacher | Brian Smith | TEDxHickory



so I'm Brad Smith and I'm pretty sure that all of you are gonna fall into one of three categories hey you either know a teacher B you are a teacher or C you probably had a teacher at some point in your life and so we're gonna talk about how to build a better teacher because it's affected all of us at some point I've always wanted to be a teacher or truck driver and that that literally is one of my earliest memories people would say what do you want to be when you grow up and I'd say a truck driver or a teacher my Uncle Jim was a truck driver and he would always get out his wallet and give me a dollar and there were so much money in his wallet that I kind of equated truck driving to being wealthy and that's the whole reason I wanted to drive a truck there was nothing more to it it was just to be rich I wanted to be a teacher because my kindergarten teacher Miss Joyce was phenomenal I felt safe in her room she gave me a hug every morning she knew who I was it was just a great kindergarten experience and I thought I want to do that so that's where it started after high school had too much undiagnosed a didi to go straight into a four-year college so I went to work in some factories and then I decided I've learned a whole lot and what I've learned is I don't want to do this for my whole life so at that point I had too many bills so I worked full-time job and two part-time jobs and went to lenoir-rhyne at night and got my degree in psychology and human and Community Services which qualified me to neither be a teacher or not even a truck driver at that point so I don't know exactly what I had been thinking so I went back to UNC Greensboro and on the weekends this time and got my teaching license so I have finally earned the title of teacher and I was the first one in my family to graduate college actually you mean like to start college and so but I was a teacher and like that's what I had worked so hard for and I thought about it since I was a kid and horizontal striped teachers before we realize that was not an attractive look on me and so I was a teacher and I set up a classroom and I was like yeah I'm a teacher yep so my first my teaching license was actually in special education which is helping kids who have learning differences so my first day of teaching in walks Jalen so–that's Jalen and within a matter of minutes I realized I was nowhere close to being a teacher Jalen was a great kid he was energetic he was passionate he was enthusiastic and he would sometimes get into trouble when his enthusiasms was focused on the wrong things Jacqueline and I instantly bonded and then I realized Jalen can't read and I don't know how to teach him to read so kind of failing at this whole being a teacher thing from the from the get-go and so his second grade year which is when I met him it I really struggled and I thought if I'm gonna be a second year teacher I've got to learn how to teach Jalen to read so I gave up two weeks of my summer and I went and I learned all the minutiae of reading and it really became a passion so Jalen built a better teacher so I went back the next year and I thought I'm teaching Jalen to read and I got a new kid Randall and Randall came in and he through his actions said you don't need to teach me anything I'm a really smart kid I'm really bright but I've got some sensory issues and I don't know how to deal with my physical space in the world so there you go let me fail a second time so I found the people who know about sensory issues and we worked really hard and one of the things that we did for Randall was he we did heavy work and so every day Randall who would just we had that relationship I had connected with Randall and we bonded and he just trusted me and so we created a heavy work and I had a crate and it was full of sight-word books inside word notecards and it was heavy and he had to carry it down carry it carry carry it he's gonna carry it down the stairs and he's taking it to our data manager every day and so at one point she sent me an email and she said every day that he brings us down here he looks at me and goes so you still can't read and like he had pieced I'll put that together like oh look at all these books this poor lady can't read that's why I'm taking it to her so but I learned a lot about sensory while I was dealing with Randall and Jalen I also had Katie and Katie had a huge sense of social justice Katie was the poster child for teachers who would go well if she'd mind her own business as much as she Minds everybody else's she'd be all right Katie could hatee hatee social justice and her worldview and just her strong personality said I'm gonna make sure this is okay for everybody whether I'm involved in this situation or not so what I had to read up and figure out how to do was include Katie in some social justice conversation so part of her day would be I would call her every I say I got to situation I need your take on it I also talked Katie that fair isn't always everybody getting the same but fair is everybody getting what they need so Katie made me a better teacher then I maybe made her a better student and after Katie really had that chance to kind of get that social justice piece out of the way she could actually do some work which was amazing so I'm teaching special ed for years loving what I do and this quote keeps coming up in my head because I keep having these regular ed teachers come to me and they go you know you need so-and-so and so-and-so is really struggling they should really come to see you and and I've got my classroom with kids that I see throughout the day and I think my kids are awesome like they're amazing kids like why are they not with you like you don't see what I see because you're not I don't know like just something is missing and so I'm gonna need to be a regular a teacher now so that's what I did I went back to gardner-webb University and we got my masters in elementary education so that I could be that first teacher that kids had and I could make them love school and I could find what makes him unique and what makes me laugh and they would love to learn so I get as I was a kindergarten teacher and I'm like yeah this is what I was supposed to be doing and the first thing Malia walks in and it's a small group because we did staggered starts so I had a third the first day and a third the second day and a third the third day and then the fourth day is when everybody came and that's when everything just hit the fan so Malia walks in and she says she sits down and the bell rings and I'm like I'm so glad you're in kindergarten and she goes did you know I play the violin I know I did I'm not sure how to say your name yet Sweet Pea she said I did I started wasn't playing when I was three that's awesome and guess what happened when I was four I took the bait what I kept playing and now I'm five and I still play okay so automatically a little red flag goes up it says this girl maybe is really bright it became a bigger flag about 20 minutes later when she goes I'm gonna need to go that water fountain over there I'm supposed to stay hydrated while I'm at kindergarten I come from a world of special ed so I had to call in the experts and go help me so I took some classes I got my local certification and academically gifted because I needed to teach Malia I needed to make sure she had a great kindergarten year and that she loved learning as much as all the kids that I really thought I was gonna teach kindergarten for Malia build a better teacher she actually got a better teacher for ian's who came through my door the next year and was completely like I would take something he'd be like yeah I've got that did you think about applying it this way sir so Ian had a lot of special projects for all the times that he didn't need me in his educational day he did he research dolphins which he was obsessed with and came up with his own dolphin riddles he did a timeline on Porsches and printed out the pictures and wrote sentences about how they changed through the years all of that was creating better readers and Ian created a better teacher which really came in handy for Brady who came in and he was exactly where he supposed to be sweet kid just would do anything I asked and did everything that I asked because by the inner kindergarten he was reading he could reboot some like a third grade level which was not me at all but I because I'd had Malia and Ian I was able to direct Brady and say hey this is what we're gonna do to keep you growing when I saw that he doesn't need my small group instruction anymore but he still needs me and so this is what I'm doing Brady ended up skipping first grade because he just really is that right so let's get back to Randall Randall definitely build a better teacher and in my door walks Sammy so Sammy would lay down he'd come in every day now timmy was so cute I could touch Sammy's arm and my finger would go up to like the second knuckle and I never would hit bone so I'm not real sure that there was a skeleton system in there but Sammy was his own personality and he would come in and he would take his shoes off and take his socks off and he would lay on my reading rug and put his head right at the top and begin to roll and so by the end of it he was in a burrito with his head sticking out he would then stick two fingers in his mouth and instantly fall asleep into like a coma so that could have been very aggravating but instead I remember Randall and I thought maybe have some sensory issues so I used what I had learned with Randall and then some caught in some experts and we got Sammy right on the right path the Randell really did make a better teacher for Sammy who then made a better teacher for Kayden who came into kindergarten and from the time and when I say Kayden cries Hayden didn't just cry when mom left him and then like we calm down like is it typical 95% of kids Caden cried from mom pulling into the driveway until he got in the car and he was crying as they pulled away from the school after six and a half hours it really was just too much century for him so thankfully I kind of had I knew what to do and I knew who to call and that's part of it so they all build a better teacher and I don't know who's coming next Katie had a strong personality and she really did get me ready for Whitney I don't know if I could have been ready for Whitney without Katie Whitney and this picture just says it all I just she was amazing if she thought something she said it she believed it and that was the right thing to do a lot of times it meant she was going to kiss a boy boys would come to me and say Whitney just kissed me and so I would call her ever and I'd say why did you kiss him and she would say because he was there so we talked about life roles and how that's probably not the best one to have one of the boys she did love to kiss was Gunnar and every time I would say well Gunnar what did you do and I said did you kiss her back and he said no I'm gonna do that tomorrow just big personality's all over the place Gunnar came to me and and Gunnar was a runner I like to teach in crops because I like to take them off and be barefoot a lot of the times in my classroom and so he would take off and I kick off my Crocs and go after him in and this doesn't run a whole lot so you know I'm with the things that like you know I don't get you while I'm panting so me and Gunnar we just have the best relationship ever like I still see Gunnar he's fantastic kid but they they all taught me big personalities these are the kids that will change the world they're the kids that if we don't tell them you have to sit in this seat and only listen to what I do and think the way I think gunner and Katie and Whitney though they'll look at world hunger and go well did we try this and I'll go no and they'll go alright next problem and and they'll solve our world's problems because they just are that awesome of a kid that somebody has to acknowledge and go you really awesome let's build on that finally this is my daughter Ella Caroline she taught me how to be a better teacher checks it taught me how to be a better parent she has academically she's academically gifted so working with Malia and Ian and Brady really helped she also has dyslexia which so working in special it has helped putting those two together it's called twice exceptional and I had no experience with that so therefore I'm on the trail of learning again she she's just amazing and the things that she does and and I'm just very proud to be her dad and I just think not only has she made me a better teacher and a better she's maybe better human and that got me thinking about how I go about teaching and that that I don't want Brady I don't want to teach kindergarten to Brady I want to teach a Brady his kindergarten and it looked completely different than Kayden's kindergarten but it's not I'm teaching kindergarten and pick up what you get it's my students are what build a better teacher it also goes along too they build a better human and so as I think about this globally I think the people who I struggle with the most when I struggle with them it's because um there's a area of need inside me that I've got to figure out and that's what my kids through the years have taught me you're struggling with me because I'm pointing out something that that maybe isn't as strong in you and so when I build that up then we get that relationship and we connect and and they meet my expectations at that point so when we come across obstacles that's why we've got to look at obstacles and figure our way around them and figure out okay maybe it's not them maybe it is me how do I approach this differently and when I went into the classroom and I would approach something differently from what I've learned great things would happen because I identified the problem and I said this is how I can solve it so I want to go back to jiggling for a minute I had Jalen in 2nd 3rd and 4th grade and then I had him in 5th grade him when he was in 5th grade he got lymphoma and so he had to go to a lot of treatments at the hospital when he would come home he needed a teacher and that's called homebound so I went to and I said I'm his homebound teacher please don't take applications like it's me I need to do this like Jalen's make Jalen's my student I'd rather do this so two three days a week however much he could handle I would go to his house after school and we would work in his basement and we would work on reading and catching up and talking and writing and and I remember one day I had him write a an essay like these are the three things I want to be when I grow up and he was in fifth grade and the first one on his list that his little planning sheet is said a waiter at Outback and I thought oh that's interesting I said kept me more about number one and he said well I know that Outback is your favorite restaurant and if I'm a waiter there then that means I can still see you I don't deserve that I failed Jalen in second grade I didn't teach him how to read now eventually I did but I didn't when I first met him like Jalen had made me a better human and then he tells me that so at the end of his fifth grade year they give me this picture of us on field day in a frame and it's just the it's still on my shelf and I got a very nice gift card to Outback so I keep up with Jalen and and then seven years ago today Jalen passed away for his cancer but it wasn't before he the world because he changed me and then interned I was able to be a better teacher for all of my kids in the future so thank you you

19 thoughts on “Building a Better Teacher | Brian Smith | TEDxHickory”

  1. At around 15:00 when he says something along the lines of “The people I struggle with the most, I struggle because there’s an area of need inside me that I’ve got to figure out.” I love this! I need to keep this in mind when I teach.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Mr. Smith. I noticed the way that you talked about all of 'your' kids in a way that built them up, not labeled them for what others would call shortcomings. We all can take a lesson from that, especially when the day to day is bringing us down.

  3. Crying. And getting back to studying. Jalen and all of your students continue to teach all of us every time you tell us about them, and you… Thank you!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. Now go to Hollywood to teach them how to write better scripts. Everybody deserves a good and emotional story from the heart

  5. Thank you for being so inspiring. Such People make me want to become better and better every single day! 🙂

  6. No one else is like Mr. Smith! Such an amazing teacher and person. Maliyah was so blessed to have you for a teacher. Thanks for seeing her gifts!

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