Last Friday we were extremely fortunate to have Jane Goodall speak here at YIS. Although she was only with us for a short time, her speech was so inspiring that I’m sure it will have a lasting impact on our school!

Listening to her life story, from her earliest memories of bringing handfuls of earthworms to bed as a toddler, to traveling the world promoting a sustainable lifestyle in her 70’s was absolutely amazing. Not only is she a natural storyteller, keeping the students captivated at the very end of the day in our stiflingly hot gym, but in every theme she discussed, there was a wonderfully simple and inspiring message.

Here are a few that really resonated with me:

The Power of Encouragement

Many of Jane’s stories centered around the caring and supportive environment provided by her mother. She started by sharing the memory of taking a handful of earthworms to bed as a toddler and her mother’s reaction – not of disgust or laughter – but of honest concern, teaching her daughter that the earthworms need soil to survive. This simple, but defining moment, was the beginning of Jane’s fascination with nature.

Although a teacher may not have the same impact that a parent can have, it’s humbling to think what a powerful impact words can have on a young person’s life. It will be this story that I remind myself of when a student proposes an “outlandish” idea or challenges an assignment or shares a unique perspective in class. You never know what the result of a little extra encouragement at exactly the right time could be!

Follow Your Passion

I always like to tell my students to study subjects they enjoy, because if they end up in a career they love, they will be successful (which is exactly what my parents told me). Jane told several anecdotes about her childhood love of animals, and of books like Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan which inspired her at a young age. It was this early passion which showed her what direction to take in life, helped her to succeed, and which still drives her.

She made amazing advances in her field and became a global celebrity not through education in a particular subject, or because her family had money to send her a certain school, or because she listened to other peoples’ advice – but because she discovered what she wanted to do, found a way to do it, and never gave up. It’s a great example of the power of internal motivation, and a good reminder to us teachers that we should always take students’ interests and dreams seriously, no matter how unlikely or unconventional they might seem.

Be A Risk Taker

My favorite story that Jane shared was about her first trip to Africa, when she was only 23. She vividly described her feelings of excitement and apprehension setting off, alone and by boat, to a continent that she knew almost nothing about in order to follow her dreams. Just the thought of leaving everything and everyone you know behind for an almost completely unknown experience, in the hopes of finding a career is almost completely unimaginable to me. Sure, I’ve lived in 4 countries in the last 10 years, but I’ve always been just an e-mail, Skype, phone call, or (relatively) short flight away from family and friends back home.

When we talk about the IB Learner Profile and being a risk taker, I always think of examples like speaking up in class, or trying to solve a problem in a different way, but this is another whole level of risk-taking. One I’m not so sure even exists anymore. Nevertheless, we need to make taking risks more of a habit than a rarity for fear of failure. The more risks you take, the more willing you are to try another, and the more failure becomes a learning opportunity rather than an end result.

Final Thoughts

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to hear Jane speak, and to see the impact her story has already had on our students. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day world of teaching and learning, but there is something extra special about hearing different stories, particularly from speakers outside the field of education, that really remind me why I became a teacher in the first place.

What or who has inspired you lately?

18 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration

  1. Thank you, Kim, for sharing this experience. I agree 100% with you. It is what I say to my kids, as a father and educator. I believe that this is the key of a real teacher: promote curiosity, allow students to follow what they want, find passion in what they do.
    Thanks, again.
    Fernando Bolanos´s last blog post ..Lo que realmente les importa

  2. Hi Kim
    It’s great to have found your blog and look at some of your ideas. My head is still buzzing from the conference and I’m excited about trying out ALL the new things I learned and heard about. But even more exciting, for me, is that this blog of yours has even more stuff on it I can explore – ie blogs for kids! Can’t wait to get started. It’s like I’m still at the conference, even though I’ve returned to Chongqing.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. @John,

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the conference, and looking forward to seeing what develops in Chongqing :)

    1. @Dodie,

      Thanks so much for sharing your post here – I love Stephen Covey’s matrix. I try to refer back to that every time I get overwhelmed and am not sure where to put my energy. I love the way you’ve related it back to our inspirations as educators.

  3. Kim,
    For starters I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class and one of my assignments is to comment on your blog. I really enjoyed this post and I loved the fact that you inspire your students to study what they enjoy. When I first started college I picked a degree based on salary, not what I loved. Finally my parents got it through my head that money is not important, doing what you love is what is going to make you happy in life and now I’m pursuing my degree in education. I also like the fact that you want your students to take a risk in order to gain more learning opportunities. You have some very helpful thoughts, and thanks for sharing!

    1. @Courtney,

      Great story! I’m so glad that you’re parents were able to talk you into a career you love! I think it makes all the difference.

  4. Hi!
    My name is Carlis Howze and I attend the University of South Alabama. I’m in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class, and one of my assignments was to comment on this blog. I found this blog VERY interesting and would recommend it to any teacher or student. It shows the importance of parents and life lessons as well. Again, Great Job!

  5. I am in Dr. John Strange’s EDM310 course at the University of South Alabama and I greatly enjoyed your experience shared in “Finding Inspiration”. I couldn’t agree with you more about the power of encouragement and how important it is in the classroom. If children don’t have anyone behind them, they may not continue with their ideas which would be a terrible thing to have happen. I also think it is so important to take chances and risks without knowing the outcome. I know if I hadn’t taken so many risks in life, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

    1. @Ashley,

      Thanks for your story – I completely agree about being a risk-taker, it’s one of the many reasons why I love the IB program, being a risk-taker is one of the learner profiles.

  6. Honestly Kim – you are who has inspired me recently. I stumbled across your blog two years ago and what I learn there – and your enthusiasm in sharing it – has completely reinvigorated my teaching. I recently presented at the TRI Association conference in Monterrey, Mexico – on “avoiding death by Power Point” – based entirely on information I found through you (be assured I started my presentation with crediting you and Garr Reynolds). I eagerly await your posts, and take what I learn to help me collaborate with others, especially teachers who are intimidated by technology, to gently ease them into trying some web 2.0 tools.

    I am currently morphing from an English teacher to a teacher-librarian and was thrilled to see that ISB has an opening for next year. I will be applying, based on what I learned about that school through reading your posts. Your passion and your knowledge, and your willingness to share both, have had a tangible, energizing effect on my teaching. I can’t thank you enough.

    Susan Waterworth´s last blog post ..Navigation

    1. @Susan,

      Thank you so much! I’m so flattered that you are still finding my blog useful and relevant. Best of luck with your application to ISB!

  7. Mrs. Kim,

    Hello! I’m am a student taking EDM 310; I’m assigned to comment on your blog. The paragraph you wrote about studying something that one loves is what really stands out to me. In our generation, we are so caught up with money and THINGS. I first tried NOT to be an educator because I wanted to make loads of money. My friends and family, however, knew that I would be just fine and very happy in the Education field; so here I am!

    Secondly, I have realized from your post that I am not a risk taker. I need to take more risks- true risks. I keep everything on the safe side. As a future educator, I should learn to take more risks for the sake of Education.

    Thank you for your post!

    1. @Krysten,

      Thanks for sharing your story – I think there are lots of people who have had a similar experience. Glad to hear you have found a career you love.

  8. Hello Kim. This post was definately motivational. Even though I was not personally there to hear Mrs. Goodall speak, your post made me feel that I was.

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