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Teachers deliver

This week, May 8-12, is Teacher Appreciation Week. This year’s theme is “Teachers Deliver.” The national PTA website says, “Teachers deliver so much to our students — inspiration, motivation and, ultimately, their futures.” The EducationNC team will honor the teachers who delivered for us, shaping our leadership today and our collective future.

Linda Fincannon was my guidance counselor at McClintock Junior High School in Charlotte. She started a peer counseling program at the school. The program was taught as a 50-minute class, and we used the textbook, “Caring and Sharing: Becoming a Peer Facilitator — A Leadership Training Program for Youth.” Fincannon — or Mrs. F, as we called her — and the program changed my view of the world, helping me see beyond myself.

“The peer facilitator movement is the ‘wave of the future’ in education,” says the preface of the book. We learned attentive listening, facilitation, decision-making, and communications.

In the first chapter of the book, we learned about the problems facing the day’s youth and to become more sensitive about the needs of our society by reading and analyzing newspapers as compared to magazines as compared to academic journals. Sound familiar? That’s why EdNC features news, stories, and research.

Chapter 3 helped us develop greater awareness of how involved and important the art of listening really is. In one exercise, two talkers exchange points of view until they agree that they understand the viewpoint of the other. Sound familiar? That’s why EdNC features perspectives from the left to the right, from students, teachers, and policymakers.

Chapter 4 helped us learn to engage people and facilitate responses, asking what, where, when, how, and who instead of why questions. The textbook says, “When a question communicates that you are really interested, that you care and that you want to understand, then it is facilitative.” Sound familiar? That’s why we think carefully about how we ask questions. We know that for many across the state participating in Reach NC Voices, it is like raising your hand for the first time.

The book’s five-step decision-making process is the foundation of EdNC’s iterative nature: identify the central issue or problem, explore the alternatives and consequences, choose a next step, act, and evaluate the results. Then we monitor and adjust. Pace matters.

Perhaps most importantly, the program taught me, “No matter what the role and/or setting, one important consideration to remember is to be genuine — be yourself.” That’s why on most days you will see me wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and a scarf. Recently, a student called me out for dressing like a CEO — a powerful reminder that our words and our actions and how we present ourselves to the world need to match up.

Thank you, Mrs. F. Your book lives on my bedside table. Your ideas are present in all of my work. You delivered.

To participate in Teacher Appreciation Week, share a photo of you and your favorite teacher on Twitter with the hashtag #ThankATeacher.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.