Here is the full transcript of former DeKalb teacher Lisa Lee’s TEDx Talk: Getting at the Heart of Teaching at TEDxCrestmoorParkED conference.
Lisa Lee – former DeKalb teacher
Are you ready to get started? Yes, we are. Don’t need to do that again.
I’ve been teaching for over 26 years. Long enough to have moved from, “Ms. Lee, you’re like my favorite auntie” to “Ms. Lee, you’re my second mom.” Then it became, “Ms. Lee, you’re like my grandma.” I didn’t mind so much, because I already played one in real life, right?
Well recently, you know where this is going, I met the family of one of my new students. The next day, she came in – I love Photoshop, this picture – She came in and said, “You know, my parents said you remind them of my great-grandmother.” So, after I picked myself up off the floor, I said, “Um, why?” And she said, “Well, she lives in Louisiana.” I’m like, I’m from Georgia, I get that. “And she plays tennis.” I’m obviously in great shape, so, I get that. “She’s really funny.” Not as funny as me, but OK I’ll go with that. “And she lives on a gator farm.” I suddenly realized I can relate to that too, because I teach middle school.
Yes, for the last 11 years I’ve been a teacher of what I call, lovingly, hormones with legs. And I taught, before that, elementary school for many years and never planned on my shadow darkening the doorway of a middle school classroom.
So, I was asked as a favor, to interview for my first job. And I got there and the principal said, “I don’t know why HR sent you; you’re not even certified for middle school.” I said, “I know, right? And I don’t even like them!” She laughed, kind of, and then I said, “I think you should pepper spray them once a day, they’ll need it sooner or later.” And, after she picked herself up off the floor from laughter, she said, “You’re going to be perfect for my students.”
But, really I disagree with her, because they turned out to be so perfect for me. I know there’s lots of people like educators, teachers in the audience – show me where you are, people that work with kids. Thank you for being here. I know some of you are still pretty new and maybe you haven’t even lived as long as I’ve taught. But I realize there are young people here.
I have a secret. I don’t usually tell people. Have you figured out there’s a lot of meetings in education? I often say to myself – but not out loud – I hope I pass on in one of those meetings, because the transition would be so subtle, I wouldn’t even know it had happened. I don’t say that very often. But, I do truly believe that what we are doing is the most important thing in the world. John Steinbeck writes about teachers, and he says: “I have come to believe a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. In fact, teaching is – not may be – is ‘the greatest of the arts’ because the medium is the human mind and spirit.”