The X Factor
Author: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Posted: Thursday - August 13, 2020
Even bloggers like myself like to follow other bloggers. Reading blog posts from others inspires ideas for topics to write about, challenges my perspective on certain issues and affirms my own core values and experiences.
One blogger who does this for me is Danny Steele. Danny is in his 28th year of education and currently serves as principal at a high school in Alabama. Prior to this, he served as an Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership, assistant principal, teacher and coach. In 2005, he was recognized as the “Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year” for the state of Alabama. In 2016, he was recognized as Alabama’s “Secondary Principal of the Year.”
I value Danny’s experience and perspective as many others do. He doesn’t blog regularly, but when a new post does land in my Inbox I know it’s something worth opening and reading. This happened last fall when I received his blog post entitled, The Unforgettable Interview.
Here’s an excerpt from his blog post:
About 6 or 7 years ago, I interviewed a teacher named Jake. He seemed like a nice guy; he had a few years under his belt; and I thought he might be a nice addition to our faculty. But he took away any doubt when he answered one question. This was always my favorite question:
"Jake... in every school in America, you can place teachers on a continuum. On one end of the continuum are teachers who don't seem to want to be there. They're always complaining about something. Their colleagues wonder why they haven't retired yet. They're a drag on the collective energy of the school. But on the other end of that continuum are the teachers who are always excited to be at work. They love the students; they value their colleagues; and they lift the spirits of all those around them. When graduates come back to visit, these are the teachers they want to see. So, Jake...what is the difference between these two teachers? What is the 'X factor?' Because that's what we're looking for here."
Most teachers would talk about passion or talk about the fact that the second teacher isn't just coming to work for a paycheck; they're coming to work to make a difference. I think those are good answers, but Jake said something different -- something I'll never forget. He answered something like this:
"You know, I think every teacher is idealistic when they start their career. Almost every new teacher has passion; they love kids; and they want to make a difference. But after several years, you hit a little bit of a wall. There's this reality check. You realize this job is hard. There are a lot of papers to grade. Some students make it really hard to teach. And parents are not always supportive. I think some teachers just don't seem to move beyond these frustrations. They burn out. But others are able to maintain their sense of purpose in spite of the challenges. Their work is hard, but they remain convinced that it matters. Some students are challenging, but they are aware of how much they need a teacher not to give up on them. They deal with adversity, but it doesn't steal their passion. These are the teachers who get to make a difference year after year."
We hired Jake. And this past week, he was named the school's "Teacher of the Year." So, I salute Jake and all those other teachers who got past that "reality check" and retained their passion for students. They are making a difference...year after year.
I love this story! I love that Danny asked Jake for his opinion on what the ‘X Factor’ is between the teachers who act like they don't want to be there and those who are excited to show up every day. And, I love Jake’s answer to the question!
So, how would you answer the question? What do you believe is the ‘X Factor’?
You can probably remember teachers from your past who were on both ends of the continuum. What was the difference between these teachers for you? You may not remember exactly what they said or did, but I bet you can remember how they made you feel.
Always remember…You have an amazing opportunity to impact kids’ lives for a lifetime no matter what your role is with them or if you are with them in-person or virtually. You can create experiences for them that you or they never thought possible and that will forever be etched in their memories. Having the ‘X Factor’ will make you one of those teachers your kids will think of fondly over the years and someone they will never forget, rather than someone they choose to forget.
P.S. The title of "teacher" refers to any adult who works with kids whether it be in a classroom, afterschool program, community-based program or one-on-one. Heck! It even refers to parents and other adult mentors. So, don't let that word mislead you to thinking the 'X Factor' doesn't apply to you!