Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons from a Talk Show Host

On May 25th Oprah ended her 25 year journey that undoubtedly inspired and influenced Americans and many worldwide. I must admit I jumped on and off the Oprah bandwagon at various points throughout those years. I looked into her books from the book club, I wished I could have been in some of the Favorite Things episodes, and, really who doesn’t strive to Live Their Best Life!

Oprah has mentioned several times that she always wanted to become a teacher and also admires the work that teachers do on a daily basis. Thanks to DVR, I was able to go through her final show and take away little nuggets that stuck with me. I can use them in the classroom and we all can use at some point in our lives.

#1- Do good and cause no harm: Oprah stated that in her beginning shows she had no plan or vision. She just wanted to do a good job and cause no harm. As a beginning teacher, or a veteran teacher at the beginning of a new school year, many may become overwhelmed. What if this happens? What about that? We may feel like we need to have all the answers. However, at the root of it all, we want to do a good job. Do the best according to your abilities. Seek out help from your colleagues; they should be more than willing to help. It’s a given that we would not want to hurt our students but we need to be conscious of our actions and our words so that do not have a negative impact.

#2- At times she was tired, but she showed up because her audience was waiting: There were times that even during my student teaching, that I became mentally exhausted. You can give so much wanting a student(s) to achieve. There are meetings, PDs, extracurriculars, assessments, emails to answer…Sometimes you may feel that there isn’t enough coffee in the world to give you the jolt you need. Yet, you show up! When you enter that classroom, you enter ready to inspire. Why? Because you have a class of students that deserve nothing less.

#3- Take responsibility for the energy you bring into the space: Oprah explained what she believes about energy and then showed a sign that hangs in Harpo studios displaying the above phrase. Anyone who stops by, or is there to give a presentation, should be held responsible for what they bring into the class. Teachers, this goes for you as well. Kids can sense your mood and attitudes. They can also feed off your energy. There are times when are frustrated or tired but when you see that even one student is enthusiastic to learn it will fuel your excitement.  

#4- Incorporate variety and complexity: Oprah was proud and gave praise to her producers and those who worked on the show for the variety and complexity they brought to the table every day. As a result, she made a connection with people from diverse areas and caused them to want to be/do/live/dream better. Teachers are always encouraged to provide variety in their instructional strategies, HOTQs, and HE statements. The goal is to be able to reach diverse learners in order for them to become successful. When it is coupled with a certain level of challenge, everyone rises to reach higher levels of accomplishment.

#5- Mrs. Duncan: Part of her final show was dedicated to sharing memories and giving honor to her favorite teacher, Mrs. Duncan. We can learn a lot from the “Mrs. Duncans” in our lives. Thoughts of our favorite teachers and their actions can be used as the influence that makes us want to become better teachers, better leaders, or better individuals in the world. An added bonus is that you may become a Mrs. Duncan to someone one day!

This final show concluded with no frills, no car giveaways, or makeovers; only Oprah speaking from her heart to the audience. While technology integration or even handing out a piece of chocolate every now and then doesn’t hurt (think “You get a Reese Cup! You get a Reese Cup!”-- you knew it was coming, right?), in essence all you need in your classroom is you; being yourself and teaching from your heart. Genuinely make a connection with your students and make an effort to engage them. In the end, you can be proud that you have lived your passion and “grateful for the opportunity” to have been a teacher.



  1. I hope you plan to getting your doctorate. You will be great. I mean it. How insightful. You have such a "teaching heart". Here's hoping you are getting some rest and gearing up for next year. I love your writing. I feel a book in your future.

  2. I just realized I typed "getting" instead of "get". Sorry. That's what I get for now doing the "preview".

  3. Thanks Ms. Adams! I am still going back and forth about the doctorate. I'm focusing on landing a full time position in the fall right now. Wish me luck.