My first cube. Leo Burnett 1986, Prudential Building, Chicago
My first cube. Leo Burnett 1986, Prudential Building, Chicago

I have a secret. I’m not a real teacher. I just play one on the internet.
Everything that I know about teaching I learned from advertising. My years of writing commercials to sell kids things that they don’t need prepared me for selling them what they do. Diphthongs, punctuation and thesis statements. You never tell kids they need a bowl of talking cereal, you simply make them want it.

Unfortunately, teaching doesn’t come with the perks of advertising. There are no focus groups to test the directions on a worksheet. Or account guys to do the paperwork. Or art directors to make props and hats and books and ideas that never look as good as they do on P’interest.

Antoni Gaudi style salamander with jelly bean spots. school project.
Antoni Gaudi style salamander with jelly bean spots.

I crave feedback. Every teacher does, especially during this Covid-19 vortex.

Well, I got a colorful load of it on my birthday.

Thanks to my wonderful assistants, otherwise known as parents, my first graders gave me a surprise party for my 109th birthday. Being armed with crayons, scanners, construction paper, and more patience than I can fathom, moms helped their students create birthday cards and videos. The event was orchestrated by Miss Levy, my amazing classroom manager.
I cried, partially menopause, partially because I need the praise.

As schools around the globe scramble to figure out online learning, there has been little time for sleep let alone positive feedback. And trust me, teaching a third-grader not to hold their phone upside- down during ZOOM is harder than you think.

Well, my sister, who allows me to transform her kitchen counter into my classroom every night, often comments on how well I engage my students. Her words have been as important to me as her spare bedroom.
“Ginger, your students really like you.”

I looked at her then pointed to the screen, where cyber chaos was going on.

“If they do, why is Claire eating quail eggs in class?”

That’s when I thought of another great pearl of adver-wisdom, from Seth Godin:

“If failure is not an option, than neither is success.”

Online teaching has been a time where teachers and students learn as we fail, and by the time we have it all figured out, the coast will be clear to go back in our classrooms. Still, I think it’s time to look at what’s right, not wrong. Even if a student’s diaper-less brother streaks through ZOOM, it will get everyone’s attention.

If you have time, thank a teacher for reaching for the stars. If you are a teacher, praise a coworker.

And everyone, thank, thank thank the parents.

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