Redirecting Applause

No one will ever describe me as humble. Ever. Like Lady Gaga, I live for “the applause, applause, applause. I live for the applause-plause, live for the applause-plause!”

With that said, I one time misspelled “ego” in my school’s spelling bee: “eago.” This ironic tragedy haunts me throughout my academic pursuits and serves as an omnipresent karmic sting that I completely deserve.

I traveled a long journey before I realized that my successes were not a result of my own tenacity and acumen, but rather a result of mentorship, tutoring, and guidance. I did not take compliments well as a kid (read: person under 30). I was unable to navigate agreeing with the compliment and quelling my own hubris. Perhaps many others learn this early on, but only recently did I realized that an appropriate response to a compliment was to attribute that compliment to whomever guided me to this success.

I have often regarded Mrs. Trakes, an elementary school teacher, as the singularly most influential person in my cognitive development. She taught me how to persevere, think critically, and problem solve. She instilled work-ethic and taught me about consequences and deadlines.

Ms. Stahlbush, my wonderful high school teacher for three years, had the pleasure of accepting my arrogance and teaching me how to channel it into leadership. She appreciated my skills, and patiently taught me to guide others. Ten years later, when I decided to teach, she was the first person I told of my career-changing plan. We are now colleagues and I easily attribute nine out of ten of the compliments I receive to Ms. Stahlbush. “Oh you like that? Ms. Stahlbush showed it to me!”

I fortunately work with many passionate and experienced teachers. I beg, borrow, and steal lessons from everyone. I ask other freshman teachers what they are doing, and I ask the sophomore teachers what skills they expect from my students. My “original” ideas stem from Mrs. Trakes and every teacher who molded my brain to think beyond parameters and synthesize unique ideas.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “I am a part of everything I have ever read.” Similarly, my teaching persona is comprised of every teacher who taught me or with whom I have worked.

So, I am endlessly thankful for the mentoring I have received and will receive. With this reflection, I am more eager to connect with my students and push them to new heights. Likewise, I know one day it will be my duty to mentor younger teachers.

If I were to be pithy, I would say: “Get a mentor; be a mentor.”

As a teacher, you deserve your own applause. Please also take the time to applaud those who molded us, and those whom we mold.

Who mentored you? Who have you mentored? What successes have you stoked in students? Share your comments about applause-worthy teachers, colleagues, and students below! Then, give them an ego (“E-G-O, ego”) boost. Tell them how much you appreciate them.



James King

My favorite words are “dapper” and “adventure.” With an unkempt proclivity, I manage to exemplify only one of these words into my classroom every day. The reason I chose English is simple: adventure lives in books. I get to take students wading into the Mediterranean, strolling along the Mississippi, or hiking the Himalayas without leaving their desks.

I teach at my alma mater, after using 12 years to explore the world – beyond the verse, poetry, and prose I adore. I spent time traveling Central, and North America, The Caribbean, and Europe. I worked at Walt Disney World for many years, ultimately overseeing training for 50,000 employees. Entertaining and serving guests from all around the world, I also trained and managed international employees.

I was a substitute teacher in the nation’s third-largest school district for 4 years and graduated from the University of Central Florida. My education degree emphasized English, Communication, and Commerce; this assisted me in obtaining English Language Arts and Career and Technical teaching certifications here in Arizona.

Aside from grading, reading, tweeting (@PhxJayKing), and blogging, I also sponsor a surprising popular Book Club on campus, and you might find me playing sand volleyball any given night of the week.

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