Can we be “really human” – flaws and all – and not some stereotype of our job description, gender, race, or nationality?
Communication would be so much easier if our co-workers, students, patients, clients, or family saw the whole person beyond the role we are playing in certain aspects of our lives.
Today we introduce you to someone special who is putting it all out there for his students, family, and all of us. Jeffrey Wright is a teacher at Louisville Male Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and it’s easy to see he is a master in the art of teaching… but he is much more.
He’s also a master at being really human: connecting, caring, staying open to better questions, coping, and adjusting his expectations in a healthy way.
Here is a Mr. Jeffrey Wright, a “whole person” for the ages:
Now that is the definition of “keeping it real.” And we could stop there today, but I’d like to take this a little further and ask a few questions that might bring this all home…
Can we be really human when we are dentists and waitresses, pilots and social workers, bankers and teachers, builders and every other productive person who plays a role in society?
Maybe that’s what we like about true artists: they seem so willing to just put themselves out there for all the world to see, and even braver, they expect to be judged! Artists put their heart and soul into their work and risk exposing their flaws, skills, dreams, ego, their passion and their struggles.
Many of the best teachers are that way too! And for all the risk that involves, most of them get back a kind of admiration and devotion from students that inspires and changes lives.
I was recently in line getting ready to go through the whole TSA screening process in an airport when I came upon the most extraordinary fellow directing us all to remove our laptops, shoes, belts, etc. Rather than drone on, with a scowl at us all, he was the picture of humanity: funny, upbeat, kind, appreciative, patient.
He joked with those who looked like they needed to lighten up. He talked softly and carefully to the elderly who seemed at a loss. He had some amazingly engaging riffs with the teens, and played with the little tykes as if he were one of them.
All the while, helping us comply with the rules. It was a joy to be in his presence.
When it was my turn to get the shtick, I put my hand on his arm and thanked him very loudly. People started clapping who were in earshot of the conversation. He beamed. It was a teaching moment for all of us.
Here’s a quote from Mr. Wright about why he feels he needs to put it all there for the kids to appreciate when he is teaching physics in such an extraordinary way:
When you look at physics, it’s all about laws and how the world works,” he told me. “But if you don’t tie those laws into a much bigger purpose, the purpose in your heart, then they are going to sit there an ask the question ‘Who cares?’
“Kids are very spiritual – they want a bigger purpose. I think that’s where this story gives them something to think about.” 2
Thank you Mr. Wright for teaching us a thing or two today!
In 2012, one of Mr. Wright’s former students – one of the many who have been touched by Wright’s incredible ability to teach more than just notes, figures, and theorems but rather life skills and deep, outside-the-box thought – Zack Conkle made a 13-minute documentary highlighting Mr. Wright’s incredible, impactful way of teaching… as well as his lessons of life as he himself learned through working with his disabled son, Adam. That video, above, from the New York Times by Zack Conkle, won the College Photographer of the Year competition in 2012 at the University of Missouri where Conkle studied.
If you’d like to read a wonderful interview that that quote and this video each came from, jump over to the original New York Times article Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love by clicking here.