4 ways my father has impacted my career as an educator 

Last May, I wrote a blog post on the lessons learned from my mother in regards to teaching. As my father’s birthday approaches next week, I have begun thinking about the aspects of my job/life that I have incorporated with values learned from my father.  

My father is a plumber by trade. Since I was in early grade school, he has been an inspector for a large city near Seattle. To make extra money, when I was growing up, he taught apprenticeship plumbers at a local union a few nights a week. My father rarely rests (something I think he should do more of) and can usually be found “fixing” something at his house or mine (yes – earlier this year a screw driver randomly fell down my dryer vent – I know what you are thinking HOW? – and I started the dryer. My dad quickly came to the rescue to remove and fix my dryer!) So as I have been reflecting, I intensely thought about the series of lessons instilled in me by my father, from which I draw on daily in my interactions with students, professionals, friends and family. 

1. Standing up for the underdog: Listen to my father’s stories and you will find a common theme. Throughout my father’s life, he has always found a way to stand up and be the voice for those less represented. Though I think if he could change his upbringing he would use more words and less fists to challenge bullies, he never looked away when he saw someone getting made fun of or pushed around. My father would not just step in but also find a way to elevate their voice and thoughts. Though it may have impacted his popularity or likeability, my father repeatedly gave voice to those who couldn’t or lacked the confidence to speak for themselves. As an educator, I pull on this aspect as I advocate for students who are unable or unwilling to advocate for their own needs. Further, I have worked to help them elevate their learning by giving them access to services or learning opportunities of which they previously did not have. Professionally, I listen to other teachers. If a teacher feels undervalued or attacked with harsh criticism, I ask them how I can assist in helping them feel valued and included in educational conversations. 

Being a voice for those who struggle to find or share their own voice has been a powerful lesson learned from my father. 

2. Stand up for yourself: My father is one who has an amazing ability to advocate for his needs. When dealing with confrontation or differences of opinion he is direct, thorough, and solutions based. He has consistently stood up to authority, whether it be by helping to create a union at the city or calling out wrongdoings by others in legal battles. He is his own best advocate and others respect his knowledge and directness, even if they disagree with him (as a grade inspector – where he analyzes how the grade of a hillside will support buildings, etc. he has developed a name as the “Rock Cop.” While some are challenged by his “by the book” approaches, my father is also well respected for explaining why such requirements help public safety, etc.)

In education, before presenting to others, I work to develop a content knowledge rooted in data and evidence of success. I advocate for ideas that I have personal experience with. Sure many disagree with my strong convictions for inquiry based mathematics and call for a return to “traditional” mathematics- but no one can challenge my passion with which I speak. I have learned to toot my own horn- so to speak-Identifying areas of personal success and using those to garner the respect and support for future initiatives. 

 My father taught me to share my voice, be ok with dissenting voices, and maintain true to my internal beliefs. 

3. You can be both strong and emotional: My father is a protector who can be overly protective at times. He has strong opinions, a slight temper and strongly supports our family. Yet, watch a dramatic movie with my father, and he will be one of the first to shed a tear. My father has never been afraid of emotion. He has surely had his fair share of tragedy and heartbreak. When my father is sad or shaken, you can see it. He doesn’t hide from it. My father wears his heart on his sleeve.

As an educator, I am known for firmness. Strong classroom management, high expectations and set structures make my classroom flow consistently. Yet, when a student hurts, I hurt. I am not always a source of strength when a student is dealing with a hardship. More often, if they cry, I empathize and cry alongside them. As much as I often wish I was less emotional- I have begun to embrace the potpourri of emotions that I feel- honoring that emotion as necessary to experience and move forward. Sure, my classes will be well behaved- but when a student needs someone to emphasize with them, I am there, tears flowing, to listen and share encouragement.

My father has taught me to express emotion, not run from it. To be honest to my internal feelings and be content with the public sharing of such. 

4. Give whatever/whenever possible: My father has always prioritized giving back to others. Whether it be working at the local high school football field and donating his wages or sponsoring local recreation basketball/t-ball teams, my father has given whatever he can. He prioritizes giving. He seeks out opportunities to find areas that he can donate to and uses whatever means he has to fill the need. His giving nature extends beyond charitable acts. When someone calls my father for advice or help, he will drop everything to show support. He can be found giving plumbing advice to friends, changing tires on family member’s cars, and working on home improvements for others.  

As an educator, I chose a life of service, in large part, due to the service demonstrated by my father. Someone recently told me that the passion for education has to outdo the work. Meaning, that my passion for giving back and for student learning, has to be paramount to getting a paycheck. Learning from my father, I can be found buying candy as rewards, books for students or paying for a yearbook for the underprivileged student. I understand that I was brought into the world a privileged individual and it is my obligation to give to others so they have a similar experience to my own. 

My father taught me to identity areas to give and to give freely and often as a responsibility to the betterment of society. 
As my father nears the end of his career and soon will transition into retirement, his work ethic has flowed into my own practice. Sure, like any father daughter team, we have disagreements and opportunities of tension. But more often, I watch the example that my dad has and continues to show me and embed these ideals into my own life. I am thankful for the honest, caring role model that my dad is and for the strength/support he has given and continues to give me. I feel lucky to pass these traits on to my own children and the staff and students I am so honored to work with. 



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