Gerry Brooks on Coffee, Climate & Culture

Kami Connect Keynote Sessions | Gerry Brooks

Today, I’m bringing some object lessons. I’m a 24-year veteran educator and I love to teach with objects, because when you use an object to teach, it creates stronger associations back to lessons you’ve learned six, seven, eight months down the road. 

So to take you through some lessons today, I’m going to be using some of my favorite objects: coffee cups, connected to one of my favorite activities: coffee drinking.

The Sloth

First up, my absolute favorite coffee cup: The Sloth. On the back, it says, “Live slowly”

It’s my favorite because it reminds me to live slowly – just like sloths do. 

We, teachers, live in such a stressful world where we’re supposed to go go go all the time, even on the weekends. So my first challenge for you today is to understand the importance of slowing down in education. 

We have parents that expect us to answer emails at nine o’clock at night on a Tuesday; we have administrators that expect us to be in the building on the weekends, jumping at requests. 

But what we need is an understanding of the importance of slowing down in order to survive. 

One of the best things about education is that we get breaks, but they only work if we actually take them. If we don’t, then before you know it, we’re starting a new school year or term completely exhausted. So don’t be afraid to lie in, forget about making the bed every morning, and tell your kids they can order take-out ‘cause you’re not cooking. This is how we keep our minds and bodies at their best for our students and each other. If we refuse to slow down, chances are we’ll all end up leaving the profession earlier than we should – leaving students without inspired mentors to guide them through their learning journey. 

So during your next school break, remember to slow down; read books; spend some time at the pool; spend time with your family and simply forget about education.

The Cat

Second coffee cup: The Cat.

Another favorite cup I bring to school is one I got from the Dollar Store, which says “Check meowt”. I got this one because I have a teacher that absolutely loves cats and I’ve used it to start conversations with her. 

This is called an open door – an open door is created by someone or something that invites conversation with someone else with the intent to build a relationship. 

The number one aspect to being happy in your workplace, happy in education; to staff stability, and retention, is positive and healthy relationships in the workplace. 

You’ve probably felt this yourself; teachers will travel an extra 30 or 40 minutes to be at school if they have positive relationships. They will stay in rough or difficult schooling environments if they have positive relationships and therefore more purpose. 

These strong relationships are all built on open doors, that you not only have to introduce but walk through yourself by simply paying attention. Pay attention when you’re walking through hallways, scrolling social media, in staff meetings when others are conversing. Because when you’re listening, watching, noticing what people are wearing or are bringing to school, you’re welcoming an opportunity to have an open door. 

This works with everyone, including students. When you have a child that comes in wearing a Star Wars shirt, you have an open door to build a relationship and start conversations with them. And you’ll always have something to talk about because you’ve paid attention. 

I believe one of the most important things is spending the first few minutes of every meeting opening doors. Do this by simply approaching the topic as you’re getting ready to start by saying, “Okay, let’s do some open doors – share what your favorite movie is.” 

So by the time you’ve gone to 27 staff meetings and 42 team meetings; some PTA meetings and some grade-level meetings, you’d have learned three or four different things about people around you.

In education, we have to understand that there are open doors all over the place. All we have to do is walk through them and make quick mental notes that can build strong relationships. Because the number one aspect of workplace happiness is relationships at work.

The Broken Cup

Next: The Broken Cup.

This is another Dollar Store cup, but I’ve broken it and put it back together for the purpose of this particular object lesson. 

What’s the lesson? The fact this cup is still perfectly usable. 

I got this idea from going to third-world countries on mission trips. I was a youth minister for a long period of time and we always went to Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, and places where they aren’t as able to just replace a cup or something that’s broken. 

For example, when we were in Haiti; we often ate on dinner plates that had been cracked and glued back together again. But the thing is, they were great – perfectly usable. 

This is like our relationships; once we break a relationship, we may be able to fix it, but it will never be exactly the same. This includes relationships we build at school with other teachers, students, and their parents. So we have to be very careful in all situations and the way we handle these different relationships. 

Let me ask you this; have you ever been extremely frustrated with a child and shown anger towards them? Now that relationship might need work, and you can have a good relationship with that child, but the bottom line is, sometimes our words and our anger can break or alter relationships to the point where they won’t be the same again. So one of the most important things we can do is think about and plan around how we deal with these situations, especially when we know we’re going to be in a stressful situation. Because if we choose to act in a way that breaks a relationship, we may never get that relationship back. 

So those were my coffee cups, and that was my object lesson. I really truly hope this encourages you in whatever position you’re in. Remember; sloth out, open doors (and walk through them), and approach relationships with a plan, so you don’t end up losing something special. 

Now go out and be the best educator you can be. 

Resources

Blog: https://blog.edgenuity.com/why-do-you-teach/ 

Speaker: As famous as he is hilarious, Gerry Brooks has been an elementary principal for 15 years. Originally using humorous videos to encourage his staff, Gerry has become a national encourager for teachers. He is a voice for teachers, but his passion is leading others to be responsible for their climate and culture in the workplace. Follow him on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Website: gerrybrooksprin.com

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YouTube: Gerry Brooks