Every Monday, we post a manifesto from someone who has completed The Dig. During The Dig, each participant discovers the one word that best describes their purpose, and they write a manifesto about it. This week’s Manifesto was written by Tal Thompson. As one of the country’s most active teachers, Tal balances his time as a speaker, teacher, consultant, and trainer at school districts around the country. Tal was on Live with Kelly and Michael Show as one of the Top Teacher Finalists. Additionally, he was awarded the South Carolina Citizen Educator of the Year award. Known to his students as ‘Tall Tal’ or the ‘Human Jungle Gym’ Tal continues to teach with his unconditional passion – love.
Love, by Tal Thompson
Any teacher that is passionate about this profession called teaching can pinpoint the moment they knew this was going to be their calling. The story will go something like this… “I have always been good with kids and I like watching them learn and grow. One day I saw a kid that looked so sad and lonely. I talked to this kid and got to know her. The moment that kid’s eyes started to light up and connect with me, I knew I wanted to make that difference everyday.”
Well, that is very similar to my story. I was much like the Pied Piper growing up. Kids were drawn to me as I was a tall, goofy, human jungle gym. I loved to entertain, laugh, and play with kids. My immaturity played a role as well I am sure. One day in high school, I was finishing up a weeklong basketball camp for kids in our community. I always tried to make connections with all of the kids. One kid in particular, was a wreck when he showed up at the beginning of the week. He couldn’t make eye contact, hated being in a group, and flinched when high fived or given a pat on the back. Was he an extreme introvert or a victim of child abuse? Knowing what I know now, it would have been an easy assessment. As a 16 year-old high school kid, I just knew I wanted to crack that shell. All week I spent extra time with this kid. We talked during breaks and I walked him to his car after camp. I will never forget that Friday as camp ended. As I walked him to his car and we were both giggling and exchanging high fives, he turned around and hugged me and said, “Bye…I wish you were my dad.” He then turned and ran away. I was hooked. Realizing I could make that kind of a change in a child’s life was what hooked me into a lifelong journey of working with kids. I went home and told my parents I had figured out my path and then cried myself to sleep as I wondered what that kid’s life must be like.
I LOVE kids.
I LOVE making kids understand the value of love and trust within a classroom.
I LOVE teaching a kid to be so confident that taking a risk seems not only comfortable, but a must.
I LOVE getting out of the way so that a kid’s inner passion/gift can finally be seen by the world.
I LOVE building a class of equity where every thought, belief, risk, and chance is not only openly received and accepted, but also expected.
I LOVE promoting failure and struggle as a way to see kids embrace and equip themselves for a life of trials and tribulations as well as success.
I LOVE facilitating learning vs forcing knowledge at them.
I LOVE seeing kids form their own views on history and current events so they can become informed decision makers in the future.
I LOVE watching kids learn about the value of LOVE.
So what does the word love mean to me? Love is the “foundation” for all I do. When love is the foundation for all you aim to accomplish, the “ceiling” goes higher and higher. The “doors” that open when love is present are confidence, equality, individualism, respect, risk-taking, inquiry, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, struggle, expectations, empathy, compassion, and tough love.
LOVE is clearly my word. It dictates every decision I make. It makes every kid a better kid for being surrounded by it. It makes me a better person for fostering this love within my class. So yeah, I LOVE… love.
Interested in doing a Dig and finding your word? Click here for more info.