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The 4 H’s of Education: What I Learned from Teach for America

March 5, 2009

I was grateful to be one of the FedEx team members to take part in Teach for America week.  A week created to show support of an important organization making great strides to place the nation’s most promising future leaders into classrooms across the country. 

Education is a topic that’s very important to me.  In addition to being the father of two, I sit on the board of trustees of Bridges Incorporated, a non-profit organization in Memphis working to provide experiential, hands-on learning in preparing youth to be community leaders in fighting racism, poverty and educational challenges.  This is an organization I feel very strongly about, but more on Bridges another day. 

I visited East High School in Memphis and was able to tour two classes before teaching.  I was there to teach the Four Ps of marketing: price, product, placement and promotion, but I was taught the 4 H’s of Education: Hope, Heart, Higher Standards and Heroes.  I was so amazed at the amount of work taking place inside the halls East High School, I felt compelled to share with you all. 

The first class I visited was Nick’s class.  He was a smart, driven young man who graduated from the University of Iowa.  I quickly noticed three things about his classroom: computers, trash and sports equipment everywhere.  After visiting with him for 15 minutes, I learned the computers were for the students’ blogs on evolution for their biology class.  The trash was really recycling bins.  Not only does Nick ask the students to recycle on the high school campus, but he encourages them to recycle at home and bring their recycling receptacles to school.  And the sports equipment, it’s baseball gear.  See, not only does Nick teach and recycle, but he’s also the baseball coach.  In fact, he’s also the athletic director.  See, because the school doesn’t have locker room space for baseball, he stores the equipment in his classroom. 

I continued on to Adam’s classroom.  Adam graduated from the University of Virginia.  He entered Teach for America because he wanted to give back.  After hearing the way Adam spoke about his passion for education, I likened him to someone serving his country.  The leadership shown by Adam in just 10 minutes made a memorable impression.  As I looked around his room, I saw letters in Spanish hanging all over.  Adam had introduced his classroom to a pen pal program with his old boarding school in Chicago—except all communication was done in Spanish. 

After hearing the trials and stories of these two exceptional young men, I was left with a few thoughts.

First, these kids, and others I’ve met through Bridges, want to be in school but life presents other challenges.  They have to overcome so many hurdles just to walk into the school building every morning.  Some don’t even make it to school until late morning.  Not because they don’t want to be in school, but because they rely on city transportation to get to school, or they have to care for their families first and then worry about school. 

Second, the amazing talents and leadership shown by these two young men and their decisions to do something very important and meaningful for our youth and country, is nothing short of heroic in my book. 

Lastly, the work being done by Teach for America is critical in helping our educational system continue to innovate and improve our country.  America’s teachers are vital to molding the future leaders of this country, and providing schools with fresh leaders educated in multiple disciplines, I feel, can only improve the educational environment. 

Thanks for taking the time to share in my experience.  I truly feel like I learned the most during my day in class.

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