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Sheryl Green: Teachers do whatever it takes

I heard of this local teacher who sings in his science class. Sometimes he adds a little beat box to his lessons, and supposedly, occasionally, he even stands on a chair. Unorthodox, I know.

Most of us remember the good ol' days when teachers gave their lessons the straight-and-narrow way, backdropped by green chalk boards. With hands covered in chalk dust, they passed out purple ditto sheets, and students raced to be the first one finished.

We remember a time when students wanted to learn and knew how to imagine. We recall a time, too, when schools were safe, and no one could comprehend bringing violence into a place of learning.

But times have changed.

And the reality is, so have teachers. Gone are the days when teachers can assume kids have eaten dinner or had a warm bed to sleep in. Gone are their assumptions that a parent is at home to help with homework. And past are the ideas that many of our students have the desire to push through challenging content.

Some might gawk at Oliver Ellis's unconventional ways. Others may walk the halls of Fort Middle School, hear a faint sound of rap music, and not understand. But we teachers get it. We understand that in order to reach the students in our desks, we must get a little creative.

If it means brushing up our vocal cords, we'll do it. If it means traveling to Atlanta to sit before a world-renowned educator like Ron Clark, we'll do it. That's what Mr. Ellis is willing to do for his seventh-grade science class. And many local teachers go to similar extremes in order to pique the interest of their students.

After all, our Atari upbringings are competing with Xbox video games that look way too real. Our Commodore 64s have shrunk to the size of an iPhone, and our Polaroid cameras have long since been replaced by the Selfie Stick. Times have indeed changed, and it's a matter of principle for us teachers. We acknowledge the desperate need to mold to the changing of times.

And we also more importantly understand the trust our community places upon us. You entrust into our hands the very core of your being -- your children. We don't take that responsibility lightly.

I am inspired by Mr. Ellis. I tried just the other day, in fact, to sing Alanis Morissette's classic, "Ironic," to explain irony in a story. (What a flop that was.) Although I can't sing a lick, I have been in Oliver's shoes before, like all teachers have.

Those times when blank stares bore holes into our well-planned lessons, and we say to ourselves, "OK, yeah, this isn't working."

There is a certain resilience colleges cannot teach in "teacher school." It's a resilience that comes only from experience. The off-the-cuff way teachers can try a different approach to explaining photosynthesis. The sacrificed episode of "Law and Order: SVU" because we have to think of another way to teach algorithms tomorrow. Or the bottom desk drawer full of snacks because a child didn't eat breakfast.

It's the whatever-it-takes mentality that makes our local teachers people to be inspired by. I am thankful to be in the company of so many teachers who can and will do almost anything to teach our children.

I encourage you to open the lines of communication with a classroom teacher. Take her out to coffee and listen to her stories of sacrifice. Chat with him at a football game to hear what neat things he does to reach his students. You will be inspired, too.

Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at