The One Thing All Great Teachers Do Nick Fuhrman TEDxUGA

[Music] forty-five minutes that's the amount of time it can take to change somebody's life forever it happened to me I'm gonna take you back to Maryland and me as a seven year old I grew up in Perry Hall Maryland and I'm sitting on a carpet square on this particular Tuesday morning an elementary school and I was on the edge of the carpet square and my friends and I were all on the edge because there was a guy who was coming to visit our school on this particular day it was known as Ranger bill Ranger bill worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Ranger bill was an environmental educator and he brought with him that day a turtle when a snake and an owl and a hawk and a vulture and he came in and this guy was looking snazzy he had this great-looking uniform on all these animals and he had you tained us it wasn't just teaching he was entertaining us he had us on the edge of that carpet square and I watched this guy teach this day and I remember 45 minutes is the amount of time he spent with us and then he left and I remembered thinking to myself I want to be like that guy I want to be like Ranger bill the way he looked the way he was teaching everything and the animals he was using all these animals had injuries and they had stories and they were ambassadors of the messages that he was sharing well I went home that day and told my parents about and I guess I kind of became a ranger bill groupie because I went out and I started following this guy around me probably wondered what is this little kid the seven or eight year old kid doing in the back of the room watching me everywhere I go he'd go to the library we go up there and see him all these things that picture there with Little Nicky there Ranger Nick with the uniform holding the eastern kingsnake you know I finally got the courage to go up and talk to Ranger bill even after doing a junior Ranger program with Ranger Bill I'm about eight years old at the time and I ended up saying is there anything that I can do to be around you more to shadow you to help you and I tell you what he said yes are you sure Ken and I ended up for about the next eight years cleaning a lot of cages out all right and the owls and hawks are not the cleanest animals in the world but I got a chance to be around this guy and watch the way he was teaching and I'd go out with him on the stages in different places and watch him teach and after a little while maybe I was 11 or 12 he'd said Nick why don't you hold this turtle and stand up and talk about it a little better and it why don't you hold this Eastern screech owl and tell the audience about it a little bit I did that stuff and I turned 16 and Ranger bill says to me I've been doing this eight years going out and talking and Ranger bill says that Nick this is all you've ever known is watching me teach and want to teach with animals so why don't we offer you a job so I was the youngest guy working for the state of Maryland the Department of Natural Resources little 16 year old kid with my ranger uniform and everything and I would start going out there and using animals to teach with now you had to be 18 to drive a state vehicle so I had to drive my old Chevy Blazer I'd put the seats down in the back I'd put those carriers the birds in there and we'd go out and I'd talk and I couldn't teach a bunch of high school kids I was younger than they weren't even gonna listen to me but I could go out I could teach younger kids and I visit camps and things and use animals and teaching I remember one day it was in November sometime I was at an event and I was holding an owl on my glove over here and I remember a news guy came up to me and he had a camera there and put it my face and he said I'm standing here with Ranger Nick and when he said that I felt like I had really made it you know my whole life this is all at him my great grandmother used to say you really called me her little preacher boy and if I didn't do this Ranger thing I'd probably become a preacher and people say well maybe you ought to think about doing it but I didn't and I that guy called me that and it was a profound moment well I continued to teach him with those animals for a number of years and that led me down a path to college and graduate school and at the University of Georgia now for 10 years teaching students how to do wood ranger bill did 31 years ago still talking about it and he was there for 45 minutes profound impact Ranger bill wasn't just presenting information he was teaching it and there's a difference I want you to think for a second about a great teacher in your life what would you put in that blank great teachers what think about it I'll give you seven and a half seconds no cheating keep it to yourself I'm gonna come back to it in a couple of minutes we're gonna talk about that because I have my own thoughts about what great teachers do the first thing that I think great teachers do is they celebrate mistakes errors things that happen that weren't planned that we have a choice as an educator whether to capitalize on this or ignore it bob ross that television artist that paints things on TV call some happy accidents it's a happy accident we made here okay in the education world we call these things teachable moments just makes it sound better you make a mistake you call it a teachable moment and and sometimes from time to time I don't know if y'all know if y'all see this or not I know I'm not supposed to leave the rug but something's going on over here I hope they forgive me I'm gonna come over here talk about a teachable moment look what's going on right here this you're not you're not gonna hang what are you doing what you're not gonna believe this not that this was planned or anything but all of a sudden I look over there and there's our state reptile a gopher tortoise we're talking about teachable moments I had a choice to make right now I could have either ignored that and continued on or it could have become a distraction and so I thought let's capitalize on it's a teachable moment so let's talk about if you don't mind and dogs me first let me tell you a little bit about Shelby okay let's show and look at the face I mean is that not the cutest so Shelly is 12 years old she'll get almost a hundred years old when she's at her max on life span she'll get about three times the size Shelly is a gopher tortoise a state reptile a lot of people didn't know George out-of-state reptile that's pretty cool she is a keystone species man that sounds important and it is just like an archway has a bunch of stones on it and there's one stone at the top that holds all those other stones in place if you take that key stone at the top away all the other stones fall down you take this little lady out of an ecosystem keystone species all these other animals are gonna be impacted because she digs these gigantic burrows in the ground that are the size of a school bus and when fires come through in South Georgia and North Florida all the animals that the fire would otherwise burn up these animals go into her burrow so she is essential in an ecosystem and she is a species of concern right now these guys and gals are a whole lot out there anymore so we got to do what we can to help them so I'm so glad that she decided to make a little entrance every once a while she'll kind of whet our luck she's waving at EULA you do that to kids and the kids everybody's waving back you know that's just something else all right lady well I tell you what I'm Aliyah this breakfast is gonna come out here a turtle herder thank you back I'm gonna give her back to you look at that she's frisky now be careful yeah celebrate mistakes next time you make a mistake call it a teachable moment you'll feel a whole lot better about yourself and other people it's a teachable moment first thing great teachers do is they celebrate mistakes second thing I think they do because they appreciate differences and I don't need to tell you that as a professor at UGA I got a lot of different kinds of students in my classes everybody's different and that's great because they bring all these different perspectives and levels of experience into that classroom but every one of them has something in common and every one of them has something in common just like most of us do in this room tonight everybody deals with public speaking anxiety sure communication anxiety and the students that are in this class come into this class with me that I call teaching with animals and it is just what you can imagine a class about teaching with animals we learn about public speaking but we integrate animals like that animal in that picture and help students overcome overcome anxiety by handling an animal and teaching with it and they'll tell me they'll say Ranger Nick they'll say when I'm holding this turtle or this snake or this alligator of the salamander I don't feel like everybody's looking at me they're looking at the animal and I can relax and I can be a better teacher and not just a presenter appreciating those differences is so important one of the best things that I've ever done at the University of Georgia through that class is have those students come together take those animals and go about ten miles down the road to extra special people if you've never heard extra special people or ESP as we call it let me tell you if you're and that's right if you're in need of a hug go on down to ESP you will feel so welcomed and so appreciate ESP is a place with literally hundreds of folks with disabilities with issues come together and they thrive special needs they come together I get my students with those animals and some of those students are scared to death to stand out in front an audience and give a presentation and I get it but they go to ESP and they see those faces just like my student Dakota there and they take that snake out or that turtle that salamander they interact with those special needs kids and they see this difference that they can make those participants look at my students like they're celebrities they come to ESP and they want to take pictures together they know the animals they know the animals by name and my students visit there and it builds their confidence appreciating differences think about it yes P I tell you what an incredible organization so the second thing great teachers do is they appreciate differences the third thing that great teachers do I think there's relay feedback now when I'm in class I can look out at my students and I can see if somebody might be having a bad day or something's on their mind and I can ask him about it hey how's everything going there give him a pat on the back and had a boy and a girl fist bump a high-five everybody needs that positive feedback we're so sometimes caught up on negative things that we don't take time to say hey you did a good job on that well students of mine know that I enjoy grading grading my assignments tells me how I'm doing as a teacher it's a really cool thing and my students know that if you get a 90% or above on one of my assignments I put a stamp on it and I have friends of mine that know that I teach college and they say Nick I mean they're not second graders you're putting this asset yeah you get a 90 percent or about I put a turtle stamp on there and I write now I write X shell that job I write it right on all right so and I do I do that every type you know oh come on and I look at their faces when they get it back in they're comparing hey I got a turtle on my novel but the one time that I thought to myself I don't know Nick you know I maybe I could just grade them in hand the back it doesn't really matter what I tell you it does I was teaching at a school to the south of here as a graduate student and it's a it's a big university it starts with an F ends with Laura de I know I'm not supposed to talk about it in Athens Georgia but I did go school down there there is credibility to this talk all right there really is let's get out of here this guy so I'm down there at that big university to the south of us and I'm teaching a big class as a PhD student down there's a big class a couple hundred students and a lot of football players would take this class and they would all sit down in the front down there and I'm day I was handed back assignments in class and I got done doing that went back to my little cubicle as grad student and I'm sitting there at my cubicle and there's a knock on the door of the grad student office and I'm kind of back in a corner of this big office in my cubicle and I look around at the door and there's one of the football players a linebacker and he's literate he looked like a refrigerator I'm in the guy he's taking up the whole door and and he's standing there and he's looking at me and he's got this assignment in his hand and it looked like a post-it note in his hand I mean that's how big the guy and he's standing there and he says Ranger Nick can I tell I love they call me arranging that Ranger Nick can I talk to come on in come on in he says I got a 91 on this and I didn't get a stamp and I he handed it to me and he this guy walked all the way across campus you know and I'm looking at it I'm sure enough I must have forgotten so he hands it to me and I can still see this like it was yesterday hands it to me I reach him to my desk and I had an owl stamp in my desk I still use today my students are here know this owl step it's a legitimate owl it is a good al and I took this little owl out and I inked it up and I stamped it on his page and I wrote owl standing work and I handed it back to him and you know he walked out of there just as proud smiling but he was gonna go show his mom Ranger Nick I earned an owl stamp and I said to my friends who get on me about Nick you know you give steps I said let me tell you if that big tough football player could walk all the way across campus with that assignment to tell me he didn't get a stamp weight to give me one I'm gonna do that until I retire from teaching it matters it matters it matters hey guys relay and feedback you got it you gotta tell people how you feel man you're doing a good job and that motivates them and they can't wait to do the next assignment what other stamp will he use I've got a leaf unbelievable work if you're having some problems I've got a paw positive improvement these kind of things great teachers relay feedback I think that great teachers also and this can be tough they evaluate themselves it's easy to take it personally it's easy to look at that as I I don't know I don't think they like me part you know but you look at what students are telling you and you got to be willing to change what you're doing if something's not working you got to look around the room at those facial expressions you got to look around the room at that body language do I need to change what I'm doing it's important evaluating yourselves in your environment is really key and I am sure that you're wondering what is this blacc table doing here with this black bag on top which by the way I know that you all can't see it but my wife gets me these bags and it says Ranger Nick on the front of it - it's kind of nice she's here tonight so inside of this bag is something that does a really good job at evaluating its environment and it uses multiple census to do this you know multiple pieces of data so I'm gonna reach into this bag and take this thing out and I promise I promise it won't get away from me okay promise I'm gonna hold on to this thing okay it's inside of a bag cause it's a really good way to transport it plus nobody knows what's in here so when I'm at work over there at UGA and I've got a bag with me in a meeting and the bag starts moving people most people don't know what's he got going on there somebody reaching here might take a I'm I introduced it she's called snowy is her name snowing she is a sweetheart she's a sweet girl she's home she's all warmed up and ready to go now I know what you're thinking and I appreciate that nobody jumped up Randall you know there's football players were the first ones to run away when I take a snake out tough guys I know you're wondering first thing isn't a poisonous snake first of all there are no poisonous snakes they're only venomous or non-venomous this is a corn snake this is totally they don't pay me enough to mess around with venomous snakes so it's a non venomous snake it's not venomous snowy is a corn snake snowy is a snow corn snake it's what she's called beautiful a little lady now this begs the question though how do you tell if a snake is venomous or not you know people ask mister what do you do well if you look it up in some of these textbooks here's what they tell you first thing they say is look at the shape of their head a non-venomous snakes head is an oval shape and a venomous snakes head is to try and give a shape because of the venom glands back there you got to get kind of close to a snake to tell what shave had about right all right proceed with caution the next way and get the laughing about this right I get to laughing about this yeah the next way they say in the textbooks the scientist is this what they take look at the shape of their eyes a non-venomous snakes pupils are round and a venomous snakes pupils are vertical slits like a cat's eye but can you imagine it Bobby get over here Ranger Nick said look at the shape of their eyes is this thing venomous or not by that time the things bit you on the nose you know so I always say when you see something as beautiful as this out in the wild wave at it say hey thanks for what you're doing don't get a shovel don't jump up down and scream appreciate what you're doing and walk away from it they are doing incredible stuff out there to help us here in Georgia and all around the world deal with rodents and things Snowy evaluates her environment just like all snakes do that tongue is flickering in and out tasting the inner wondering if anybody down in the front row has a mouse or a rat in their pocket I hope you don't she's about to eat again here soon she's tasting the air her belly senses vibrations so when she's on the ground she can feel things she's got this gland on the roof of her mouth that sense his heat because they hunt a lot at night so all of these senses she puts together to determine her surroundings where's food what's safe what's not same way a great teacher evaluates themselves with multiple points of data to make a decision about how we're doing Snowy is really really cool lady and she lives at home with us in an aquarium it's not loose but she lives at home and those students at ESP know Snowy very well when I go to ESP they asked me about snowy did you bring snowy today she's a great one I'm gonna ask miss Becca come back out snake Wrangler she was a turtle herder now she's snake Wrangler can I give you a snowy thank you ladies so much we'll give her a round of applause for taking care of that okay think about what you put in that blank a couple minutes ago great teachers what I imagined that not too many of us in this room wrote down that great teachers are the smartest person in the world or know everything there is to know about their subject the four points we talked about to me are really important celebrating mistakes appreciating those differences relaying that feedback and evaluating yourself I think the bottom line is really that great teachers just care right and that I tell you that is the coolest part of my job I get to act like me just like tonight with these animals which is apparently unheard of for this TED talk stuff to have animals and this is me this is Ranger Nick you know and to be able to do this stuff and empower and inspire folks with great teaching it's incredibly Ranger Bill 31 years ago 45 minutes he spent with me that set me on a path that I'm standing here tonight talking to you about I've never ever wanted to do anything else in my life but this tell you about animals and nature and inspire you by being me it's empowering I want you to leave tonight and think about the difference that you can make my title is an educator you know that's what I do I'm an educator but even though most of us in here might not be educators every one of you is a teacher all right so the next time you've got 45 minutes with somebody or even four minutes with somebody what are you gonna do to show them that you care I think that Maya Angelou said it best she said people will forget what she said people are gonna forget what you did but they're not gonna forget how you made them feel I hope this made you smile tonight I really appreciate you listening to me [Applause]