Meet the children where they are: It’s important to tailor learning to match where each student is now. One class I taught had children of multiple ages and multiple ability levels from learning their letters to reading at a 3rd grade level. It’s important to focus your attention on each child instead of the class as a whole, which helps boost confidence and growth.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Justine Green.
Author Justine Green was born with Atresia and Microtia. Microtia is a condition where the outer ear does not develop properly and Atresia is the absence of the ear canal, leaving her deaf in her left ear. Knowing she was different from birth, and boasting three reconstructive surgeries under her belt, Justine learned to read lips and worked hard through school. She used her disability as motivation instead of an excuse, and ultimately found her life’s purpose through these challenges. Her passion for inspiring others moved her to write a story based on her own life, Completely Me, to teach readers to love themselves and others, and that everyone’s imperfections are what make them perfect.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Dr. Green! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I am an educator, author, and disability advocate based in Boca Raton, Florida, where I currently serves as the Principal at Tamim Academy. I was born with Atresia and Microtia. Microtia is a condition where the outer ear does not develop properly and Atresia is the absence of the ear canal, leaving me deaf in my left ear.
Knowing I was different from birth, and boasting three reconstructive surgeries under my belt, I learned to read lips and worked hard through school. I used my disability as motivation instead of an excuse, and ultimately found my life’s purpose through these challenges. My passion for inspiring others moved me to write a story based on my own life, Completely Me, to teach readers to love themselves and others, and that everyone’s imperfections are what make them perfect!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One Summer I worked for YES Camp by Urgent, inc. in Overtown, FL. YES stands for Youth Empowerment Summer Camp which provides a safe space to learn and grow for many children who live in Overtown. One day, a mentor of mine walked into the classroom while I was teaching and asked the children, “who thinks they are going to grow up to be at least 20 years old?” Not one child raised their hand. I found out that one girl slept below the window of her one-bedroom apartment with eight brothers and sisters, whom she took care of instead of going to school. This brought me to tears. How could I let them go home knowing this? The guilt ran right through me. My mentor took me aside and explained that there is no guilt in education if you come every morning and give those children the love, attention, and support they need. You never know what’s happening in a child’s home life, but you can control what happens at school with you. You can give them love, food, water, shelter, protection, encouragement, and belief that they are going to do great things.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently developing the next book in my series which tells the “true” story of a young girl with Cerebral Palsy. I hope to turn Completely Me into a series where I introduce new friends with new disabilities. This will allow teachers and parents to have the tools to explain why others may look, move, or speak differently than we might be used to, but that those children are still perfect.
I’m also working with Special Olympics Young Athletes program to provide 1,000 copies of Completely Me to children with disabilities from around the country!
Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Meet the children where they are: It’s important to tailor learning to match where each student is now. One class I taught had children of multiple ages and multiple ability levels from learning their letters to reading at a 3rd grade level. It’s important to focus your attention on each child instead of the class as a whole, which helps boost confidence and growth.
- Provide Hands-On learning opportunities: There are many different types of learners just like Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Everyone learns differently. Many different types of learners benefit from interacting with the concept. Use it as an extension if needed, but children learn from doing.
- Be kind and have high expectations: I know how hard it is when you’re on your last nerve and that one student who always acts up is acting up again, but try to remember that the ones who give us the most difficulty are the ones who need our love and need someone to believe in them the most. Each behavior has a purpose and we have to be kind to every child and constantly remind them of the high expectations we have for their achievement and behavior. You never know what’s really going on in a child’s home and we have to provide love, support, and kindness to each child who walks through our door.
- Use your time wisely: If you only have one planning period per day and you know that certain days are more difficult than others, use some new time management strategies. It is vital as an effective educator to have backup plans on backup plans because the one thing I love most about education is that no day ever goes exactly according to plan. You have to be ready and that comes with being prepared. Prep days in advance so your planning periods can be used to adjust based on what’s really happening at school that day.
- Brain breaks are real: Children need brain breaks. If you’re feeling drained, tired, and frustrated, they may be feeling the same way! I taught a second-grade class who was bouncing off the walls one day and would not pay attention. Instead of forcing a lesson on the students that they would not grasp, and I would be exhausted afterwards, I let them tell me that they needed a brain break. We got up, danced, sang, tried some exercises and then, like magic, they were all able to sit down and listen to the story.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
Pay teachers what they deserve to be paid. Respect your teachers. Listen to them and what they’re telling you about your child. There are certain parts of the country where parents think they pay for their child’s education, so they deserve to dictate and boss around their child’s teacher. The way some teachers are treated by parents and administrators is upsetting. Teaching is the only profession that creates all the others. There would not be any other professions without someone teaching those lessons. Please remember that and be kind to your educators.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Everyone you meet knows something you do not. You are able to learn something new every day and we have to embrace those learning moments. If you have children present, model the moment for them. “Wow. I never knew that before. I love to learn; do you think you can teach me more about this?” It’s important for children to see that learning never stops and that it’s fun for adults to learn new things, too! It also teaches children to say that it’s okay not to know something and to take the time to learn.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
The last time you asked me this question I said Oprah, which is still true…. But, I thought I’d tell you another person. I would love to meet with Judy Blume. I grew up reading her books and I recently watched her Masterclass. She is someone I look up to as an author and entrepreneur. I could learn so much from speaking with her and hopefully, she could learn a few things about disability advocacy from me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!