by HANNAH BROADBENT
Last week the faculty of the Watertown Mayer School District spent four days prepping for their nine-month school year. This year Watertown Mayer has put an emphasis on a human connection.
On Tuesday, September the 29 the faculty had a boost in motivation when speaker Joe Beckman came to the school. Beckman spoke to all Watertown Mayer faculty on the importance of human connection, reminding them why what they do is so important.
“He was a very engaging speaker, he said exactly what many of us have been feeling coming back to school,” said high school math teacher Christine Fiscus. “It was very timely.”
Beckman is a resident of Chaska who grew up in the Twin Cities. He has been a public speaker for 15 years and has spoken at over 1,000 schools and to 500,000 students according to his website.
“I connect with kids very well, I’ve built connections with them so I can share that and provide tools – even for season vets connection gets lost in the shuffle,” Beckman said.
Beckman has put together a Youtube guide for teachers, complete with good music and funny videos. He said that of course all content is kid and teacher approved. He said content aggregation like that can take hours – so they’ve done it for the teachers.
“We’ve noticed a difference between silence in an auditorium and music,” Beckman said. “Just like funny videos – they create laughter and laughter creates connection.”
Beckman also has online resources for educators. He provides more than content for the teachers to utilize – he reminds them that what they do matters. He said he understands what they do can be a grind.
“Educators are the ones that will be setting kids up for success in schools and life – we don’t just want to provide tools but remind them that it matters that they show up everyday with a positive attitude,” he said.
Fiscus said for the past few years she has been trying to implement more connection and community minded activities into her math classroom. She has ‘mind-set Mondays’ and every Wednesday tries to have community building activities. Fiscus said the time with Beckman reminded her that she needs to stick with it all year long – instead of on an as-needed basis.
“I’m going to be very purposeful in selecting things to do all semester long instead of just forgetting about it,” she said.
She said listening to Beckman was helpful, and she appreciated the tools he provided. She said she knows that when you engage things like that with the students, they know you’re a real human being. One part of Beckman’s talk that really stood out to her is when he asked the faculty three core values they have. She said that was a good reminder of why she does what she does.
Fiscus said she thinks in her department especially it is important to have more than just math problems.
“Thinking of activities to connect the kids is important because teaching math doesn’t always flow naturally,” she said.
Superintendent Ron Wilke added to that, saying it can be very difficult to teach kids you don’t know. So it’s important that the student and educators trust each other. He said the students have to be motivated to be taught by them.
“Everyday we reach out to kids, and we have to be self-aware of how we affect them,” he said. “We wanted to support our staff with an uplifting message and get them back in touch with the nobility of what we do.”
Beckman said he knows the concept may be cutting-edge in schools. He said in this day and age school is the number one place where students have the opportunity to be talking about values, especially in a time where both parents are working.
“I would argue tooth and nail that this is important,” Beckman said. “If we’re not practicing this we’ve done them a huge disservice – as we go into this digital age it’s going to be even more important.
Fiscus said educators are aware that the kids are heading into an age of technological skills, so emotional skills are going to be even more important. She said the veteran teachers are best at knowing this and do a great job of teaching the younger teachers.
“We want to integrate life functions into the classrooms, this will support us and help us find more ways to sustain this,” Wilke said.
“At the end of the day math may or may not be remembered, but the fun they had in high school will be,” Fiscus said.
Beckman attended the middle school on Tuesday, September 5 to talk to the middle schools, he will be returning soon to talk to the elementary and high school kids.
Learn more about Joe Beckman here, https://joebeckman.com/.