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Norton: Adding experience to life’s greatest teachers

This column is dedicated to all the wonderful and committed teachers in our communities. Before the pandemic began, they already had my deepest respect. So, a big shout out to each teacher in my life who helped me in some way along life’s journey — I appreciate you all so much.

Teachers have a special gift and calling. Yet, teachers are also grossly overworked and underpaid — and in many cases, overly criticized and underappreciated. All of this has become amplified over the past 19 months as our already stretched education system is caught in the collateral damage of the pandemic and other societal pressure points.

Masks, vaccinations, social distancing, hybrid learning, conflicting curriculums, forced curriculum change mandates, belief systems, gender designations and constrained budgets all coming to a boil of disruption at the same time. My admiration for the teaching community only increases as they continue to pour into their students while giving tirelessly of themselves.



By the way, I am including the entire teaching community. Educators at every level, coaches, mentors, trainers and corporate learning teams — each person who has a platform to develop their students, learners and those they coach must deal with the very same things that someone who is teaching in a classroom, teaching virtually or in some hybrid delivery model.

What can we talk about? What can’t we say? Where are the boundaries? Are there any boundaries? How do we stay healthy? How can we keep our students safe? Is what we taught yesterday still relevant, let alone accepted today? Are there new skills, thoughts and theories that need to be explored? Those are just a few of the variables and curveballs thrown at those responsible for our educational, personal and professional development.



Here is the upside: Never in history has the learning community been in such a position to acquire knowledge through academic, coaching and training best practices, coupled with access to information. Never has there been a time where we have had the opportunity to experience life with all its conflicts, contrasts and challenges that we are living through today. Teaching theory, providing structure and concepts for problem-solving are important. When we add the potency of real-world experiential learning to the solid fundamentals and advanced applications of teaching, we have an enormous opportunity for growth.

Some believe that experience is life’s greatest teacher. This is only true if we learn from them. The important thing is that when we fail — and we will – that we learn from that failure. Equally as important is that when we succeed, we learn from our successes. If we will let it, life has so much to teach us when it comes to understanding what works and what doesn’t work in the real world. Life teaches us how to live, communicate and optimize our performance at home and at work.

As we think about the future generations and the future leaders in our communities, government and workplace, we should be thinking about how we could impact their growth and the future of society. Are we encouraging our teachers, educators, coaches and students at every level through dialogue or are we talking at them? When we provide life experiences and we are actively and openly talking about what is happening locally and globally today, we will have the greatest impact on where are students are going tomorrow.

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see,” said Alexandra K. Trenfor.

We have a lot of people telling us where to look and what to see and hear right now. As students — and we are all students, we should consistently be challenging ourselves to look at life through the lens of concepts, theories, and experience.

Do you have a favorite teacher, coach, mentor or trainer? Are you learning and growing from life’s lessons? I would love to hear your story at mnorton@tramazing.com and when we can add our life experiences to our learning, it really will be a better than good year.


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