We heard from the principal, the principal of the high school they will be attending next year, the student body president and a few others. We also heard from their social studies teacher Mr. Mueller who gave the key note speech.
I don't know to much about him. I know that he teaches social studies to thirteen year olds. He's in his early 50's I suspect and he is very lawyerly looking. No surprise, because in a past life he was an attorney.
Most importantly, I know that my daughter adores him. This is huge coming from her. She also likes social studies and has studied hard this semester to get good grades, all because of Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller is larger than life to these kids. He kept them engaged and communicated to them on a level that they understood. In return, his students were like sponges and soaked it all in. I realized that there was something special about Mr. Mueller when he was introduced and he stepped up to the podium. The students went crazy, "rock star" crazy with applause.
Through the years, I have had the good fortune of seeing some great speakers and motivators. I have seen Zig Ziggler, Tony Robbins, Bill Clinton, Rudy Guiliani, Colan Powell, Dick Vitale, Mike Ditka. In sales and radio I've seen Brian Tracy, Les Brown, Tom Hopkins, Jim Tazarak, Paul Weyland and many others. I drop these names, not to impress you, but only as a point of reference.
With that said, Mr. James "Jim" Mueller gave one of the most inspirational and powerful speeches I have ever heard. This speech, "Go Teach" was directed to his students but the message resonated throughout the auditorium with the parents as well.
As I was listening to Mr. Mueller speak, I had two thoughts. First, I hope the kids get it and realize what a gift it was to hear such a heartfelt and extraordinary message from someone who is passionate about them and truly cares. Second, I wish all of our associates at the radio station could be there to hear this message!
When we got home last night, I felt compelled to send Mr. Mueller a note complimenting him on his speech and also asking him If I could share his speech with our team and post it here. He was most gracious and has allowed me to share it.
May 27th, 2008
Mr. James Mueller
Social Studies Teacher
Cocopah Middle School
Thanks to all of you, but most particularly the class of 2008.
My theme for tonight - GO TEACH! Or is it GO Teach? Or GOOO Teach!
Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you haven’t escaped my lectures just yet – the good news is I am not going to try to RAP it for you! Well maybe I could try -
It’s time to be rappin’ so take off your cap an’
Relax in your seat and get off of yo’ feet!
Time to throw down some rhymes ‘bout all our good times.
You know, that’s just not working for me! Some things just don’t rap well.
So let’s talk about teaching. So you’re thinking you don’t want to be a teacher. I asked my classes this year if they would consider teaching as a career, and almost no one raised a hand. They looked at me like – “Yo, dude, you have got to be kidding.”
You know, it’s funny, when I was your age it was all I could imagine doing. I thought it would be so cool to be a teacher and basketball coach. -- By the way, it is.
It’s funny, every year students and parents ask me, “What made a lawyer with a perfectly good career walk away from it and decide to ‘go teach.’” Tonight, I thought I would try to give you a partial answer that question. Answer #1: I obviously, I will never make it as a rapper. Answer #2: As you know, the pay is uninspiring, so it must be something else. Well, the answer is right here in front of me. The answer is you. Terrific kids who are willing to learn (and teach) bring me back year after year. Homeroom! 4th Period! 7th period! And even the ever challenging 6th and 3rd periods. Wow. Terrific classes all. Yes, I’ll be back.
Ah – you are still thinking, “No way I’m going to become a teacher Mr. Mueller,” Well, let me have you rethink that. Tonight, my recommendation to you is still, to well, go teach!
Let me clarify that though. I am not asking you to take up teaching as a way to make a living, I’m asking instead that you to take it up as a way of living. Let me explain.
I want you to think of teaching differently. To view it something you do every day, not just for me, but also for you. Not as a profession, but as a way of life.
Most of you say you don’t want to be teachers. I understand that, but heck, I have some news for you; you already are.
We teach each other every day. You don’t have to teach for a living, but you do have to teach to have a life worth living. When you think about it, teaching really isn’t optional. Life simply gets better when we share knowledge.
So, now that you understand what I am talking about, I say, go teach.
Teach each other to believe in yourselves – it is one of the keys to success.
Teach each other the value of being good people. Remember Edmund Burke’s words, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Yes, girls, that applies to you too.
Teach each other by contributing your ideas and fostering a love for learning.
Teach one another that true friends allow you to be yourself. But don’t forget, teaching isn’t always telling friends or others what they want to hear; sometimes it’s telling them what they need to hear.
Oh, and by the way, teach each other that being over 50 is NOT old!
You know, I see exceptional talent among you so I say teach and encourage each other to use those talents wisely and well. I see brilliant students among you capable of leadership – so I say, teach each other to step forward and lead to solve the problems of the future. Teach each other to forgive. Teach each other decency. Teach each other the value of caring.
My dad was a wonderfully optimistic guy. It was his nature. One of the best lessons he taught me was, “put the best construction on everything.” I can still hear him say those words. By that, he meant assume a positive intent in the actions of those around you. He meant, be confident that people who criticize you mean well – especially parents and teachers. Yelling is a good thing! It means we still care. As I said last year, consider it a loud hug.
He meant – being negative drags you down. Being positive pulls you (and those around you), up. He meant – assume the best. So I say again; go teach. Teach each other as he taught me, to assume the best.
Teach each other to lift one another up.
Teach each other to build a positive culture in high school.
Teach each other to treat one another with respect – and tolerance – it makes you all better.
In the Locke vs. Hobbes debates in my classes this year most of you figured out that I most assuredly come down on the side of Locke. I believe in the goodness of people. Our country is founded on that principle. So, teach each other that being good is good for yourselves and one another.
As it happens, Ryker Eley taught me this year that the great basketball coach John Wooden believed that winners make the most mistakes. Mistakes come from doing, but so does success. So teach each other not to be afraid of making mistakes, and that making mistakes makes you better and stronger. And, remember of course that Ryker also taught us all about the value of courage and resiliency this year. Don’t forget his example.
Teaching may well be our door to immortality. When the people we teach carry the lessons forward that we taught them, we live on. My dad passed away seventeen years ago, but his philosophy of life lives in me and is here to be shared with you tonight. And, of course, don’t forget Vern Smith who taught many of us important lessons that live on through us tonight.
So I say, from all of us teachers, to all of you – go teach. And keep teaching, whether as a student, teacher, parent, or in any other setting or career. And keep teaching.
I want you to know that you sure taught me a lot this year. And that is absolutely one of the best things about being a teacher. I’ve learned from you. And maybe when you learn to love it as I do, you’ll consider teaching for life and for a living. And then, when you’re over 50, you can teach others that you are not old!!
You are an amazing and talented group of students.
I marvel at your promise. Congratulations.
Thank you, God bless you – teachers all.