Hidden figures

Social media has grown into something I believe none of us initially imagined. The ability to connect with individuals across the world and take a peep into what they are doing on a daily basis has become the new “thing.” According to Social Media Today, the average person will spend nearly two hours or 116 minutes on social media everyday. Family members, corporations, and even practitioners in education have now social media accounts where they share their latest discoveries and “ah ha!” moments in their classroom.

On Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, you have individuals with a large numbers of followers who have become popular for their passion and outstanding achievements in their respective fields. Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo dominate in the sports industry with every post they make. Angela Rye and Gary Vee are amazing examples of social media influencers who affect everyday culture through their motivation and commentary. In education you have brilliant teachers such as Ron Clark or Manny Scott who have touched the hearts of America with their stories about their determination to help all children succeed.

I also have had the privilege of appearing on the national stage by appearing on The Ellen Degeneres Show and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. That experience taught me a lesson that most in society will not initially grasp. While all of the individuals who are mentioned above are amazing at what they do, I believe we forget that there are people who are doing amazing things in society and yet, will never be known. I believe at times, specifically in education, social media has caused us to miss the forest for the trees.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Shawn-Paul Allison. I am sure your brain is sending messages at lightning speeds through your different neurons to see if that name rings a bell. More than likely, you do not know who this individual is unless you do extensive research. Shawn Paul-Allison was Lebron James’ English and Speech teacher at St.Vincent – Saint Mary High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Yes, the Lebron James who just received his 3rd NBA All Star MVP award. If you search for Allison’s Instagram profile, you will not find it. And despite not having a national platform or thousands of followers on social media, Allison played a critical part in Lebron James success as a student-athlete (emphasis on student first).

In his senior year, Lebron had to deliver a speech and provide documented evidence on benefits of student-athletes being able to enter the NBA Draft straight out of highschool. Obviously that speech had an impact upon Lebron James future as he would enter the NBA drafts a highschool senior, be picked #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and sign one of the biggest shoe contracts at 18 years old for $90 million with Nike. Allison still has the notes from Lebron James speech and their teacher-student bond has remained intact since that moment passed almost 15 years ago.

I brought up Allison with intent to create a point worth noting. All across the United States of America and the world we have educators making a profound impact in the life of our students. Many celebrities, politicians, and entertainers can point to a teacher who challenged their character and embraced them with love to push them closer to their destiny. But we do not know those educators by name. They are hidden in the vast sea of countless teachers who continually wake up to give the next generation a fighting chance. Individuals who decided to go into a profession where there is a strong possibility the world may never know them. But just because they are hidden, does not mean they are ineffective. Thankfully, popularity is not directly correlated to how well you can positively impact your classroom or society.

I want to encourage you. Specifically those who have fallen into the quicksand of comparison social media creates. I, too, have encountered the feelings of not being appreciated, overworked, and underpaid. I also know how heavy the burden can be wanting the best for your students…even when they can not recognize it for themselves. I am familiar with how it feels to teach at a school that has a 100 percent poverty rate and hear comments from other teachers: “I would never teach there.” You may not have the biggest platform or connections to people of influence and that is ok. But I am aware of one trait you possess that others do not. You have the formidable heart and ability to give children an unforgettable experience in your classroom every single day. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Michael Bonner: Disruptive Innovator, Entrepreneur, Ellen Degeneres Favorite Teacher, Atlanta's 40 under 40

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