Friday, December 27, 2013


Hi, my name is Graham Becker (nice to meet you) and I want to thank you for checking out my blog, "Heavy Mettle: Surviving Middle School, Teacher's Edition."

This will be a place where educators, parents and community can find powerfully simple ideas for connecting with learners and creating an alive, relevant, dynamic and human-connected,  classroom experience.

Regardless of subject taught, this blog is intended to have broad spectrum applications that are independent of subject-matter and thinking-brain boundaries. What is not being addressed will be embraced here: Emotional Intelligence with the emphasis on using that knowledge in the pursuit of creating a healthy, Human Relations Empowered classroom environment.

I love to teach and this blog is going to reflect an optimism and idealism that I've always sought to project and nurture in the classroom.  I understand the sacred trust that total strangers (parents) have placed in me to care for and educate, to instill a sense of wonder and a desire for lifelong learning and, over the duration I have their children in my class,  I uphold that trust to be unshakable and unbreakable.

When I made the decision to become a teacher, when the decision to teach evolved from my journey of self-discovery threaded into my intellectual pursuits, from that moment on, teaching was a calling for me.  With a social consciousness burnished by growing up in the '60's and 70's, teaching became my passion, my calling, my reason for making a difference. And, from that day on, I always felt I could make a positive impact in my students' and their families' lives.

This blog will hopefully inspire others to be the best educators and parents they can be, imbued with the love and wonder of learning and discovery, the intrinsic rewards found in guiding and growing developing minds, and the passion for the broad spectrum of life and its many expressions by humanity's children.

In that pursuit, I'll be sharing practical, time-tested strategies for building a human-driven classroom.  I'll be sharing the challenges, experiences and the lessons I learned along the way, as well as insights into the mosaic that makes up the middle school learner.

I'm also going to be inspiring you with the voices of others. My mission is to reach out to the heart of education and address how to build and maintain the relationships in the teacher-learner-parent dynamic that make up part of the complexity of a teacher's experience. I'll help sensitive you to the multi-faceted middle school learner's world experience, to know when something might be wrong, and to be firm, fair, and always respectful and professional.  "I am not your friend," I tell them.  "But in this classroom, I am your BEST friend."

"Why am I your best friend in this classroom?"

"Because I am the one who enforces the rules of respectful behavior and interaction.  I am the one who is going to guide us all to the finish line.  We're like a big team, and all of us players are needed to finish strong. Before an exam, help each other.  During an exam, do your own work   It needs to be safe for all my students to make mistakes and learn from them.  Learning isn't always about getting the answer right the first time.  If it was, we wouldn't have science or art or music. Like baseball, learning can involve failing most of the time only to finally succeed beyond your wildest imagination.  Learning in its purest form is about process, not destination.  And learning must always be a journey, never a destination."

I want to encourage a gentle sense of humor and the ability to take joy in learning, your own as well as your students.  Along with a team/family concept of learning, that we're here together in this classroom to learn together, empathy is a powerful tool empowering teachers to lengthen and strengthen their human-educational bonds.   I especially wish you patience and deep breathing.

You need to also understand that you don't need to have every answer.  It's better to always have an organized academic journey planned with questions that need answering.  But when you join in the discovery that the best lessons allows, your joy and excitement is contagious.  As much as we think this is about us, it isn't.  Check your ego at the door of your classroom.  Except to get in the way, your ego won't do you any good once you're inside anyway.  Counter intuitively, the more you can leave your ego outside, the stronger your self-esteem becomes.  It's funny, but that's how it works here.

You're going to be learning a lot more than you're going to be teaching. With your involvement, and I would love to hear from you, we can make this a very interesting place to visit. It's going to be a place to laugh, to cry, to brainstorm and problem-solve, to share failures and triumphs, to be supported, and have your spirits lifted. Here is a voice of inspiration:

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