The Motivated Teacher

Michael Todd Clinton

About MT

Hello Social Media World,

This is my very first blog, so I figured I would take the coping advice I give to my students and write about what’s on my mind. I honestly don’t know where to start except for to tell you how the “Motivated Teacher” came to be. On August 20, 2016, my mother was admitted to the hospital. To make a very long sad story short, she passed away a month later with complications of a stroke, heart failure, and terminal delirium.

During that terrible month, I picked up a book from my classroom to read while staying in the hospital. It was called “Resilience” written by Christian Moore (Great Book!!!). While I was at the hospital I was trying to answer Christian’s questions about resilience and come up with ways that I could bring some resilience to my mother’s current sickness, disability and lifelong illness of Bipolar disorder. (I still think this had something to do with her death: medicine, stress, etc?) Me and mom would always talk about how people would immediately ASSUME you are crazy when you say the words bipolar or mental illness, and that is not it at all. Mental illness is a disability like any other disability;  however, it is not accepted the same as someone with physical disabilities for example. Our society will accommodate for individuals in a wheelchair, and should, but will turn their head to someone on the street with a mental illness. Sorry, I am getting off task that is my ADHD! Anyway, at this point, I was thinking the motivated teacher was something mom and me could work on together once she got out of the hospital to find ways to bring awareness to mental health. I didn’t know what exactly we could do but knew she would figure something out, something to help spread the word about mental illness in a positive way. Little did I know that I would never get to speak to her again.

A little background on my mom: My mom was the most caring person I have ever met, not because she was my mom, but because that is just how she was. She cared about every person she met and made sure to listen to their story, and also tell some of her own which typically revolved around my sister, her grand kids, her dogs, and sometimes me. All of my friends growing up called her “Moma Jo” because she treated them like they were her own kids. My mom’s career consisted of being a school teacher, daycare owner, Sunday school teacher, and a very passionate special needs advocate that worked with kids and adults with special needs teaching them life skills, job skills, and everything in between.

About mom’s disability: mom was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, formally known as manic depression over 30 years ago. She had to work hard everyday to self-monitor her behaviors and control the ups and downs of her moods (mania states) and depression. This is really something we didn’t talk about a lot as a family. It was just part of our lives, and we knew that mom would have good days and bad. In college, I became really interested in sociology and mental illnesses in students in schools with disabilities. Mental illness and disabilities became a very common topic for mom and me to talk about. Because of mom, I feel I have a much better understanding of what my students are going through when they are in their high and low states and I am still trying to understand my own ADHD so I can relate to them. I constantly was asking mom questions about medicine, depression, and anxiety; I feel blessed for our time we had together and am grateful for the knowledge that she passed along to me about working with individuals with special needs.  She would always say, “Michael Todd, the most important thing to know is that every mental illness and disability is different, just like every student will be different.” She would say, “just love them for who they are.”

A little about me: My name is Michael Todd Clinton, hence where the MT came from in the Motivated Teacher. Really, I go by Todd, but my mom was the only one that called me Michael Todd, just by saying it makes me think of her 🙂 Anyway, in 2010 I made the choice to pursue a career in education and change from my current field of finance which I had been doing for almost 5 years. This is what my undergraduate degree is in, and everyone thought I was crazy for leaving such a great job and place to work. At that time I was working in a bank as a FSR, in short that is a loan officer and a customer service representative. I really don’t know what exactly made me decide to pursue a teaching degree, (Obviously, I liked working with kids but I got to do this in my church and in my many outdoor groups) I think partly because my wife is a school teacher, and I wanted to have more time to spend with her, and also because I just wanted to be able to help people, and the bank was putting a lot more pressure on selling things rather than helping customers. I also didn’t see myself being a banker the rest of my life. I loved everyone I worked with at the bank and felt it was a great learning experience for me, and I would not change working in the bank if I could. However, my favorite parts of the job were not the revenue producing stuff. I loved getting to teach kids about balancing their checkbook for the first time and helping customers like Robert 🙂 that need a little extra help sometimes, so I started back to school to pursue a degree in education.

Fast-forward seven years from starting my teaching degree. I now teach in a Special Education behavior classroom, and I can honestly say I Love my job and look forward to going to it every day (not to say I don’t have bad days as all teachers do). Before telling you about my class let me first tell you a little more about my journey into education up to this point. I finally made the leap to quit the bank in January of 2012; I had the opportunity to work as an assistant in an independence program through the school system I currently work for now. The program was created by an amazing professor who I am sure I will talk more about her in the future and hopefully do a podcast with. The Independence Program is designed to help develop independent living skills for student’s ages 18-22.  In the program the students learn how to BUDGET, shop, cook, clean, on-site job skills, and a million other things. While being an assistant in this program I got to work for an amazing teacher, and I still think she is one of the most positive teachers I have ever been around. Her uplifting attitude not only inspires the people she works with but her students lives will be forever changed. (I might add that I had to learn a lot of these living skills as well, luckily the other paraprofessional’s were patient with me.) I was able to work here until the end of the school year in 2012, before accepting the position I have now.

Like I stated earlier, the position I have now is being a teacher in a special education behavior program. What this program does is it takes students that are not being successful in a general education setting for whatever reason, such as: lack of social skills, coping skills, responsibility, etc., and puts them into a smaller setting where we are not only going to work on their behavior weaknesses but also address all of their educational needs and prepare them to return to a general education classroom with accommodations, both behavioral and academic. These accommodations allow my students to be successful once they return to the gen. ed classroom and will hopefully better prepare them for life after school. In this program, I have had the opportunity to work at two different middle schools, and this year, I also had the opportunity of getting to work in the high school behavior program. I feel this program is amazing and whoever developed it all those years ago was spot on. I feel blessed to have gotten to work with some of the best paraprofessionals that anyone can imagine. Our program would not work without our team and school all working together to do what is best for our students.

Now that you know a little about my background lets get back to the motivated teacher and what I plan on doing with this platform to continue bringing awareness and motivation to myself, teachers, and student disabilities.

1) I plan to create a podcast and blog (this site) where I will interview motivating teachers in all areas of the education system and blog about educational topics that I feel will help teachers. In my podcast I would like to find out more about what makes teachers successful in the classroom and discuss what they do that makes them successful educators. I hope by doing this it will continue to keep me motivated and also motivate others to do what is best for our youth. What I have learned in my short time in the education world is that if educators are inspired or MOTIVATED, then they can inspire and MOTIVATE their students which leads to them being more successful in the game of life once they leave the classroom.

2) I plan to bring awareness to all disabilities that effect students in the classroom. In my classroom I typically have students with autism, ADHD, or emotional disturbance, or at least this is their label doctors and school psychologist have given them. I plan to share information about these disabilities and what has worked and has not worked for me in my classroom. I will discuss and share information on all other types of  disabilities and will look for experts to help bring their experience and expertise to the table. I plan on doing this through not only my podcast but any social media resources I can learn to use, such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

3) Lastly, I am working on a program that I use in my class everyday and hope this site and other media outlets will help me find ways to share my program with other schools to address at-risk youth. The program uses a positive reinforcement schedule and a daily CHICO folder for students with behavioral needs in the classroom and could also be used in homes. The program is based on building communication skills and building positive RELATIONSHIPS with your students. Weekly in the program the students learn about motivating individuals that have overcome hard times in life and write about motivating words, quotes, etc. The program allows you to check in weekly with your students and allows them to share their current interest which helps me better understand my students and plan lessons. It is a very in-depth program that will come with teacher and student booklets. I plan on all of the materials to be digital but also make hard copies for my non-tech teachers out there. The program will include weekly motivational power points/google slides to use as a guide for what you want/need to discuss daily with your students. While completing my masters in special education, this is what I did my research over and have thought about pursuing a PhD to continue to research my program, but I am unsure if I want to do that at this point in my life, given I have an awesome two year old boy that I love to play with and I know how much time and effort a PhD will be. Anyway, I have continued to use it daily in my class with great success. I hope I can continually improve the “New Day Program” and share it not only with my students but yours to.  My message is simple I want them to know everyday is a NEW DAY no matter what. Students that would benefit from this in a school setting would be those that need a tier-three behavior intervention plan, are at-risk for what ever reason, or maybe those students that need a little extra motivation to get them going every day. (Don’t we all need that?)

In closing, I do not know who will ever get the opportunity to read this blog or blogs in the future. I can only hope someone will benefit from the “Motivated Teacher” or my program, and I pray that something I can do or say will change the lives of students and their families. I am just now beginning this journey of “The Motivated Teacher” and do not know where it will take me; however, I have faith that the lord will lead me down the roads I should go down and know with my mom on his side, watch out! I know she is asking him a million questions up in heaven, and his ear is probably tired from the two of us. I can only have faith that what I am doing will one day inspire the lives of families like my mom inspired me. –Love you, MOM….

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If you have any ideas or suggestions for me please contact me at themotivatedteacher@gmail.com….. Thank YOU for reading now Let’s GO educate and MOTIVATE our youth!!!!