Who/What Inspires Me #worldgeochat

This week’s #worldgeochat is all about inspiration. After writing the first question, “Who and/or what inspires you?” I realized that there is no way to answer this in 140 characters, so, I blog for the first time in a long time.

I’ll tackle the “what” first. What inspires me most is the idea that I can do something for students that no one has done before. I can show them the world. My 7th graders have never had any version of geography before coming into my classroom, so I get to be their global tour guide. Just like a bad tour guide can ruin a vacation, I can ruin their idea of the world if I don’t give them the best tour possible. That tour includes some topics that they love, and others that they don’t, but I have to be inspired to give them the best tour possible. So in short, what inspires me is the fear of what happens to those students if I don’t give 100%.

Who inspires me? So many different ways to answer this question. Family and friends inspire me. Colleagues & my PLN inspire me. My students inspire me. The stories of anonymous heroes all over the world standing up for what they believe in inspire me. But I want to talk about one man who inspired me when it comes to World Geography. That man is Michael Palin.

Michael Palin is probably best known for his work with Monty Python, and that is where I discovered him as a teenager, but that didn’t really inspire me. When I was hired as a World Geography teacher and realized that my knowledge of the world was pretty limited, I rediscovered him. Over the last 25+ years, Michael Palin has been traveling the world and making documentary series. My first year of teaching, I found copies of Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle. I watched hours of these documentaries as he traveled the route that Phileas Fogg did, journeyed from the North Pole to the South Pole along the 30 E longitude line, and circumnavigated the Pacific Ocean. I was amazed by his genuine interest in the lives of the people he met and his desire to learn about places he knew little of.

On a whim, I wrote him a letter. Just a thank you for being an inspirational figure and looking at the world and seeing the good, not the bad. I was shocked a few weeks later when he sent a letter back to me telling that “Geography is key” and that if we don’t stop and learn about our neighbors, we are in real trouble.

I met Michael Palin a few years later at an author signing in Chicago. He was kind to me, but more interested in knowing how his work had been passed on to students in my room.

His most recent series was on Brazil in 2012, and while I didn’t see all of it, the parts I did see captured the same passion and excitement that inspired me when I began teaching geography 14 years ago!

So thank you Michael Palin. You are an inspiration to me that I have tried to pass on to the 1500+ students I’ve taught geography to over the years!


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