Episode 1: An introduction to an unconventional teacher

This first episode of An Unconventional Teacher, An Introduction, we meet the founder and host of this project, Jon Hinthorne. In this short episode, Jon explores three key details about his first few years of becoming an unconventional teacher. Jon describes a few pivotal moments for him as a young educator that helped him develop the courage to be unapologetically different from his other World Language colleagues.   

Jon and his wife, Jenny, are both educators and live with his two young boys, Mason and Jacob, in Arroyo Grande, CA. They spend as much time out at parks, going for walks, and enjoying the central coast of California’s beautiful beaches. Jon also writes and produces original solo piano music. His music is on iTunes and Spotify under his name, Jon Hinthorne. You can find more about Jon’s music at his website.  

Episode 1 – Transcription

Episode 1: An Introduction to An Unconventional Teacher

Hello my name is Jon and I am the host of an Unconventional Teacher. I want to welcome you to our podcast series of short episodes about teaching for teachers by unconventional teachers each week we will explore a different topic related to taking risks and daring to be different for the sake of our students we hope to uncover why it is that the unconventional ways of yesterday have now possibly become the conventional ways of today. Now let’s begin! 

Episode one: an introduction to an unconventional teacher. OK! Welcome to our first episode where I’m going to attempt to share a few elements of my own experience that matter to this podcast theme of being unapologetically different from those around me, a.k.a. unconventional. 

Let’s start with how I became a teacher. I did not go and get an education degree. I actually never substituted in a single schoolhouse, never been in a classroom, and held the reins with behavior management riding lesson plans, but when I was 22 I applied for and got a position at a private school in St. Louis Missouri, coincidentally it was my private school I went to I took the reins and the keys of one of the most beloved teachers that the school had ever known. 

In my corner room with chalkboards and dusty walls I enter in my first day and write “el respecto”, respect in Spanish, on the chalkboards I situate my desks that were in a rigid line in a circle and from then on I imagined my classroom as a conversation a safe place for my students to take risks I talk to them about how I had one rule that they respect themselves others in the classroom. Still to this day that is my single so with no experience my administrator having faith with me the two people that planted the idea of teaching because that wasn’t my idea even two weeks before graduating college everyone had faith that this was going to work out. 

So I rode the wave. I jumped on that train. I got on that bus and did my best. 

Two years later I had completed my first two years of teaching and two of my favorite people came to me and in different conversations said, “have you thought about national service?” I said “hey I’m on an Unconventional road to being an educator let me look into it.” 

They gave me the name of an organization called City Year. You can find them at cityyear.org because they harness the power of young people in our nation’s schools and communities that are usually needing a bit more support, love and resources. So I move myself unconventionally because couldn’t I have sat in that room with that job at that private school for the rest of my career absolutely but instead I pack my bags move out to Boston and it was that moment it was that year What year was city hear that things changed I got to see that everyone has a fall and unbridled potential every single young person is incredible. 

The second thing I wanted to share with you in this introduction episode is related to a moment I had with the parents have a potential student right before my first year of teaching. We were outside beautiful St. Louis afternoon and we were having ice cream with the parents, teachers, the students of all of our freshman class the families and me were intermingling with each other. Students hadn’t seen each other after the summer. You can picture how wonderful this time was.

I was nervous I was by myself the new teacher there were only a few of us in the small community what did I know about teaching I kept on asking myself and then it happens apparent came up to me looked at me and said congratulations on your new job are you excited I said absolutely excited not telling him how terrified I was I had no experience even substituting in a classroom let alone any education classes and had never written a lesson plan. But nonetheless I was passionate about young people passionate about teaching Spanish and speaking Spanish enough that they gave me the job. 

So this guy says the most heart wrenching comment right after. He looks at me and says “I think you’re gonna be my son Spanish teacher! What do you know about teaching.” My heart sank. I told him you know I don’t know much about teaching per se, because I had to be honest, but I do love people and I want to share that love with your son it was in that moment that I realized why I was there why I had keys to the classroom and why somebody believed in me to be a teacher I wasn’t there to teach them Spanish I was there to love them and share that love in a community of learners.

Now as hunky-dory and Kumbaya as that sounds, it’s real and I think it’s one of the things that makes me an Unconventional Teacher. 

Since then I’ve stopped to see all my students to hear them to ask them how they’re doing and actually start to hear the answer. I asked them all the time for feedback in my classroom because my students are the reason that I’m there. Think about that our students are our clients if we’re not asking them for feedback we’re not asking them how things are going we’re not asking them legitimately how their day is going and when it’s not going well stopping to say I’m here and I can listen to you we’re not doing our job. 

And the last thing I wanna share with you is what my dad told me. It’s short and I want to share with you because it’s at the heart of why I teach. It has to do with his idea that it takes 10 years for you to become a master teacher now I’m not sure if that’s an arbitrary year or Where my dad got it he say it’s Japanese teaching tradition still to this day I haven’t been able to find exactly what he’s talking about but nonetheless the sentiment is there. 10 years to fall on your face and learn from it to have a little ones and big ones to experience the myriad of behaviors that you’re going to experience with middle schoolers and high schoolers in the edges that I’ve worked with And I have to tell you he’s been right. 

Now I’m not calling myself a master teacher for the sake of patting myself on the back but this is an introduction to me and I want to let you know the last year my peers voted for me to receive the teacher of the year for our site. Again my stomach crumbled my stomach sank what did I do a I ask myself to deserve this I pointed at four or five other educators on campus that were more deserving of this award than me there’s no way that I realized and remembered what my dad said after 10 years you will have gotten to a point in education where things are not easy but you’re going to start seeing and hearing new things as much as you did in your early years. 

Now I hope you enjoy this introduction episode; it’s not everything about me but again this is not a Podcast about me. This podcast is going to feature teachers and educators and parents that are doing some remarkable work to set their classrooms and their homes and their ways different from other people this podcast is aiming to pay it forward for me to share with some of you all the things that I’ve learned along the way and continue to learn about the sink Incredibly difficult yet rewarding position this gift, this responsibility, of being a teacher and having our nation’s young people with us for hours upon hours every week. 

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of an unconventional teacher we hope you enjoyed listening as much as we enjoy producing it this is a project to pay it forward to the parents and educators out there seeking something different if you are or have someone in your world that is an unconventional teacher or parent please send their name to unconventionalteacher@gmail.com and we can work to get them on the show. Also please join us on Instagram and Twitter Unconventional teacher and be a part of our growing movement to embrace the different as I tell each class that I teach at the end of our time together “Vive Como si fuera su último día” – live like it when your last day! Have a great day, and will see you next time!

2 comments on “Episode 1: An introduction to an unconventional teacher

  1. Clark Rector says:

    Very exciting Jon. Thank you for doing this work! I love how you put the desks in a circle and want the classroom to be a safe place to take risks. Bravo!

    1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It is actually a super enjoyable and reflective activity for me at this juncture in my career to be able to interview these amazing educators. We are all learning a ton (hopefully)! Thanks for listening!

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