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Karen Lambert

Monash University Lecturer. Addicted and compassionate traveler,

When I was playing rugby I used to love to put motivational quotes on small cards, laminate them then give them out to my teammates before big games. I loved it because I got to share a small thing that got me to think in a winning frame and to then share that attitude. It also showed I respected their contributions and their commitment – it was a gift in that respect.

They liked them because they appreciated the gesture but also because it brought them closer to me, and hence the team became more bonded in a time where mateship and teamwork was paramount. One of the quotes went a little something like this:

“The difference between an ordinary and an extra-ordinary performance is that little bit extra”, and I would add something like “are you willing to find that little bit extra today?”

It’s a simple quote that I still apply to my own life, and whilst I no longer have to worry about whether a forward will have my back I do have to worry about whether my students are getting my extra-ordinary everyday.

Ordinary anything is average

Ordinary anything is pretty average, and there are dozens of blogs that will point these ‘usual’ average differences out to you. But what I’m looking for are the EXTRAs, the things that aren’t commonly explained in blogs or books but that simply exude from extra-ordinary teachers when they stand in front of us. So I got to wondering about these things and how they might be able to help you push yourself a little bit more, be more effective in what you do, and above all just love to play the teaching game. In this blog I’d like to share my thoughts on this and to explain what 20 odd years of being a teacher has taught me about that little bit extra.

Firstly ordinary teaching is not new – in fact (and unfortunately) it’s fairly common. Ordinary teaching, like ordinary rugby is pretty straightforward – it’s often directionless and involves lots of hit ups, try hards and crashes to the ground. An ordinary teacher won’t have your back, hell they won’t even see what’s in front of their own nose let alone what’s about to bring you crashing to the ground.

The following list of ideas are not the qualities that make good or even great teachers; following are the things that push a teacher into the realm of memory, that make a learner run to class, and that flow naturally from the teacher. The following is that little bit EXTRA for everyone.

How to find that little bit EXTRA

E An extra-ordinary teacher embeds memories, and in so doing enlivens and empowers action. This teacher is energetically connected to a personal source – in short, they are in touch with their why. Learners making their own connections, assembling their own knowledge and creating their own stories are signs of this.

X An extra-ordinary teacher eXists to eXtend and elevate others to independence and free thinking. This teacher probably has X-ray vision as well because they can seamlessly anticipate learner wants and needs. Learners standing confidently on their own two feet is a sign of this.

T An extra-ordinary teacher transforms thinking and tantalizes minds to believe that anything is possible. This teacher takes learners on a journey by telling their own story generously and purposely. Learners setting meaningful goals that align with their passion and purpose are signs of this.

R An extra-ordinary teacher is radical and this shows that they are real, humble and genuine. This teacher is a bit quirky but is always striving to set learners free to simply become whatever they can. Learners who commit to focus on their learning with discipline, focus and persistence are signs of this.

A An extra-ordinary teacher is adaptable in their processes and aligned to their own goals, thoughts, passions and actions. This teacher is always seeking ways to effortlessly challenge others to be the best they can. Learners who act upon their dreams and goals because they align with their deepest values are signs of this.

So what happened after?

No-one in my rugby team ever gave me a little card with a quote on it, but they did give me a smile and a hug … and when the time came they were right behind me … especially when I was knocked to the ground.

Learning is a process of give and take between two active participants; it is often reward-less, and almost always difficult to measure over time.

You may never get to see the outcome of your extra-ordinariness but you will always hold in your memory and your heart the effect that it had on you.

In the final game breakdown the only thing an extra-ordinary teacher really has is their willingness to be EXTRA-ordinary and this is where that little bit all begins.