MOJO. A term familiar to traditional blues music aficionados, as in “I got my mojo workin’, but it just won’t work on you.” “Got My Mojo Working” is a 1956 song written by Preston Foster and first recorded by Ann Cole, but popularized by Muddy Waters in 1957.
Possibly recognized by fans of the totally shaggalicious Austin Powers–“Oh, behave!” However, I just stumbled on the concept of teacher mojo on one of my education blog favs, It Isn’t All Flowers and Sausages, by the ever-fabulous Mrs. Mimi. Here I am reading along in the middle of one of her posts when I come to the remembrance: “You know that feeling you get at the beginning of the [school] year when your Teacher MoJo kicks back in?” “Me too.” (says Mrs. Mimi.)
Go ahead—follow the link—I know that you want to. Might as well add it to your favorite blogs while you’re at it, especially if your little friends are aged 5-10. Mrs. Mimi’s specialty is gentleness and understanding–and humor about an otherwise humorless issue or topic. Her students are her “little friends” and her BFF colleagues are totally fabulous, and “you know who you are.” She also pushes great books for children so she is on my list of classroom heroes. Mrs. Mimi (not her real name) is the author of a popular book bearing the same title as her blog. (I bought it; I read it; I recommend it to elementary folks.)
Mojo, as defined by the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary: [prob. of African origin; akin to Fulani moco’o medicine man] (1926): a magic spell, hex, or charm; broadly: magical powers.
Oh, yes. Powers. Possibly of the slightly magical kind.
You who are unfamiliar with the efficacious and authentic workings of the classroom, may not be able to conceive of teacher mojo. You who lack the will or capacity to traverse the boisterous passageways of any middle school may wish for a soupcon of influence but not recognize the extra-ordinary capabilities of those staff members who seem to be able to fearlessly and boldly move from place to place, all the while causing masses of adolescents to move along as well.
It ain’t easy being a lean, keen, teachin’ machine. It takes something special. It requires mojo.
There has been an avalanche of discussion and reference to effective teachers being important and the #1 factor in student success. Well, duh. Teachers and parents and students have known that all along—no argument there. But, there are those teachers that go beyond effective. There are teachers that go to great. There are teachers who got their mojo workin’, and for them, the classroom is a special place. And, for their students, the environment for learning can be natural, organic, creative, inventive, resource-filled, expressive, engaging, humanizing, stirring, invigorating, mindful, provocative, and meaningful—an extraordinary place and space. I could go on and on,…
The teacher with mojo can be young or old, novice or veteran, man or woman. Their personal background and ethnicity can be like or different from those of the students. What this person has going on transcends all of these kinds of factors.
I started this post two weeks ago, and then hit a spell of work and responsibility in my new job that precluded me getting back to blogging. This morning as I lazed around in bed, I heard a remarkable piece on good old NPR. (I am very careless about making sure that I get enough sleep, so I slept in until 10:00 after staying up last night until 2:00 a.m.—you get the picture?) NPR is sponsoring a year-long Story Corps project: Life Lessons Learned: The National Teachers Initiative–a project whereby listeners from around the country share and record their personal stories about a school teacher who changed their lives or who was so special, so memorable that the student was compelled to share the experience. Ding! The mojo bell rang loud and clear.
So, here I am, squeezing a blog post into an afternoon that really should be dedictaed to planning and preparation for the week that lies ahead. Meh!
Teachers in America get so much crap dumped on them. They need and deserve all of the good press that they can muster. So, to learn that my favorite radio program provider has a genuine interest in promoting good news about teachers is GOOD NEWS.
Therefore, to all of my effective and totally fabulous teacher friends: Take heart. NPR recognizes and respects your dedication and the challenging, rewarding work that you do. Keep that teacher mojo workin’.
And, please make note of the fact that in hyping teacher mojo, the words tests, testing, or test results never escaped my lips—well, my fingertips, really. As I listen to this coming year’s recorded messages and blessings bestowed upon treasured teachers, I will bet that we will hear very few references to TESTS. Just saying,…