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Third Session Overview

Joe Martin electrifies audience with personality, message

A small but constantly moving figure, Joe Martin paced through the aisles and around the stage, keeping his audience entertained and off guard throughout his presentation at the third general session of the 2008 Joint Annual Conference.

"If you want to be successful, watch what the average person does, and do the total opposite," he quipped, setting the tone for his remarks, which were obviously aimed at disrupting the status quo of "average" teachers, administrators and board members.

"I'm not a motivational speaker," he told Sunday's audience. "I'm an irritational speaker."

And with that, he proceeded to lampoon those who settle for or expect mediocrity.

There are three types of educators, he claimed: those who are always fired up; those who are losing the fire, and those who need to be fired.

Martin cited statistics that claimed the average student has 97 teachers in their scholastic careers and that most can only cite three teachers who made a significant impact on their lives. "We work in a profession that can't afford even one teacher, superintendent or board member who is unforgettable or average," he said.

Referring to teaching as a "calling," Martin said most educators are to blame for focusing on student problems and not their potential. Reciting his own upbringing in a poor, tough inner-city Miami neighborhood and attendance at schools that did not expect or encourage him to excel, Martin said that there are thousands of kids just like him.

Barely graduating from high school, he enrolled in a community college and eventually earned a doctorate in curriculum development. He is now founder and president of RealWorld University, which helps college students and new teachers "identify and pursue their purpose, strengthen their character, overcome obstacles, and maximize potential."

"I fix broke teachers," is how he described his life's work.

Martin said too many teachers burn out early by working in a system that kills the spirit of young minds. "Just like I can't hide my faith or color, we are our beliefs," he said.

Martin's comments followed presentations to Joanne Zendol, Berwyn South SD 100, as Outstanding School Board President, and Mark Friedman, Libertyville SD 70, as Illinois Superintendent of the Year.

The third general session was held Sunday, Nov. 23, at the Hyatt Regency, Chicago. Robert Gillum, Ball-Chatham CUSD 5, and president of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, presided.

He encouraged board members in attendance to support professional development for school leaders. "Hope, promise and opportunity is public education. But it requires compassion and nurturing leadership. Our job is to model," he said.

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