Jon Harper is a former elementary school teacher and current assistant principal at Sandy Hill Elementary at Cambridge, Maryland on a mission to help people of all ages realize that it is okay to make mistakes; especially really big ones.
Jon hosts two podcasts, Teachers Aid and My Bad and I was on his show sharing my story about My Bad. Jon also has a new book out called, My Bad: 24 Educators Who Messed Up, Fessed Up and Grew”. Enjoy!
You and your family
I lived on the eastern shore of Maryland since I was six. A few months ago, we moved about 20 minutes from where I work in a town called Easton, Maryland with my wife, who is a math coach. I have to say she is a much better coach than I ever was.
We have two amazing kids, Derek who is seven, and Bailey who is thirteen. Easton is very rural and is an hour and a half from Baltimore and in the other direction an hour and a half from DC, and an hour from the beach. Life is good for me. I’m a very lucky man.
What it was like when you were a student
When I was a student, I didn’t think much about schoolwork. I thought about playing soccer, tennis, and running around outside. I just had fun outside. It’s funny because I try to get my kids to read and they are great readers. But when I came home, I don’t remember reading like that. It was fun growing up in Cambridge on the eastern shore because it is a wonderful place to live, peaceful, quiet.
I have fond memories of my childhood. My dad coached my soccer team. I probably spent 95% of my childhood in one square mile. I used to play tennis and soccer not that far away. Actually, I am assistant principal at Sandy Hill which is where I went as a child. In fact, that is where I got the itch to become a teacher. I never thought I was going to be a teacher. I went to school as an undergrad at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina majoring in philosophy. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that. My dad was a doctor so I thought maybe that’s what I would do. I went back and took pre-med courses for a couple years and applied for medical school. While I was waiting, I needed to get a job so my mom suggested I substitute at the school down the street. So I did and absolutely loved it. I decided to go back to school to get my teaching credential.
Your journey as an educator to administrator
I was 26 when I started teaching which I believe was better for me than starting at 21.My first class was second grade. I taught elementary school for 10 years; first, second, fourth and then fifth grade for six years. In fact, one of the children in my first second-grade class is now a teacher in my school. I was lucky to have some of the same children in the second, fourth, and fifth grades. When you work with children at different levels, you can truly appreciate what teachers are doing at each level.
I wanted to try something different and became a math coach for about three years at a different county where I live now. I see what teachers are going through, some of their struggles, and how difficult it is to teach. Teaching is much more difficult now than when I started teaching 20 years ago. I never thought I would become an administrator but I got the itch and started applying. After about my 13th year as a teacher and coach, I became an assistant principal where I became a math coach for seven years and have been one ever since.
My Bad Podcast
went to a conference in 2013/2014 and heard Todd Whitaker @toddwhitaker say that if you are not on Twitter, you have to be. Before then, I had no idea of Twitter or social media. I thought this was the place to follow movie stars but I decided to get on Twitter. Then I started blogging. After that, I started My Bad Podcast . It’s scary to share your mistakes.
One of my first guests said, “once you share those mistakes, they no longer own you or has that power over you.” It doesn’t mean you didn’t mess up. It just no longer weighs you down. It’s powerful to share these mistakes. It’s important for us as educators to be leaders stepping first. If I share a mistake in my building, then others will feel it is safe to share a mistake. People will realize that you don’t have to be perfect. Kids have so much more information and can even teach us.
Teacher Aid Podcast
Last year Mandy Froelich @froelichm and I took over the Teachers Aid Podcast. There are so many difficult issues that are not addressed. There are many books on how to become a better educator, but there’s not that much out there that addresses how teachers can take care of themselves and how to handle the personal issues they face. Mandy and I have guests who talk about anxiety, time management, fear, setting goals, the guilt we feel as parents. Kids don’t see us as people outside of school. We have lives outside of school. The Teachers Aid Podcast is there to give teachers some tools for becoming better at dealing with the difficult issues they face. One podcast that stands out is Phyllis Fagell @pfagell on “Should We Really Hide All of Our Negative Emotions at School?”
New Book:“My Bad: 24 Educators Who Messed Up, Fessed Up and Grew”
The writing was a two-year journey for me. I never knew how much went into writing a book. I am fortunate to have 24 of the most amazing educators in my book who share their stories and how they grew from their mistakes. Many of the educators, people know or may not know and some are visionaries in their field. Dave Burgess @burgessdave shared in his story that “mistakes are constant feedback so we can better and grow.” So much of what we see is “perfection” when we really need to share what is not perfect because no one os is perfect. Here’s a link to my new book: “My Bad: 24 Educators Who Messed Up, Fessed Up and Grew”
This is Barbara. I really enjoyed my conversation with Jon. Not only the coincidence of growing up near where he lives, but learning so much from him about being okay about making mistakes. I highly recommend his book and listening to his podcasts.
Jon Harper is Vice Principal at Sandy Hill Elementary, Cambridge, Maryland. Jon shares his bio as his story: Being a former elementary school teacher and current assistant principal on a mission to help people of all ages realize that it is okay to make mistakes; especially really big ones. Simply put, sharing epic mistakes inspires others to do the same.
Because once people realize that they are not the only ones making mistakes, they begin to grant themselves a little grace. I have witnessed this firsthand with children as young as eight to graduate students whose age I don’t dare guess. It is amazing to witness and one day I hope to show you in person.
Interviewing some of the country’s leading educators for my podcast My Bad has been quite an honor. My guests have been wide ranging, from New York Times best selling author Jonah Berger to EdCamp founder Kristen Swanson, from motivational speaker Baruti Kafele to digital pioneer Eric Sheninger.
I have had the unique opportunity to interview over 100 of the world’s leading educators and in doing so I have learned much. Much that I want to share with anyone and everyone who will listen. I am certain that once you hear what I have to say about how powerful sharing mistakes can be, you will be inspired to share some of your own.
I not only get others to share their mistakes, but I often share big mistakes of my own on my podcast and through my blog pieces. I am of the belief that if I am going to ask others to be vulnerable, then I must be willing to take the first step. And I have. On topics ranging from racial prejudice to parenting skills.
Lucky for me, I have had the opportunity to share my mission with countless others not only through my podcast and my blog but also through Google Hangouts, Podcast Interviews, Conference Presentations, and Keynote Addresses.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter: @Jonharper70bd
- Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/jon-harper-215486113
Interested in checking out more of the Rethinking Learning podcasts and reflections, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below, or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/
For more information about Barbara’s new book, Define Your WHY, go to this page or click on the image of the book for resources, questions, and links.