GaDOE: When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
Dr. Doug Doblar: When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a teacher or one other thing when I grew up. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher or a magician like David Copperfield. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a teacher or a stand-up comedian. When I was in high school, it was teacher or engineer, and in college, it was teacher or non-profit work. The “one other thing” always changed, but teacher was always right there. My mom was a teacher and school administrator, and she always seemed to like her job, so being an educator always seemed like a good option to me.
GaDOE: What keeps you in the classroom?
Doug: Two big things keep me in the classroom. I’ve always really enjoyed working - and even just spending time - with kids. I volunteer with kids out of school, I spend a lot of time with my friends’ kids, and the teaching part is far and away the best part of any day at work. I have a whole different energy and personality with kids than I do with adults and really love it.
The other thing that I think has kept me teaching is that it is a career you never really master. There are hundreds of ways any teacher can improve, hundreds of practices out there to learn, and hundreds of ideas out there waiting for you to try. It isn’t a job you learn how to do, and then just show up and do it for years and years. You’re always learning and always improving. Learning how to do something keeps my interest more than just doing something I can already do, so teaching will probably hold my attention forever!
GaDOE: What character qualities make great teachers?
Doug: Two qualities that I see a lot in great teachers that don’t get talked about very much are intellect and integrity. Teaching doesn’t necessarily get a lot of attention as an intellectual career, but it really is. To be a great teacher, you have to learn a lot about child development, the brain, the content you’re teaching, strategy, poverty and sociology, and countless other areas of interest.
It is as much a base of knowledge as it is a practice, and it takes some serious intellect to be a great teacher.
Also, since teachers spend so much time working alone and unsupervised, it is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there how much integrity is involved in our profession. We’re constantly faced with small decisions that require us to put quality over convenience, effort over ease, and kids over ourselves. Most teachers probably don’t even realize that they’re doing it, but there are so many times every day when great teachers decide to do something inconvenient and that will put more burden on them for the betterment of their students, when nobody would ever know if they chose otherwise.
GaDOE: What is your favorite part of the school year? Why? [You can’t say summer or recess]
Doug: May, no doubt. I’ve always loved the end of the school year. Once the big year-end tests are finished, and relationships have a full year of strength behind them, students always really blow me away with the work they do. There’s also just so much positive energy and attitude during that part of the year that it feels wonderful to be at school. The way they are in May is how I always remember them, too - at their academic peak, where they are energetic, excited, and sentimental about the past year.
GaDOE: What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
Doug: You should check out my Facebook page, because I post these all the time, but my all time favorite is an introduction I received a few years back from a kindergartner named Mackenzie. I don’t teach kindergarten, but for whatever reason, there are always a few who are just drawn to me, and from literally the first minute of the first day of school, Mackenzie was one of them.
I have bus duty out in the bus lane, and Mackenzie got off the bus on the first day of school and walked up and introduced herself to me. I walked her to her room and she talked to me all the way there. In the afternoon, she came out to the bus lane and told me all about her day. Next morning, she gets off the bus, and comes to tell me how excited she is for her second day all the way to her room again. In the afternoon, back out in the bus lane, I get the rundown again of day #2.
We do it again, just like that, on Wednesday, and again on Thursday, and again on Friday morning - always outside in the bus lane. On Friday afternoon, I go into the cafeteria to get my lunch, and, like a shot from all the way in the back of the cafeteria comes Mackenzie, right at me. She grabs my arm with both hands like she’s about to pull a firetruck in one of those World’s Strongest Man competitions, and literally drags me all the way back across to meet her mother, who has come to school to eat lunch with her.
With a big smile on her face, she pulls me right up to her mother and introduces me:
“Mom! This is Dr D. He stands outside all day, and he ain’t got no hair on his head!”
GaDOE: What is your favorite technology to use for engaging students in learning?
Doug: My favorite is an app called Seesaw. It is like the digital Swiss-Army-Knife for teachers, combining a lot of tools I used to have to go all over the place to get. Kids can do voice-over videos, post pictures, share things, make tutorials, record their science labs, get links, and so on. I would be lost without it.
GaDOE: Everyone likes to know the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
Doug: I go to school really early, and I ride a bike there most mornings, so I get to work feeling very energized (especially in the winter!). I typically start out by going back over everything I have planned for the day ahead, and sometimes making improvements to it if the inspiration strikes. After that, I usually record my “flipped” math lesson for two days out, because that takes a lot of concentration and I like to have it out of the way before school starts. That usually takes me right up to when the kids arrive. I greet the kids coming in off the bus, then the ones getting dropped off by their parents, and then I usually sneak in about five minutes to just hang out and talk to the kindergarten and first grade kids eating breakfast in the cafeteria, because they really make my day.
GaDOE: What do you tell students when they need encouragement?
Doug: Kids are pretty hard on themselves. If they don’t understand something, they call themselves stupid. If they don’t have a great grade in something, they assume they’re bad at it. If they’ve gotten in trouble, they think it means they’re a bad kid. They really put a lot of weight on momentary negative outcomes. It is hard to rationalize that out of them, so a lot of the time I’ll just bring up something they recently did well. Got a low grade on an assignment? Don’t forget that you did great on the last three. Just got your conduct card signed? Remember that you’ve had lots of better days. I guess it is just a reminder that what’s got you down is momentary, not a permanent state that you’ve entered.
GaDOE: What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
Doug: It kind of goes hand-in-hand with what I tell kids! Teachers get frustrated and down on themselves for all kinds of reasons, but it usually isn’t because they’re actually doing a bad job. They’re usually down on deadlines, workload, a difficult situation someone is causing, or something like that. They take one perceived shortcoming really hard a lot of the time, and forget that, most of the time, their students are happy and learning and really the important stuff is all ok.
GaDOE: What is the best teaching advice you’ve received?
Doug: Keep your expectations high and unrelenting. Most kids will rise to them, and the ones that try to and fall short will still be in a good spot. To get kids’ very best, you have to demand it, and demand it consistently.
The 2019 Teacher of the Year will be announced on May 19, 2018. The 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession in Georgia. He or she will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Learn more about the Georgia Teacher of the Year program.