As passing period winds down, a teacher stands taller than the rest, dressed from head to toe in black. His attire is a conscious choice, one that makes him recognizable from the rest of the Coppell High School faculty, one that ultimately began as an effort to be thrifty. The Sidekick selected CTE teacher and DECA adviser Richard Chamberlain as its Issue 6 Teacher of the Issue.
Chamberlain came to Coppell in 2015 from Bryan Adams High School in Dallas.
How do you think your teaching has changed from Bryan Adams High School to Coppell High School?
If you look at your students as customers, as a business or marketing teacher, the clientele is very different, the target market is different. It certainly made me evolve as an educator, teacher and a person. I had to get into that mentality as a teacher coming here to recognize that I could still provide a wonderful service, education, goal setting and mentorship, despite my inability to do calculus BC as a 16-year-old, or being able to make it into an Ivy League school.
What does success mean as a business teacher?
Success looks very different to different types of people. I love education, I love my job, I love being a teacher and it’s OK that my students might drive a better car than me or that my students come from a much better wealth distribution than I ever had. At first, that came off as very intimidating. For me moving from low-income students at Bryan Adams to here, it was an adjustment to understand that those students come from more affluent backgrounds or have more opportunities than I had. That the students weren’t going to throw that in my face or make that a negative for me, or made me feel like I wasn’t as successful as I should be. In fact, it was kind of the reverse. It really gave me a different perspective on how much I love my job, why I do my job and the motivating factors behind different people’s thoughts of success.
What would you say is the most rewarding part about teaching?
Seeing teenagers being teenagers and being happy and positive since there’s so much pressure in the world to be successful. There’s so much parental pressure and competition now, whether it’s college, licensing school or making money. The best thing out of all of this is seeing teenagers not having to rush into adulthood, worrying about an 89 versus a 90, SAT scores or college admissions, and instead having true unfiltered teenage fun, happiness and smiles. Because, you don’t see a lot of people laugh and smile a whole lot as you get older, right? There is a certain vitality to being a teenager; the opportunity to be around so many different peers. When we were coming back from state DECA, the kids were in the back and they were karaoking to rap music, dancing and smiling. Adults don’t get that opportunity. We never would let our guards down to that point. In school, being a teenager is hard. It doesn’t matter what generation you’re in, and what technology is happening and texting versus calling. I’d like to believe I make their teenage experience a little bit easier by being able to mentor and help and just letting them know now’s the time for fun and networking.
How do you run your classroom with the retail knowledge you have gained?
Everything’s very customer service driven. Understanding that soft skills and communication skills are just as important as any kind of technical skill you might have when you move into the world. Treating other employees, other people you work with as customers can be a benefit to you, because you’re showing them respect. We talk a lot about reciprocal relationships in here, both with people you work with, with your customers and also even in your personal relationships. Both people should benefit from the relationship.You’re going to work with people that you may fundamentally disagree with your entire life perspective. You have to find a bridge, you have to be professional, you have to let those things go and you have to understand that. Ultimately the goals of the organization, whether it’s a retail business making money or here in education, educating children should supersede any kind of personal issues you might have.
How has being a DECA adviser added to your teaching journey?
It’s been such a journey because you see kids that are so driven to perfection and academia that are so focused on perhaps what their parents have pressured them in terms of academics, open up. We’ve been able to make DECA not the number one thing. I try to make DECA something that everybody can be a part of, whether they’re in business classes or not. I love how DECA allows the same kid who wouldn’t speak for three-quarters of the year to begin talking, meeting people, hanging out and talking to me. If you’re on a bus, and you’re hearing those kids laugh and joke around, that’s the reason we do our job. That’s the reason we stay up late and do great. That’s the reason why I’m in this business. I’d like to believe you remember your DECA adviser or a field trip that you went on, and that’s what drives me to stay. I didn’t do it for one year and missed it. And that’s what really should drive all of us that are especially in our more, you know, our elective classes, our career technical education classes should be more about creating that what they call at Texas A&M the other education, which is the stuff outside of class. It’s the communication, it’s the social experiences, the meeting people and all those items. This is an outlet that they got to choose, they got to do, they got to have fun, they got to meet new people and experience things. Priceless.
What would you want each one of your students to learn or have as an asset to them once they leave your classroom?
Time is undefeated, time will pass, you will grow older, don’t grow up too fast. Enjoy the journey. Life’s not really about the destination. It’s a total cliche from a bad rock song, but it is more about the journey than where you’re going. I have this quote in the back of my class that says, ‘In your journey through life you wear many different hats. Take pride in all of them.’ The thought was that when I stayed an extra year working at McDonald’s, I thought it was a waste of a year. But I ended up needing that managerial experience to be able to teach the career prep class that helped me get the job at Bryan Adams. You can’t plan out your life and know it’s going to be like this linear trajectory. I would want kids to understand that no matter where you’re heading in life, take pride in what you’re doing, and take pride in each step of the way. Because you never get to a point in your life where it’s just over and stuck. The line never stops. It’s not a segment; it’s a line. It goes on forever.
What is something that your students wouldn’t know about you?
I used to go to a lot of independent wrestling shows from 2004-08. And I’m fascinated by the backstage and production of the WWE in its history in the 80s and 90s when I watched it as a kid and as a teenager. I just went to a meet and greet before this WrestleMania that was just here in Dallas. I met Ric Flair and Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Diamond Dallas Page.
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