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Teaching is Not About Us

by Professor Joe Martin

If we ever have the pleasure of meeting each other, whether it be at an education conference, a teacher workshop, or in a classroom, other than my size (I stand only 5’-6”), you’ll notice that I will adorn two bright red bracelets – one on each wrist. I never take them off.

Both are bands I specifically created for a pre-determined purpose: to keep me focused on what’s most important when it comes to building my character as a teacher. One band reads “Integrity” and the other reads “It’s Not About Me.”

I started wearing these bands about two years ago, and I haven’t taken them off since. They serve as a constant reminder that...

1.) no matter how difficult my job as a teacher becomes, I must always be a man of my word; do the right thing when no one’s looking; and do things for God’s approval, not people; and

2.) I must always remember that I became a teacher to serve others, not myself, and to ALWAYS do what’s in the best interest of my students.




Why do I refuse to take off my bands, even in the shower (that’s probably too much information)? Because I think it’s so easy to compromise when things around us get a little uncomfortable. Personally, I believe a little compromise in character invites a little corrosion in character; and I believe a little corrosion of character leads to the corruption of character. And in our profession, I don’t believe we can afford neither corrosion or corruption of character; therefore, I try not to compromise my integrity.

I am well aware of the countless number of challenges we face as new and veteran teachers. I get dozens of requests to visit, speak, train, and consult with school districts all over the country each year, and sometimes the professional challenges of our job seem insurmountable.

But as I once told a good friend of mine, I’ve never faced a problem where humbling myself and honoring others have ever gotten me into trouble. And I believe that starts with teaching and working with integrity (at all cost) and taking the focus off of our problems and refocusing our attention on the future of our students. I know this is easier said than done in a school system that’s plagued with bureaucratic red tape, little or no support, sometimes incompetent leadership, and often apathetic parents.

However, I believe when we face our wonderful Creator when our time on earth has expired, and He asks, “What did you do with the children I placed under your care as a teacher”? I don’t believe God will accept ANY of the “logical” excuses we often use to justify less than a 100% commitment to excellence on our jobs and in the lives of our students.

So I want you to ask yourself some of the same tough questions I ask myself when it comes to my commitment to teaching:

1.) Am I part of the problem or the solution?
2.) Do I focus on the obstacles on my job or the opportunities?
3.) Do I make excuses or do I set a positive example for others?
4.) Do colleagues and students see me as being full of enthusiasm or full of something else?
5.) Do I brighten up my school when I enter it or when I leave it?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the true answers to these questions. That means either we can keep doing what we’re doing so we can keep getting the same results or we can choose to change our school by changing our approach and our attitude towards our job. The choice is yours.

Teach with passion, and remember to practice what you teach.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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