An Interview with Jeff Gray: “What If”?

Feb 19, 2012 by

Lighthouse Primary School, located in the northern region of the Republic of Mauritius, offers an excellent standard of education based on Christian principles.

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Where are you now and what are you currently involved with?

I am serving as Headmaster at Lighthouse Primary School in Mauritius. Mauritius? Yes, and most Americans have no idea where to even begin when looking at the globe. Mauritius is a speck in the Indian Ocean. Let me just say that I love my job! I am 100% sincere when I say that I have the privilege of working with a staff that has caught the vision of what great schooling looks like for children and families. We aren’t caught up in politics, personality conflicts, back biting, climbing the corporate ladder by stepping on the heads of our colleagues, state or district bureaucracy. We are caught up in building relationships with children and families, providing individualized instruction for every child, teachers as trainers and learners, sacrificing time and personal finance for families that don’t have the means to provide a quality education through normal means. Finally, we have fun doing so.

2) Who should read it and What Would Happen IF, they took the message to heart?

“What If” is a book that should be read by all school stakeholders because everyone has a role in the success of our children. I believe that if people read the book with an open mind that it would allow them the opportunity to reflect on the things that they do that are hindering the work or helping the work. Again, often times in my writing I pose the problem and leave it for the reader to evaluate needed change.

3) Why did you write the book ?

Since writing, “If She Only Knew Me”, in 2005 I have enjoyed speaking to hundreds of educators across the United States about the significant work that we do on behalf of children. In many cases, I hear stories of frustration, hardship and barriers that people encounter because of colleagues at all levels. After a period of time, I began the process of rereading several emails and thought that the questions that were posed to me should be posed to a larger audience. Of course, I had a few questions (surprise, surprise) that I had pondered for a long time that I added to the collection. So, I decided to write this new book. I hope that those that read this article will take the time to download “What If” and consider the content.

4) I understand that you are in India right now. How did you get there and what are you doing there?

One word can describe my trip to India. Heartbroken. This was my first trip to the 2nd most populated country in the world. I can’t begin to describe the poverty, the daily life, the faces of a hopeless and possibly a helpless generation of children. The visit was a short one but will live long in my mind. Needless to say, I returned to Mauritius with a lot to ponder.

Two things have risen to the surface of my thoughts that I would like to share with you.

1. America is a blessed country. We have everything we possibly need to provide every child in our country with a quality educational experience. We have well trained teachers. We offer high-tech child centered facilities. There are experts in every field and in every school building. We exclude no children from services. We have more information about learning, child development and best practice than we could ever possibly calculate. We provide support in every way possible through family services, counseling, work force, and university scholarships. Overall, as Americans, we do things right.

However, my second thought is a little less warm and fuzzy.

2. Unfortunately, with every possible resource at our fingertips we fail to reach every child. How many children will we fail in 2012? I believe that one is one too many.

5) I think a lot about “ What If “ scenarios- what If I had a better chemistry teacher- would I be a medical doctor or surgeon today? Is this wishful thinking?

Mike, this is a perfect “What If” scenario and I wonder how many students out there right now are having those same thoughts about their teachers? I wish more people were wishful thinkers. We have too many “it’s too hard” thinkers, “I’m only one person” thinkers, “It’s too much work” thinkers, “I don’t get paid enough to do this” thinkers. What If challenges this group to put themselves in the shoes of a child growing up in this tumultuous time in American history.

6) Certainly a lot of teachers believe in “What If”, I could only reach that one child ?

I agree that a majority of readers are those that believe and practice what they read in my books. I have talked to countless numbers of educators that pour their lives into the success of their students. When this special group of educators read my work, they scream, “YES! This is what it’s all about!” Then many of them email me. I say, as Jimmy Valvano said in 1993, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

7) What is your favorite page in “What If”?

I love watching sports! I am amazed at the amount of money people spend on sports. People buy jerseys, tickets to events, flatware, carpets, wallpaper, car flags, toilet paper holders, game day food and drink for the purpose of celebrating their favorite team. So, my favorite page would be the following:

What if we celebrated the success of our students like we celebrated the victories of our favorite sports team?

Mike, we need to celebrate more. We don’t celebrate nearly enough.

What I am asking doesn’t require a grant or special permission.

It requires the adults in a school building to create an environment that celebrates success.

8) What are your plans for the future?

I’m excited about my visit to the States this summer. In 2009, I visited 5 school districts and provided keynote speeches to individual schools, principal cadres, and entire school districts. It was an amazing experience. I plan to do the same and will begin
Scheduling my visits in the upcoming weeks.

9) How do people contact you? Where can people find your books?

I always provide people with my personal email address and welcome dialogue/comments about my work. My email address is jgray143@gmail.com. My new book, What If is available as an e-book and can be purchased at www.smashwords.com

“What If” is currently offered as an e-book and is available to be read on multiple readers including an ordinary pc/laptop, Kindle, Nook as wellas several other e-readers. Innovative Press published Don’t Forget Frances, 601 Maple Street, She Loves Me and He Loves Me. The address is www.innovative-press.com. Rocket Publishing published my best seller, If She Only Knew Me, and the book is still being shared in conferences across the nation.

The website to buy this book is www.rocketpublishing.net. All of my books can be purchased at Amazon.com.

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