Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

A Doer like Robin Fontana is taking Karma to the Next Level

photo copy 9Robin grew up in Oxnard, California and claims she was one of the reasons they invented the drug Ritalin.  Her hyperactivity was so apparent that her grandmother would send her outside to run, in order to burn off steam.  “She would send me out to run and run saying, if you go run around the backyard 10 times then you get to watch TV.”  From her backyard track is where Robin fell in love with running.  More on running later.
But she had quiet times too, as an introverted reader.  She described in detail a large tree that was in her backyard, which she would climb up in to read for hours.
One other side made-up this future teacher, one of a catholic school rebel.  Having nuns as teachers, Robin described them as very strict.  “I wasn’t mean to them, I just liked to see how hard I could push it.”  Now Robin works at a catholic school with, as she calls, “Girls just like I was.  Oh you silly Karma.”
The term Karma comes from Indian religions, with an action or deed causing a cycle of cause and effect.  In other words, what you put out into the World you will get back in some form.  In this case, it is humorous or even ironic that a devious teen ended up in the classroom.  However, I would claim that Karma had more at play (and in store) for this education leader.
She never ever (ever) imaged being a teacher.  She did dream of first being a mermaid, then later a veterinarian.  When college approached, she declared a nursing major at Cal State Fresno.
It was after a C in chemistry that Robin reconsidered her decision, “For the first time in my life I felt dumb.  Getting a C was horrible, plus it came with a letter that said I had to repeat the class with a B or higher to continue in the nursing program.”  C or B in chemistry, I am sure Robin would have made a wonderful nurse.  Come to think of it, I seriously hope my next nurse has even half the level of care, comfort, and calming effect that she has.
Accepting the reality that nursing would not be her career path, she looked to her other classes and realized she really enjoyed English.  And as simple as that, she chose to take more English classes.  This small choice led her to an English masters program also at Fresno, where she also juggled working at the writing center and teaching English.
It was during these first courses she taught that she fell in love with it.  She said with a sigh, “I lucked into the love of my life.”  But don’t forget to give a little credit to Karma, affecting her so strongly that thirty years have passed in the field.  Cause and effect.  But, not just because she was the challenger in catholic school.  No, Robin was called and caused into teaching because she was needed.
She proudly takes on role modeling with her students, as she describes it, “Little girls learning how to be women and sometimes they just aren’t doing it right at first.”  But how she models positive behavior for both young girls and those around her is quite unique to her character.
photo copy 6Robin teaches twelve-year-old girls in seventh grade History.  Please picture your previously twelve-year old self.  This challenging age, while kids are on the cusp of being teenagers.  Figuring our their maturing selves, evolving classmate friendships and growth spurts.
Middle school teachers are saints.  Robin takes her sainthood seriously and ensures she role models for her girls.

“It is a good thing to model, girls can get too serious.  They think being an adult you have to be mean or sullen.  So, when they see women around them that are smiling and happy and that life is good, a new model can be made.  Even when it is a bad day.”

She does have bad days.  “The girls ask me, don’t you ever have a bad day?!  And I laugh and say ‘Yes, I’m having one right now!’  But it’s important as a role model you don’t wear everything on your sleeve.”
I think of the movie Finding Nemo, where Dory is encouraging Marlin to just keep swimming, “When life gets you down, you know what you do?!  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
Simple as that.
Like Dory the Disney fish, part of Robin’s demeanor is positivity, and a lot of it.  Sure there will be bad days and frustrations, but she consciously pays attention to not let it impact her and those around her.  “I don’t take a lot seriously, I try to have fun.  I try to laugh.  Around campus if I am thinking about something too hard and I start knitting my brow, people will ask me are you okay? because they are used to my ear to ear grin.  I like that about myself.  I like that I am usually a happy person.  People think I am approachable, they are comfortable with me.  What you see is what you get.”
I think this statement really describes what drew me to Robin.  Smiles, simplicity, straightforward.  I love these qualities and would say she is spot on with her self-description.  In leadership, the ability to accurately describe yourself in strengths and weaknesses is pivotal.  Being personally/professional aware opens up reliability, trustworthiness, empathy, and the list goes on and on.
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About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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