Tim Green, an award-winning author and former NFL player, visited students at Central Elementary School and Chillicothe Middle School on Wednesday morning, delivering a message about the importance of education and character and the joys and benefits of reading.
Tim Green, an award-winning author and former NFL player, visited students at Central Elementary School and Chillicothe Middle School on Wednesday morning, delivering a message about the importance of education and character and the joys and benefits of reading. After writing books for adults, Green transitioned into writing books for young readers, inspired by his own experiences as an athlete, coach, father and friend. His “Pinch Hit” was nominated for the Mark Twain Award this year and “Unstoppable” was nominated for the Truman Award. Green’s first stop in Chillicothe was at the middle school where he met with young readers for breakfast, autographed books and spoke at a school-wide assembly. He then went to Central School to give an hour-long presentation to the fourth- and fifth-grade students, autograph books, and eat lunch with students. The former Atlanta Falcons defensive player told the students that their teachers want to do more than educate them. “They want to make you better people,” he said. “They want to encourage you to be tolerant and generous and forgiving and kind.” Those things, he said, are the most important things a person can do to be a success. “When I think about my own life, I measure my success and value by what kind of father I am, by what kind of husband I am, what kind of friend, what kind of a son,” he said. “That’s how I measure success... not only for myself, but for the people around me; those things are the most valuable things that I’ve done.” Green said that when he was in middle school, his passions were sports and reading books. He encouraged others to develop a passion for reading, but if they don’t like a book, put it down (unless it’s a school assignment, he added). “If you don’t like a book after five chapters, put it down,” he said. “Even if it’s one of mine... if you don’t love it after five chapters, put it down. A book is not supposed to be grinding work.” Working Hard Green emphasized the importance of working for what you want and said achieved goals are more gratifying when you work to achieve those goals. “Work is something I was committed to when I was young,” he said. “When I was your age as an athlete, I would work hard. I would run until I was sick. I lifted weights day after day. I pushed myself until it hurt. I wasn’t the fastest, the biggest or strongest; but, I made myself better through work. It’s an important formula.” Green also worked hard as a student. “I would sit in the front of the class,” he recalled. “When the teacher started talking, I would start writing. I would just dial in. Some classes I loved; some classes I didn’t. But, it didn’t matter to me. I was there to learn and to work and perform and to get better.” After studying writing at Syracuse University where he was an All American football player, Tim was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he was a top defensive player for eight years. In the off-season of NFL, Green began writing his first book, got married, and starting having children. His hard-work ethic permeates through all aspects of his life. “I work at those things, too. I never take a day off, never slow down, never stop trying to get better.” He admitted that he “got lucky” for becoming a first round NFL draft pick and that he was “in the right place at the right time.” But, he said, people don’t need luck to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or an accountant through education. Green said he loves the lessons that are learned through sports. “They teach us about hard work, perseverance, teamwork, good sportsmanship,” he said. “But, those lessons are only valuable if they are applied to education and the kind of person you are... your character, which determines what kind of parent you’re going to be; what kind of friend you’re going to be; the kind of partner you’re going to be. You’ve got to work at that, too.” Challenge to be Kind Green challenged the students — at both the middle school and Central school — to make a conscious effort and do something nice for someone. “It takes work to be generous instead of selfish,” he said. “It takes work to be kind instead of unkind.” “In the next 24 hours, do or say something kind to someone who’s not your friend... not someone you want to impress; someone you haven’t spoken to; someone who’s sad; someone who’s sick; someone who’s lonely; someone who’s disabled; someone who doesn’t have a bunch of friends like you do... Do or say something kind and see what that feels like. It’s awesome.” Green told the middle school students about a recent visit to a St. Louis school. Three days later, he received a message from a girl on Facebook. “You came to my school and told everyone to do something kind,” her message stated. “The four most popular girls came to me and asked me to sit at their lunch table. No one ever did that for me before. That was the happiest day of my life. They did that the next day, too. I want to say thank you.” “Most of us won’t do that unless you make a conscious decision to do that,” Green told the middle school students. “It’s a lot easier to go your own way and not reach out to other people, especially if someone is different.” Reading is Weightlifting for Your Brain Just as athletes must have a serious weight training regimen to become strong and fast and explosive, individuals must have a serious exercise routine for educating themselves. “Educators across the world know that if you become a reader, if you read 20 to 30 minutes per day, you will get stronger, you will become a better student,” Green said. “You will perform better.” He also said that reading will make someone a kinder person. “How?,” he asked. “Because when you read a story, you become the characters in the story. You become someone you’re not. You experience things through other people. He said that in his book, “Unstoppable,” the reader gets to be a cancer victim, go through chemotherapy, lose their hair, eyebrows, eye lashes and muscle mass. And, lose their leg.” The book is based on a true story of a boy who had cancer. “You get to be Harrison when he is finally recovering and his mom gives him a wig,” Green said. “She wants him to feel normal when he goes to the mall to meet his friends.” He sees two students from school and they laugh at him. “He’s sick. He’s hurt, and they laugh.” “Books can help you understand compassion,” he said. “Nothing is more important.” Green told the story about his wife who battled cancer, which put into perspective the his view of NFL players being tough. “NFL players tough? That’s a joke,” he said. “I watched her go through multiple chemotherapys and multiple operations. I watched her suffer, watched her fight her way back and claw and hurt. Tough is a cancer survivor.” Watching his wife go through the struggles of cancer became the inspiration for “Unstoppable.” Green concluded his presentation by reading the first two chapters of his newest book, “Lost Boy,” which was released in March. In all, he has written more than 30 books. Guest Author Each year, a guest author who has a book on the current Mark Twain Award list of nominees (usually considered for grades 4-6), visits CMS and Central School. This is a priority, as both Central and the middle school carry these titles and participate in a statewide vote each year, according to Laurinda Davison, CMS library media specialist. Not only did Green have a book on the Mark Twain Award list, “Pinch Hit,” he had one on the Truman Award nominee list (considered for grades 6-8) as well, “Unstoppable.” After reading both books and deciding Green would be a perfect fit, Davison talked it over with Debbie Willard, library media specialist at Central School, and they decided to pursue having Green visit Chillicothe. “His message was so uplifting and full of care, concern, and encouragement,” Davison said. He, as have other visiting authors, can drive home a message in one short presentation that school personnel may have focused on for years. “The impact is easily witnessed and therefore, worth every penny,” Davison said. He noted in the presentation to students that the money he receives as speaker fees goes to buy books that he donates to libraries in need.