#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Every Learner Can Learn

Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, I presented the idea of the #HowToTeacher Rules and gave you Rule 1 (if you haven’t read it, go there first…this post will make more sense if you do).  I feel like that rule is key to being a great teacher.  All other things that great teachers believe and do stem from the passion for teaching and learning.  Rule 2 is tied very closely to the first, but it focuses on who you teach.  These two rules are the key to all of the others!

You know what?  Maybe I should tell you what Rule 2 is before I talk about how great it is.  :)  Let me do that now.

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn and they act on those beliefs.

Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn an they act on those beliefs.  This is just something that is in the DNA of great teachers.  There does not seem to be any challenge too big for them.  They are relentless in the idea that every student in their classroom can learn.  It seems like they have a million tools in their bag of teacher tricks to try.  Nothing that students can throw at them will change their minds that every student can learn.

Students with IEPs?

No problem.  They have been to trainings, talked to other teachers, and read strategies for this just for fun.

ESOL students that have little to no English?

Great teachers have workbooks, translators, and are even learning the language the best that they can (almost enough to almost enough to say a couple of things to parents during conferences).

Class with five ADHD poster children all at once?

Multiple seating options, standing desks, a focus corner, and lots and lots of back-up activities for different learning styles.

Apathetic students?

They don’t know who they are messing with.  “I can’t” or “I won’t” are not words that great teachers understand.  They will find a way to reach those students (or die trying)!

I could go on and on, but you get where I am going here.  Great teachers are not stumped by students with difficult situations or difficult students.  Their belief in the ability of every student to learn trumps the challenges to make that happen.  They live for the teaching and learning process (Rule 1), and they will not accept that anyone is not able to be a part of that process.

You know the teachers like this.  They make other teachers frustrated with their refusal to think that any student student can not learn at the same level (with scaffolding) as the others.  These teachers make the other teachers want to try harder and find a way to reach each and every student.  They are relentlessly relentless!

This is the key to great teaching.  You must not only believe that this is true, but you have to act like you believe it.  Never give up on a student.  Never stop finding ways to reach them.  There is some way for each student to learn and you will find it!

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

How to find paths for each student will be covered in other #HowToTeacher Rules, but the belief that every student can learn has to got to come first!

I know you are one of the never-give-up teachers!  You are one of the amazing ones that won’t take “I can’t” for an answer!  I applaud you for that.  You are an awesome teacher!  Thank you for all that you do to reach your students!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher



#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Passion for Teaching & Learning

Dear Teacher,

Throughout my time in the classroom, I made great efforts to meet, talk to, and observe as many teachers as I can.  In my role now as a STEM teacher at a Science Center, I see teachers with their classes everyday.  Through the process of observing and talking to teachers, I have been able to come into contact with some of the greatest teachers…and there are definitely some commonalities and trends among them.

I have decided to try and put words to what I have seen and experienced when it comes to great teaching, and I am calling these observations the “#HowToTeacher Rules.”  Take them for what they are worth.  :)  With this post I would like to present Rule 1:

#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Great teachers are passionate about the teaching and learning process.

Great teachers know that the journey of learning is more important than the destination of specific content.  How students learn how to learn on their own is of the highest priority.  No matter what the system says, great teachers (like you) make this rule one each and every year and day!


If you are reading this, something tells me you agree with this rule.  You are one of those great and amazing teachers.  You know that it is more about how to learn than rote knowledge.  You stand up for what you believe when it comes to this…and that is one of the things that makes you awesome!

Keep on believing in the heart of education, keep up the good fight for it, and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I apologize for any typos – I wrote this with my phone. :)

The Courage to Continue

Dear Teacher,

When teachers are trusted and allowed to use their skills & talents, amazing things happen in the classroom. I know this is becoming rare and that makes it hard to be a teacher sometimes, but you do have something to offer your students and the world. Find the strength, courage, and some way to always do what is right and needed for your students sake.  You are awesome, Teacher, no matter how the system makes you feel sometimes. You are making a difference! Keep up the good fight!

Love, Teacher


Fight Song [for Teachers]

Dear Teacher,

It is not even almost halfway through the year, but I am already tired.  How about you?  It gets busy fast doesn’t it?  So much to do…

I think it is time for a little rally.  There is a lot of year left and our students need us to be on our game.  It is time for a theme song post, and I think I know the song we need right now.  Click play and then read on.

Sometimes it feels so lonely as a teacher.

We are only one person, but we are trying to change the lives of our students each day.  We are helping to shape and mold their futures.

We believe in them.  We care about them.  We know what we do matters.  It is our nature, heart, and calling to do our best to make a difference.

We have ideas.  We have plans.  We have a drive.  We are committed.

But we can feel so overwhelmed sometimes.

There is so much to do in order to do what we need to do.

Some of the the stuff to do is extra and not from us, but some of us is from ourselves because we want to do the best we possible can do for our students.

We want them to see how great that they can be.  We want the experience in our classrooms to inspire them to move on and move deeper.  We want them to become learners that never stop.

We can’t stop.

We have more to give.

We have more to be.

We have lives to change.

Teacher, you have fight in you.  You have a warrior inside of you.  You are a monster, in a good way.  You have battles to wage for your students.  They need you to keep fighting and keep going.

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs

Find those reserves.

Remember why you are doing this…

You may only have one match, but you can make an explosion in the life of a students!

You have a lot left inside of you.

Keep going.

You’ve got this.

Never stop.  Never give up.  Never lose hope for the difference that you are making.

Keep dreaming.  Keep moving.  Keep going.

Don’t lose the part of you that realizes how important what you do is!  I know that you have a lot to do.  I know that you don’t love all of the aspects of your job…but your students need you!  It is worth fighting through.  It is worth doing all that you can to keep going.  The little things you do matter more than anything.  Remember why you a teacher…the students.

You are not crazy to keep doing this.  Just focus on those lives behind the eyes that are looking at you.  You have a purpose.  You are needed.  You are vitally important to the people in your classroom and the world.

Keep fighting!  We all need you to!  Keep breathing and keep going!

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You’ve got this.  I believe in you!  You are amazing.  You are making a difference.  You really are.  Keep fighting and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

The Easy Button for Increasing Classroom Engagement


Dear Teacher,

If you have been teaching for any length of time, you know one thing to be true above most others…there are no silver bullets.  There is no “one thing” that will be able to fix all things in your classroom or for your students.  There is not a magic teaching pill that will cause all students to learn, grow, and find success.

No, you no the very real reality that teaching, learning, and education take work.  And I am not going to go against that.  Not one bit.

There is much truth in the fact that you have got to be an active learner yourself and find out best practices and new ideas.  You have to practice those best practices.  You have to know your content.  You have to be creative.  You have to figure out new ways to plan and facilitate learning in your classroom.  You have to keep up with technology and how to use it as a tool to help students learn more effectively.  Speaking of students, you have to do the very challenging and messy work of getting to know them and building rapport and relationships with them.  The same goes with your students’ parents, other teachers and staff, and administration.

Teaching is work.  Difficult work.  Rewarding work, true, but hard work.

Um, so far this post is pretty much the opposite of your title…where is the easy button?

Everything said so far is what we know in our teacher reality.  But…there is one thing that does make all of this a lot easier and will increase student engagement in your class.

Image Source: http://www.authormedia.com/mybooktable-1-3/

Image Source: http://www.authormedia.com/mybooktable-1-3/

That easy button is….wait for it….

Oh no.  Is this one of those times where you give the big build up and the one answer is me?

You guessed it.  The easy button for making some of the hard parts of teaching and to increase engagement is, indeed, YOU!

Just like all of the other times I have set you up for a big secret in education, the key is you.  Something inside of you and about you can unlock the easiness to making tough things seem less tough.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Maya Angelou:

If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

There is so very much that we can change about education and what needs to happen in our classroom.  We can’t change the content we are required to teach.  We can’t change the students (not directly, at least).  We can’t change their parents.  We can’t change their home environments.  We can’t change expectations from administration, districts, and the state (again, not directly).  We can’t change what needs to happen for teaching and learning to truly happen in our classroom.

No, there is not very much that we can change in education…but we can change ourselves.

There is a lot of ways that we can change our attitudes as teachers, but I want to just focus on one…above all else, we need to love what we do!

I am not saying that we have to love all of the bureaucracy, paperwork, and struggles with the harsh realities that our students have to deal with…no, I am not sure that anyone should love that.  I am saying that we need to love the fact that we get to teach students and open them up to wonders of the world and the awesomeness of fighting to understand something new and the thrill of the moment when it all clicks.  We also get to have the hope of being a part of changing the lives of our students for the better and helping them realize how learning new things changes possibilities!  That is what we live for.  That is why we teach.

We need to love what we do!

We have to be excited about what we are teaching in our classes.  If you don’t love all of your content, be excited about the way that you are teaching it!  Don’t love how you teach something?  TEACH IT DIFFERENTLY!  You are in control of that.  You have got to find a way to love what you teach and how you teach it!  You have to!  This is what makes students take notice and want to be engaged in the process of learning.

It is our passion and love of the teaching/learning process that draws students in.  That is the key.  That is the easy button.  Our engagement in the process makes them not want to miss out and be a part of whatever has you so excited!

Think about the great teachers you have had or that you know…they were passionate about what they do, weren’t they?  I bet the answer is yes.

Teachers who love and are passionate about teaching breed students who love and are passionate about learning.

Teacher, love what you do!  Let it show.  Make it obvious.  The students will want a sip of what you are drinking, I promise!  They will be engaged!

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You are awesome.  I bet I was preaching to the choir the whole time, wasn’t I?  You do love what you do.  You aren’t afraid to show it.  Remember to keep that passion for teaching and learning going!  Help students be ignited by your fire and their passion for learning will be contagious to others!  Keep on loving what you do and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

The Secret Ingredient to Being a Great Teacher…

Dear Teacher,

We live in an interesting time to be in the field of education, do we not?  This is not a set up to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a teacher or administrator in this day-and-age, though there are a lot of difficult and harsh realities for us right now.  There is another side to being an educator right now…


We have some of the most amazing resources available to us.  Some teachers have more than others, but we all have more than teachers had at any time in the past.  We have the internet (if not readily accessible to student, you have access to it for planning…you are reading a blog right now, aren’t you?).  We have technology (very few teachers do not have the availability of some kind of tech).  We have each other (we can connect with educators around the world and collaborate and learn from each other).  The list is endless.

We have so much.

Yet, do we have more great teachers than ever before?  I am not sure about that.  It seems like we should, but there is probably the same average amount of great teachers as there ever has been (which is a large number…I am not saying this to knock education).  Great teachers will always be great teachers…no matter the resources.

So how do great teachers become and stay great teachers?

There are A LOT of factors here…

  • Studying education and the latest research
  • Workshops and staying in touch with other great teachers
  • Focusing on students more than content
  • Knowing when to teach more and when to teach less
  • Mastering the art of facilitation
  • And so many other things…

But there is one secret ingredient that I think matters the most and is common among most of the great teachers in history, and it is amazingly simple.

The secret to you being a great teacher is you.


Great teachers know themselves.  They know their strengths and weaknesses.  They work on the weaknesses and play to their strengths.  They do not deny who they are as people, and this lets their passions for teaching and for life play themselves out in the classroom.  Their zeal for what drives them pushes students to strive harder and become interested and engaged.  Because great teachers are keyed into who they are, their dreams are big and they fight to achieve them.  They also know what they need and go after those things…for this reason fund-raising seems easy for them and  “personal PD” is not a new idea because it has been a theme of their lives!

Great teachers are aware of themselves and this makes the more aware of their students and what needs to happen  in their classroom.

Resources are not what make great teachers great…great teachers make all resources great because they are keenly aware of how to use them.  The type of resource or school “realities” are not limitations…they do not really know limitations!

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Great teachers know who they are and do not hide it.

Great teachers share their passions and interests and make them a part of their instruction.

Great teachers have a sense of what they need and this gives them a sense of student needs.

You are a great teacher…you just have to get to know yourself to bring the great teacher out!

You are the key to you being a great teacher!

You are a much greater teacher than you think  you are!  We can all be greater…so lets work on it.  You are amazing!  I know you are a great teacher!  You are making a difference because you are completely awesome!  Keep working at your greatness and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

The Perfect Plan for that One Student

Dear Teacher,

It is early in the year, but if you have been teaching for at least a year I bet you already know something about your class(es).

We all know that there is always “that one student” in your class that, well…you know who I’m talking about.


Have you found him/her yet?  Have you identified that student that is going to make the year more, um, interesting?

I am not saying all of this to mean that there is always going to be a defiant student that you just can’t reach.  I am just admitting the reality that there usually seems to be at least one student (or more than one) whom it will be more off a challenge to connect (and operate class with him/her in the room some days).

I am sure that we have all seen the meme, or some form of it, that tells us something that is probably true about this student.

I guess it may be kind of a cliched thought at this point, but it is nonetheless true.  These students are probably fighting battles that we have no way of knowing.  They are acting out in response to the reality that they know or as a way to gain control of their lives in some way.  I think we all know this and may even know some of the child’s story.

But still…

How in the [choose your own word to go here] are we supposed to teach when that student is “looking for love in all the wrong places” and you have a classroom of other students who aren’t?

What is worse is that sometimes these students learn that if they do this often enough, they are in complete control and this feels good against the chaos backdrop of their lives .  Things that feel good are often repeated.  This repetition causes a different kind of chaos for you and your other students.  Not to mention you have an ongoing problem that makes other teachers and administration question your classroom management skills.

Gee, thanks for reminding me what to look forward to…

Do not fret, I have something for you to try!

Okay, I am going to be honest, this idea is not my own, but I have stumbled upon pieces of it by accident almost every year that I have taught (this year will be number ten).  The basis of it is simple, and I think it is something we all know intrinsically (however, it is so hard to practice sometimes).

The key to working with difficult students is what you do when there is no crisis.

If the only attention that these students get from you is when there is a classroom disruption or some kind of drama and these students are acting out as way to get the attention they crave…one plus one equals two…they are going to show out in your class.  I can say that with as much certainty as I can say that the Sun shines during the day more than at night.  It is not rocket surgery (yes, I know what I did there).

This means that they have to have attention from you unrelated to their behavior.  Oh, and just praising the “good stuff” is not enough.  That is still based on behavior.  If they want attention and are used to getting it for negative things, the negative is easier for them to attain.  If “being good” is a stretch from what is comfortable and they want the attention without working for it, get ready for negative behaviors that disrupt your class.  It may be less often, but it will still happen.

No, you can’t base your connection with them on behavior (but praising the positive is still very, very important).

You have got to build a relationship with these students (and arguably all students) based on them being human people that deserve respect for who they are more than what they’ve done.

Let me be clear, I am not saying that we ignore behavior!  No.  Consequences for negative behaviors and praise for positive is also a needed aspect of humanity that will help children grow into better adults.  Behavior is important!  However, there is something that these students need that they aren’t getting much of…connection with adults based on who they are and not what they do.  This type of attention will help them slowly learn to think through choices and pay attention, eventually, more to their behavior.

Connection in the most important attention that these students need.

All students need this type of attention.  Most students get this type of attention at home, school, or elsewhere.  A lot of times our most difficult students do not.  They need it and don’t know it, and they are not getting it.  They get attention (and control) the only way they know how…and sometimes this is unfortunately at the expense of your class time.

You know the need, so now how about a strategy for trying to meet it?

We have so much on our plates as teachers, how are we going to find time for individual students (that probably drive us up a wall most days)?

Little of the time should come during class time.

We all know those moments in the day we can use.  Elementary teachers can build a minute or two into transition time (have the other students transition while you take a moment to talk to the one student).  Middle School and High School teachers can use hallway transition times (or other times that can be built into class time…like the small transitions in class).  Also, giving these students class jobs go a long way, too, and gives you time to talk.

How do you build the relationships during these little moments?

That is where the strategy I mentioned that is not my idea comes in…

The 2 x 10 Strategy

No, I am not suggesting that you use a large piece of lumber to help the student behave better!  It is a strategy of using little moments with difficult students to help connect with them and give them that connection they need.

The 2 x 10 Strategy is something that was discussed by several teachers in the Encouraging Teachers Facebook group (this group only excepts new members a couple of times of year, but there are other groups like this on Facebook, as well).  It was further explained by Angela Watson through a blog post that I highly recommend that you read for more details and discussion on this.

Simply put, the idea is that you talk to the student for two minutes a day for at least ten consecutive days in a row and let them talk about whatever they want for the whole time (with little input back from you…it is their time).

Too easy to be true?

Maybe…but think about it.  It is likely that these students almost never get this kind of attention and conversation from adult in their lives (or anyone else).  We crave this.  This is why we have friends.  This is why we spend time with family.  This is a part of the reason we need a planning period…to connect with other people.  It makes sense to think that students crave this, too, even if they don’t know it or how to vocalize it….so they get attention they way they know how…and we have already discussed that cycle!

This conversations are a way to cut the attention-seeking behavior short and help you build a lasting connection and rapport with students who may be wrecking class time from time-to-time, and instead they become one of your greatest allies in class.

I say it is worth a shot.

It is early in the year and there probably haven’t been major disruptions from these students yet.  Why not give this strategy a try?  What do you have to lose?  This is your chance to try something different by teaching smaller to help all of your students succeed in your class.  That is what you signed up to do, isn’t?  This is your year to do it better than ever!


You really do make a difference and are an amazing teacher!  I do believe that this will be the best year ever for you.  Be awesome…and you are because you can’t help it!  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher


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