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!
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!
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.
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!
You know, what we do is amazing. We are teachers! We get to help students become the people they will be in the future. We get to live in the teachable moments of every day. It is a pretty great line of work!
I have shared it before, but last year was a tough year for me. I won’t get into it now, however it was a difficult year with students and then to top of it test scores might have been the lowest for me. Even though I felt like it may my best year as a teacher after working through the challenges, I can’t help but wonder if it was a net loss of a year. I don’t know.
I share that because I stumbled on a great song accidentally because of Twitter (by the way, if you aren’t using Twitter, you should be…I am working on a post on the whys…if you are on it, you should be following Sean Gaillard, Remind, Dear Teacher (of course), among many others!). Through a random set of events, I was introduced to the music of Shayna Leigh and the song I am about to share. When I heard it, I knew that I found the perfect song for the first theme song post of the new year! That said, let’s get to the encouragement!
If you aren’t familiar with how theme song posts work, click play on the song (get through any ads if they play first), and then start reading. Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s go!
We are teachers.
We carry so much with us from day to day, quarter to quarter, and year to year.
All careers have baggage, but probably none more than being a teacher.
We invest so much of who we are into what we do.
Sometimes it can be hard to recover from the hurt of some of the hard times that come with what we do.
That hurt can weigh us down and cause fear from stepping out to far outside of the box or outside of our comfort zone.
We fight against that fear, but it always seems to be there. It is just on the periphery. It stalks us. It taunts us. Occasionally, it overwhelms us. Other times it drives us to push forward and do more.
The anxiety does not define us, but it does hang out around us.
Some days and years are worst than others.
But there is a way to drive it away.
And it is so simple that it is hard to do.
Remember who you were when you started teaching.
You were nervous, but when it came to students you were fearless.
Remember that new teacher that was ready to set the world on fire and change the future single-handedly!
That person is still inside of you. That person is still you. You are still fearless. You still have the fire.
Rekindle that fire and remember.
- You believed every student mattered and you acted on that belief.
- You did not care what other people thought, you did what counted most for students.
- You did not worry about test scores because what really made the difference was your connection with students.
- You focused on the teaching and learning process individually, not what you were being told worked best for all.
- You let love and care for each of those people in your room drive your instruction and behavior.
- You believed that what you did with each child truly made a difference.
- You had confidence in yourself and your gifts/skills as a teacher.
All of those things are still true. That never stopped being true. The baggage of prior years and yesterdays mistakes do not define you. Your drive and love for students does…and that is still there. Remember it today!
Teacher, drive back to where you started. That is where you live as a teacher. And that is what will get you back on your feet to try again.
You are an amazing teacher! Never forget that! You are making a difference and what you do does matter! It matters more than you know! Keep on believing in yourself and keep on teaching, Teacher!
We all have bad days. We all have good days. And we all have lots and loads of mediocre days that are just kind of “eh.” That is just the way life goes, teacher or not.
I know I am stating the obvious, but the good days tend to be the ones we enjoy more. Duh, right? We get more done. We are happier. We feel more accomplished. But the good ones are not the majority of the days of our lives…life gets in the way and chokes out days from being memorable, let alone good.
We are busy – so much to do and so little time. So many responsibilities to stay ahead of as a teacher. There is school life. There is home life. The needs of your family. The needs of your students. The needs of you.
Not to mention, bad stuff does happen to good people. The smallest thing can send us in a downward descent from the pursuit of good days.
It is not reasonable to think that most days can be good. That is not realistic. And perhaps it is one of the reasons that good days are so good…they are rare and a treasure to find.
I get that. I do. I have been around long enough to know that it is true.
But…what if we could make any day better?
I am not saying make every day a great day, but I am saying you can make any day better. You can make bad days better days. You can make “blah” days less, well, “blah.” AND you can make good days great days! Bonus: it isn’t even hard to do and it is pretty much a guarantee (most of the time)!
I can make any day better? Please, do tell, Teacher. What is this simple way to make every day better?
Yes you can and yes it is very simple.
Get ready for it.
Here it comes.
Drum roll, please.
You can make any day better by making someone else’s day better.
I bet you have heard this before, but it is true. I can tell you from personal experience from practicing it in life, running this blog for the last couple of years, and using social media that helping others be encouraged, happy, or just less sad has the same effect on you as you do it. And it does not matter what kind of day you are having.
When you reach out to others, it does something inside of you. It lets you see a little more color in the world. It helps you to take the blessings and curses in your life in a different way. It gives you a fresh look at the world. It makes you more glad for the things that make you glad and less sad about the things that make you sad. It makes you feel, um, better, even if you where already feeling pretty good.
If you make a practice of trying to find ways to make the day better for other people, you’ll discover that most days are pretty good or close to really good. It’ s all about perspective. It is about seeing life as more than just about you and what is going on in your life. It is about being better to other people.
The cool part is, the people whose day was made better turn and do the same for others. Sometimes you even get to see Pay It Forward kind of miracles happen around you, especially with other teachers at school.
So what are some of the ways I can do this?
That is the best part, there are as many ways as there are people in the world…but I will give you a few ideas to try today. These are the ones I try to practice most, especially on bad days:
- Smile more. Smiling does something inside of you that makes you feel a little happier, and the people you are smiling at feel a little better, too.
- High-fives. More high-fives. Kid President talks about this often. “Let’s live in a world with more high fives.” I have been poked fun at for it before, but high-fives to make people feel better and helps you take yourself a little less seriously. Give at least 10 high-fives today…I bet you will smile a little more (back to Thing 1 :) ).
- Tell someone how awesome you think something they are doing is. This one is guaranteed to make all involved feel better. Have a conversation with another teacher about something you think is amazing about how they teach or interact with students and ask them about it. Hey, this one counts as personal PD, too. Score!
- Write a note to someone just letting them know what you notice and like about them. This one is great to do for other teachers and students. I have written to all of my students and other teachers at the school in the last couple of years (over time…not all at once). People really appreciate that. I find that when I did that for the most difficult students (or teachers) it helped me appreciate them more and helped build rapport and relationships. Write a note to a fellow teacher that needs encouragement today and one for a difficult student. Even good days get better with this one!
- Write a note to yourself. This one is best on bad days. Write about what is going right. Write about how you are making a difference. Tell yourself a joke to make you laugh. Remind yourself of what makes you a good teacher and what you should be proud of about you. Keep the note and make yourself read it from time to time. Days will be made better, I promise.
There are many, many more, but this list will get you started. Little things make the most difference. I shared a video from Remind in the last post that was about the small things that teachers do that have the biggest effect on students. They refer to it as “teaching small” and have an initiative called #teachsmall. I love this concept so much, because it is so true. I will talk about it in a future post (because my mind was blown by the idea), but I bring it up now because making students’ and other teachers’ days better are one of the small things that we do that are so important.
When you are having a better day, students are more connected to you and learning more. Other teachers having better days has the same effect for them. Most of all, when students are having a better day because of the influence of teachers, real learning happens and the world and future is changed for the better. So teach small today, Teacher, and make your day and world better.
You are an amazing teacher, even on a bad day! I know you try to make the best of every day…keep on doing that! You are making a difference. You are changing the world, I promise! Keep on making days better and keep on teaching, Teacher!
This is it! Can you feel the excitement? There is electricity in the air. The sun is brighter. The colors are more vivid. The world just seems right! It is a new school year!
This is what you live for. This is what you do. This is who you are. You are a teacher!
Seriously, what better time of the year is there?
Your classroom looks amazing. You and the other teachers at your school are buzzing about all of the wonderful new ideas you have had and learned about over the summer. You have fresh supplies in your room…and not a pencil is missing yet!
Administration is happy. They are presenting the new goals and thoughts about school culture. PD makes sense right now! You have heard quite a few times about how awesome your plans for the year are. You feel supported completely (not that you aren’t later in the year…it just feels like more support now).
Oh, and I have failed to mention the students!
If they aren’t in your classes yet, they soon will be. They are ready. They are excited to be back. They can’t wait to meet you or are very happy that you are their teacher. They are expecting great and wonderful things. They want to learn right now! Aha moments are happening all over the place!
And the parents love you. They know you are going to make a difference in their children’s lives. They are ready to help from home and support what is going on in your class. They are happy to give their children over into your care (because they have a fresh understanding of what it is like to be a teacher because the kids have been home all summer).
Everyone is on the same page!
This is the sweet spot for us, Teacher. This is our time to shine. Enjoy this time. Take it in. Savor it.
The memories of now are what will help get you through the slump that comes later…but don’t think about that. Just bask in the glory of now!
Build those relationships with the staff at your school. Share your new strategies and plans. Help out another teacher in working through what they want this year to look like. Write some notes of encouragement to yourself and others for later in the year when it is not so great.
And take every possible moment that you can to connect to those new students of yours. It is worth it. Don’t let trying to get too much content covered here in the beginning get in the way of that. It is the relationship that matters. Build it now while it is the best time for it. The soil is ready. Plant the seeds of connection so that you will have something to expand upon and grow later.
This is your time, Teacher.
This is your moment.
Let your awesome shine!
And, Teacher, you are awesome! I truly mean that. You are an amazing teacher, and this is going to be the best year ever for you! Keep on reaching those students and making a difference! Oh, and keep on teaching, Teacher!
PS…I want to close with a video that was share with me. It was created by Remind (something I definitely want to tell you more about later because it is even more awesome than I thought!). This video captures what I was trying to say today in an awesome way. It really shows what being a teacher is all about…especially here in the beginning of the year. Please share the video…it so needs to go viral! Teachers need the encouragement from it and the world needs to see what being a teacher really means. Enjoy!