A Message for the Voices…


Dear Teacher,

Today’s note is not so much for you.  Today I want to talk to the voices.  The voices that surround you.  The voices in your head.  The voices that are causing you to doubt what it is that you do.

Well, really, I only have two words for those voices today.  It is quite an easy message for them.

Shut up.

Stop talking for just today.  Your opinion is not needed.  Your thoughts do not matter.  You “knowledge” is not required.  Not today.  Not right now.

Okay.  Now I have some quick words for you, Teacher.  I mean these from the bottom of my heart.  Lets these words hang in your mind today as you ignore the voices.

  • You are doing a great job!
  • You are, really, a good teacher.
  • The students are listening…even if you can’t tell yet.
  • The time that you are taking to do all that you do is worth it…especially taking the time set up quality experiences for those kids in your classroom.
  • You are reaching them…even the toughest ones.
  • What you are doing matters…you matter…so much more than it feels like sometimes.
  • Keep going.  The hard work will pay off.
  • The students may be reluctant, but don’t give up.  You are getting through.
  • Your instincts are right, trust them.
  • You are awesome, and I mean really, truly awesome.

Teacher, the voices sometimes matter.  However, it is okay to take a break from them and celebrate what you are doing right.  Let today be one of those days.  Let the voices be quiet to your heart today and then look around and feel good about the good that you are doing.  It is okay to be proud of yourself.  Do that today.  See what is going well and feel good about it.  It is okay.

Make today a day about seeing how good of a teacher you are.  There are enough days for seeing what you need to improve on.  Don’t look at those issues….not today.  Choose to only see the positive today.

You can do it.

Remember…quiet the voices and only hear “Good job.”

You are amazing.  You are awesome!  I am proud of you!  I believe in you!  Good job!  Now, keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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[Teachers, We Need to Be] Good Monsters


Dear Teacher,

How is the week going for you?  I know it is early, but it has already been a tough one for me.  However, a rough week already bearing its head and it is only Tuesday seems to be par for the course this year.  Like a most of the other teachers I know and talk to, this has been a difficult year so far.  Not all bad, just super challenging.

Thinking today and about the message that I need to hear (most of the time I write to you as a way to talk to myself…I am a teacher like you, after all :) ), an idea and analogy for my role as a teacher at a Title I school that I have had for the past several years came back to mind.  It is the concept of who I am and need to be sometimes.  This analogy came to me from a song…so I am thinking that I need to make this a theme song post to share about this.

Click play and read on.  Oh, please ignore the cheesy-ness of the video.  It is an older song that you may have never heard before, but give it a listen while you read.  I so hope this all makes sense…this is an analogy and song that I cling to on the hardest of days.

We have a difficult job.  There is so much to do.  So much that we are expected to get done.  Sometimes it seems too much.  Some days (most days) we strive to get by and just keep our heads above the water.

We get to school, look around, and try to sort through all of the “to do’s” to get “to done.”  We let some plates drop while we focus on others, and we look for the light at the end of the tunnel while we trudge through the darkness of the day to day.

It is overwhelming.

It can be too much.

But sometimes we forget two vital things: who we are and the reason that we are here.

You are a teacher, Teacher!  You have made it through teacher training.  You have been through student teaching.  You have passed state exams.  You have made it through evaluations.  And you have survived tough years of teaching before.

You find a way to juggle “real life” and school.  You balance your time, schedule, and money.  You find a way to get things done no matter what.  You are do so much and you are capable of so much more.

Teacher, you are a monster.

You do the impossible every day.  You do a job that most people don’t have the heart or guts to do.  You are fierce.  You are strong.  You are awesome!

You can be scary, sometimes, but only when you have to be.  You are a monster of the best variety.

Don’t let the chains of the system hold you back.  I know it is hard.  The chains are binding.  But you can break them.  You can find a way to be the monster that you need to be.

Why do you need to be a monster?

That is the other side of this…the other thing that we forget when we are enslaved to the extras that come with our job.

There is a village that has bad monsters tormenting it.  There are villagers that need our help.  They need the monsters that we can be to defeat the monsters that should not be.

Our students need us.  We often forget the monsters that torment their lives.

These monsters are different for different students, but they are still there.  The common monsters that are against them are apathy, laziness, and a want to take the easy road.  Sometimes the education system itself can be a common monster.  There are probably a lot of others, too, but I think you get what I mean.

Not only are there the universal monsters, but there are other, very menacing monsters that stalk many of our students, too.  I won’t go into details, but we often do not know what our students face when they leave our school…not to mention some of the monsters at the school (bullying, peer pressure, etc…).

There is a world of monsters trying to pillage and plunder the lives of our students.

One of our main jobs is to be the last line of defense.  Sometimes it takes monsters to beat monsters.

You, Teacher, are one of those monsters…you are a good monster.

So, Monster, open your eyes today.  Break those chains that are holding you back.  Give up some of the battles that don’t matter and go save a village!

I know that it is hard sometimes to know where to fight, but make your focus the students and the monsters that are eating them alive today.  Help them fight.  You might be their only hope.

I really hope this made sense!

You are so awesome!  I know that you are a monster of the best kind and that you battle well against what plagues your students.  Fight on and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher


So, You’ve Had a Week from…Well, You Know…



 

Dear Teacher,

If you are like a lot of other teachers that I have talked to this week, you may have just had a pretty rough week.  It was pretty mediocre for me, but I have had a bad week or two recently, as well.

Fridays of bad weeks can be good and bad.  They are great because the week is over.  They really stink because you have to take stock of the week and figure out what went wrong.

If the week was bad enough, we probably lost our cool and did some things that we aren’t quite proud of…poor reactions, poor choices, etc…  Fridays like that are even worse.  We have to deal with the week and deal with ourselves.  Never, ever, ever fun.

So, for those that had a long week, let’s have a theme song post.  Click play and then read on.

Teacher, your job is hard.

You have so much to deal with every day.

It seems like the days that go bad, go bad in almost every way possible.

One bad day can lead into another…and another…and before you know it, you have had a bad week.

Bad weeks happen.  They happen to the best and worst of us.  They bring out the worst in us…but don’t forget, they also bring out the best of us.

“What do you mean, teacher-who-obviously-did-not-have-a-bad-week?”

I know that you don’t want to think about it today, at the end of your awful week, but bad days and weeks teach us more than the good ones.

  • We learn what doesn’t work.
  • We learn what some of our “triggers” are.
  • We learn what we need to avoid.
  • We learn that the students may nor have learned as we thought they did.

Not only that, weeks after bad weeks always seem to help us get stronger as a teacher.  We dig in, we find a way to keep moving and keep going, and we find ways to try to avoid weeks like we just had.

  • We learn new strategies because we had to work so hard just to get through the week.
  • We learn that we had resources that we did not know that we had.
  • We learn that we are stronger than we thought we were.
  • We learn that we have students that cared about our bad weeks (when they come and say that they are glad the next week is going better for us).
  • We learn that we have colleagues that actually do care about us (even if it is just one or two).
  • We learn that we love teaching as much as we thought we did, even though we hated it the week before (the bad week).

There is a silver lining, Teacher.  Even if you don’t see it now, it is there.

It is okay to bemoan your bad week.  It is human.  Hate this week.  Wish it never happened.  Lick your wounds and do what you need to do, just don’t stay there.

Find the strength.  Find a way.  Move on.  Use this week to become the awesome teacher that you are and can be.

Bad weeks suck, but we need them.  You can get through this.

And never forget…you are not there for you.  You are at your school and in your classroom for your students.

They matter most.

They are your motivation to get through this.

You can do it.

You are awesome!  I know this week was bad, but you can and will keep moving.  Even in this horrible week, you made a difference…even if you don’t know it now.  Keep going.  Never give up.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 


The Real Key to Change in Education



Dear Teacher,

We live in a world that is trying to figure out how to change the state of education.  Common Core this.  Latest, greatest PD that.  Technology.  Strategies. Best practices.

Name your teaching cliche.

People who do not teach or haven’t taught in a while tell us how we need to teach.

Not that any of what I mentioned is necessarily bad…that is not my point.  There is just so much that we are asked and told to do.  Sometimes we are even treated as if we don’t have a clue about how to teach.

It can be overwhelming.  It can be frustrating.  It can be irritating.

Trust me, I know.  I live it every day, just like you.

But, if I may, let me encourage you with one thought.

You know something that the education problem-solvers do not know.  It is the one thing that will make more of a difference than any work of legislation or professional development breakthrough.

You know your students.

You see them every day.  You talk to them.  You see how they work.  You know their struggles.  You know their names.  You know their parents.  You know their personalities.  You know them.

You know them like few others do.

This is what makes you special.  This is what gives you the edge.  This is how you will change education.

Don’t be afraid to make choices based on what you know…your students.  Have courage to make a stand when it needs to be made.  Be brave and do what needs to be done.

You know your students.  You know what they need.  You know how to get things done.  Get them done.  Make a change!

You are smart, experienced, and capable, Teacher.  You can do this.  Listen to the voices out there, but take everything with a grain of salt.  You can do this.  You can make the change that needs to be made in the lives of your students.  You really can make a difference.  Get out there and make it!

You are awesome.  You are the key to educational change.  Go in confidence today!  You’ve got this.  You are amazing!  Change those students’ lives!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 


Ordinary Teaching Makes Extraordinary Teachers


Dear Teacher,

I don’t know what kind of day you have had or week you are having, but I want to encourage you.  Keep doing those every day things that you do.  The every-day adds up.  It is the day-to-day that builds into your awesomeness.

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) ... oh, and this was made using www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) … oh, and this was made using http://www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

You don’t hear “thank you” enough.  So let me thank you.

Thank you, Teacher.  You do what needs to be done.  You are changing the future one day at a time.  You are awesome!  Never give up!  Keep on teaching and turning the ordinary into extraordinary!

Love, Teacher


More Than “Just Okay”


Dear Teacher,

I have a feeling that you are like me.  You are a decent teacher, but sometimes you have moments of sheer teaching genius.  You have times where everything that you touch turns to teaching gold.  Those times are few and fleeting, but they happen.

We also have those fortunately fleeting flickers of time when the opposite happens.  Everything you touch turn to teaching…well, you know what I mean.

We tend to get hung up on those two extremes.  We either look back at those hours of  greatness and wonder how to get back to them, or we beat ourselves up for the seconds of eternal not-so-greatness and try to figure out how to avoid them forever.

What we miss more than too often are the times in-between.  The every day situations.  The times when things work out just okay.

I think that the “just okays” are more important than everything else.

Why?

Because the “just okays” are what we do as teachers.

Huh?

I won’t go into it again today, but yesterday I reminded us all of all the things that we deal with as teachers every minute of every day.  We have a lot working against us.  There are a mountain of issues that we have to climb each and every day.  It is almost like we are set up to fail most days.

But we don’t fail.

Somehow we survive.

More than that…

Somehow we are able to teach, reach, and help students become learners and better people.

The every day “just okays” are how we do this.

The awesomeness of what we do happens in the daily grind of teaching.  We have a sense of what needs to be done, what we need to do to get it done, and ability to somehow get this things done.

Everyday we just have to have faith that we know the right things…and we step out in that faith.  Somehow, when all is said and done, we find that we were usually right with the choices that we made in our classroom day-to-day.

The steps of faith are what make up okay days.  The cool thing is that those kind of days add up.  Over time, we can look back and see that we are, just maybe, a little better than “just okay.”

Another result of the pressing on in faith to make days okay also help us do something else pretty cool.  Over time, the “okay days” also often lead to those moments of grandeur and away from of the moment of lack-of-grandeur.  The more okay that we have, the more great days tend to build up and we have longer periods of time between the terrible, horrible, no good, really bad days.

I am reminded of a scene from one of the best movies ever, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Indiana has to trust his interpretation of clues that he is chasing.  He stands over a huge chasm.  He thinks he know what to do.  His father’s life is in the balance.  He has to trust what he thinks is right.  Do I need to point out the connections to the “just okay” days?  I think you get it!  Anyway, watch this clip.

“Just okay” is not a bad thing.

“Just okay” is not an awful goal.

“Just okay” means you are doing something right.

So what does this mean for you and me?  We need to daily have faith in ourselves.  We know what to do.  We have that teacher instinct of what the right thing is.  We just need to do it.  Day after day.  Week after week.  All of our “okay” will be our greatness.  It proves our awesomeness.

You really are awesome!  Your gut is usually right.  Trust it.  Take daily steps of faith.  Your “okay” is more than just okay.  You’ve got this.  You are making a difference!  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 


[Sometimes Teachers Have to Be] Titanium


Dear Teacher,

How was your weekend?  I know a lot of teachers are coming off of or going into Fall Break, if they are lucky enough to have that where they teach.  Mine is this week, so I am starting a three-day school week.

So how are  you doing this year?  From talking to people and my feedback through the blog, it sounds like many teachers are having a rough year.  What about you?  How is it going?

This year has been good, rough, and just plain interesting for me.  I don’t think you would believe half of the stories that I can already tell just from the 2014-2015 school year.  I can tell you that I am worn out, tired, and a little beat-up.  I know that I am making progress with my students, don’t get me wrong, I am just exhausted.

I have a feeling that you might just feel the same way.  For that reason, today’s post will be a special one.  I haven’t done one of these in a long while, but I think it is time to dust off the Theme Song Post.

If you are new to this blog, you might be wondering, “What is that?”

I pick a theme song for you to listen to while you read the rest of the post.  I hope that it serves as a theme song for your day or week.  It usually sticks with me for the whole week when I do these.

Anyway, click play and then read on…

Teacher, you do one of the most noble, yet challenging, jobs in the entire world.

Unfortunately, it feels more challenging that noble most of the time.

First of all, you work with a room full of students everyday (or several groups of students throughout each day).  That is a challenge in of it self.  You have to know your students.  You have to know what they need.  You have to figure out how to get them to work together.  You have to get them to learn how to learn.  You have to teach them specific content.  You have to…well, you get the point.  This would be a list the size of the internet if I put everything that you need to do on this level of teaching.

Add to that, you have to deal with student issues, behaviors, and struggles.  You have students with bad days.  You have students who don’t get along.  You have students who have IEPs.  You have students that are ESOL.  You have students with BIPs.  You have students that come from environments that do not reinforce what you are teaching.  You have students who are lacking the skills with which they should have had before getting to you.  You have students who need to learn some social skills that are lacking.  You have students who can’t sit still.  You have students on multiple levels of abilities.  You have students who don’t care.  You have students that care too much.  You have a thousand other specifics here.  You have more than a handful of things to think about besides what you teach at any given moment.

On top of all of this, you have voices and critics from the outside.  There is administration telling you how to teach and not teach.  You have teams and other teachers giving advice on how you can better reach your students.  You have parents giving you feedback on what they feel like you are doing wrong.  You have district level people changing the expectations for you left and write.  You have the state making curriculum changes that wildly affect the students that sit in your classroom.  You have an ever changing landscape of standards to muddle through.  You have the world of education with the ever-growing list of best practices, current theories/strategies, and 21st century skills that you just have to incorporate into your classroom and instruction.  You have a million different directions that you are being asked to go everyday.

And then there is you.

All alone.

In your classroom.

With your students.

And you are awesome.

In all of this, you chose to have one focus, and one focus only.

Your students.

You know that it is those young minds that matter most.

And you make it work.

You do everything that you can do to protect your students from all of the other stuff.  You are the umbrella that covers them.  You are the shield.  You are their cover from the mess all around them and you.

Teacher, you try your best to be bullet-proof.

But it is not for you,; it is for them.

I want to encourage you, friend.  You are doing the right thing by focusing on the students before all else.  You are making good choices.  You are making a difference.

I know that it is hard.  It is really, really, really hard sometimes.  But keep going.  Keep fighting.  Keep doing what you do.

It is difficult to be made of titanium, but sometimes you have to be.  I know that you know that it will be worth it for those students sitting in your desks in your room.  Don’t give up.  Don’t stop.  You are an amazing teacher!  I mean that.  I really do!

You are so awesome!  You don’t always feel that way, but it is so very true.  You do what needs to be done for students.  This is why you are a great teacher.  Don’t forget that!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher


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