Posted in Challenge, General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores

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.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesWrite-me-up..jpg.jpg

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.

Image Source: http://www.katiemalinski.com

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!

Wonka

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

Posted in Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Mondays, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk

The Surefire Way to Make Any Day Better (especially Mondays)


Dear 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.

Stuff happens.

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)

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.

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)

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.
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)

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.

teachsmall2
Image Source: http://www.remind.com @RemindHQ

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!

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)
Posted in Challenge, More Than Scores

More than Scores Image Round-Up


Dear Teacher,

Can you tell that I have been on a #morethanscore kick?  I just feel like it is an important message to get out right now.  Please join me in spreading the word.  Share the images and message here, or come up with your own.  We have got to spread the word.  Students, teachers, and education are more than scores!

You are so awesome!  Keep spreading the word and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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

#morethanscores


Dear Teacher,

Following up from yesterday’s post and in the midst of all of the news about decisions being made about education on a national level, I think it is time to start a encouragement revolution!  We need to encourage each other and our students to remember that we are more than scores, and we need to encourage the public and the powers-that-be that education is more than scores!  We need to talk up the positive things happening in our classrooms and schools that are not tied to test scores.

That said, I am not sure if the hashtag has been used, but let’s make #morethanscores our battle cry.  We have to remember it is more than numbers.  It is more than what can be counted.  It is the hearts and future of the children that we teach.  It is the future of our country.  It is the future of our world!

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

Please join me in reminding everyone that it is #morethanscores!

You are awesome!  You are amazing!  You are more than scores!  Never stop teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

Am I Wrong [when the test scores fail]


Dear Teacher,

I don’t know how your summer is going, but I have had quite a week.  I have had great family time, presented at a conference, and got a good jump on something I am planning for next year.  Overall, it has been a pretty exceptional week…but there is a heavy cloud hanging over me that I don’t know if I will shake for a while.

I found out how my students did on the state tests at the end of the year.

Needless to say, the scores were less than stellar.

Even though I thought that last year, by far, was my best as a teacher, the scores were lower than I think they have been for me.  Their are A LOT of factors in play here…more than there have ever been in a year of teaching for me…but I can’t help but feel like I failed my students a bit.

Something tells me I am not the only one in this boat.  Even if you don’t have your results back yet, I know you might be bracing yourself for the worse.

For this reason, I think it is time for a theme-song post.

I love these types of posts, and they always help me to gain perspective, and I hope it is the same for you.  For those new to this blog, click play, get past any ads that might be there, and then read on while the music plays.  You may want to go back and listen to the song and watch the video again after reading…I think I found the perfect song for today.

Let’s just start where it probably hurts the most…STOP DOUBTING YOURSELF!

You are a great teacher…nay, an amazing teacher.

Do not let the test scores make you think anything else.

You are bold and brave, and you care for your students like few others do.

You and I took risks this year.

We banked on what we know about our students, what we have learned about the learning process, and tried some outside of the box strategies.  Our kids were engaged.  They were learning.  They were becoming better students and better people.

We were courageous in one thing more than others.  We had the audacity to do something that seemed crazy in the high-stakes testing era…we didn’t focus on the test…we focused on each student.

We got to know each child in our classroom.  We tried to find their strengths and weaknesses.  We tried to accommodate every child and their needs, with or without a piece of paper that requires us to.  We differentiated.  We helped students to learn how to process content on their own.  We slowly gave the reigns of their learning over to them so that they could be responsible for learning.

We laughed with them.

We cried with them.

We helped them grow.

We watched them change throughout the year.

We know more about them than a test will ever show.  We saw students go from not wanting to try to begging for a chance to prove themselves.  We saw students who hated school become students who couldn’t wait for Monday to come when Friday was over.  We saw children become students and members of our school communities.  We saw growth on almost every level.  We saw magic.

We also saw the hurt that our students experience in and out of school.  We saw the difficulties that they face at home.  We saw pain.  We saw hunger.  We saw low self-esteem.  We saw challenges for children that we could not even imagine.  And we helped our students succeed despite all of this and helped them start to see how they can rise above it.  Yes, I need to say it again…we saw magic.

There is not a test made that can prove how our students went from kids barely ready for the grade that we teach to being ahead of the game for the grade they are going into next year.  There is not a test that takes into account the students that may have had to sleep at a friend’s house the night before the test or in a motel room because of something going on at home.  There is not a test that can show how students finally came alive at the end of the year after you working with them for 3 1/2 quarters before you saw any growth.

There is not a test that proves the magic that we saw.

So, we did not focus on a test that does not show students overcoming obstacles in their lives.  We focused on the child.  We believed in them.  We helped them strive in situations where everything was stacked against them.  We made magic happen…and that is hard to do while teaching to a test.

We made a conscientious decision to think about our students as more than numbers.  We decided that we want the students to know how to learn on their own and not need us there to help them after they leave our room.  We decided to take into account what they may me going through in life.  We decided to dig in and not give up on students that gave up on themselves.  We decided to believe in something bigger than ourselves and trust in the magic that can happen in our classrooms. 

Is that wrong?

Are we wrong?

Am I wrong?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that I can think of living in a world, especially educational world, where this is wrong.  I chose to believe in my students and believe in educational magic.

(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

So the test scores were not great.  Is that what really matters?  What can you look to that proves that there was more going on in your classroom than can be judged by the test?

Here is a test for you…with results to change your mood after learning about your state results:

  • Who is that student that was your your class that could not do anything on grade level and refused to try that ended the year trying their hardest just because you asked them to and they know you care?
  • Who is that student that you know had a rough go of it at home, but looked to your classroom as a sanctuary?
  • How did the atmosphere of the student interactions in your room change from being kids in your class to a classroom family?
  • How did each student you teach change from day 1 to day 180?
  • How did you grow as a teacher from day 1 to day 180?

Take some time and think through these questions.  Write down your answers if you journal.  I think that, if you do, you will start thinking less about your state scores (good or bad) and know how well you taught based on your students.  After all, aren’t they the reason that you are there?

You are not wrong, Teacher, and you are awesome!  Keep on believing your students matter more than scores.  I believe in you as you keep believing in them!  Keep on teaching, Teacher, and keep on making that magic happen!

Love, Teacher

 

Posted in Challenge, Change the World Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

Sometimes it only takes one…


Dear Teacher,

We all have good days.  We all have bad days.  Most of the time the days are somewhere in between.

The worst, though, are the days that are great…until…that one student.  That one attitude.  That one event.  And the apple cart is overturned.

We don’t like to talk about it, but we all know that it happens.  One student, one administrator, one parent, or one situation…and our day turns south quickly.

Good days become bad days.  Mediocre days become awful days.  And bad days become the worst day ever.

Our attitudes are soured.  Our teaching becomes less effective.  We stop wanting to deal with people altogether.  And it only takes one thing to cause this.

Admit it, you know what I am talking about.

It is human nature.  It happens.  We deal with it.  We struggle to get better at not letting it happen the next time.  We do get better the longer we teach…but it still happens sometimes.

I don’t have a solution here…but I want to use this as a jumping off point.  One negative thing can turn our days negative.

Our students are people just like us.  And, like us, sometimes it only takes one thing to change their day.

Sometimes it only takes one…

  • smile to make a bad day into a better day.
  • kind word to make a mediocre day a good day
  • little time and attention to make a good day a great day.

One bad thing can make a day worse, but sometimes it only takes a good thing to make a day better.

We have no idea what our students experience from day to day.  We don’t really know what is going on at home.  We don’t know what happened on the bus.  We don’t know what they are always feeling.  We can’t control this.

However, we can control the experience we give our kids from us.

I am not talking about every thing in our classroom right now, I am just talking about trying to do one thing.  One positive for every student you can get one to.  Who knows if that one thing can be a catalyst to brightening up their day!

If you are elementary, try to reach each student in you class with a few positives today.  If you are middle or high school, try to reach each student with a couple of positives over a few days…and then start to cycle again.

It is hard some days…but you can do it.  I can do it.  We can be those “ones” that turn a day around (in a good way).

I know you can do it!  Are you willing to take the challenge?

Elbert Hubbard Quote

You are so awesome!  I know that you try to be positive every day…so keep going.  Try to give as many “ones” as you can today.  The more seed that you plant, the more is likely to grow.  Keep up those positives and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Challenge, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk

Cutting to your Core…


Dear Teacher,

Yesterday’s post, Tugging on the Common Thread, had more response that I have received in a long time.  The frustration over the ever-changing landscape struck a chord with a lot of people.  The idea that great teaching is great teaching and connecting with students and growth seemed to one thing that teachers can agree on.  I decided to follow-up and expand on this just a bit.

This is one of those times that I am writing more than to talk to myself than to you…but feel free to listen in on my personal self conversation.

It is one thing to say that students and student growth matters most, despite what is common in education at any given time.  But what does that mean.  How do I cut to the core of this for me, my students, my classroom, my school, and my community?

Standards matter.  We are paid to teach students what they say.  The test at the end matters.  Developing students to the point that they understand the standards to the level of my test is our job.

How do we focus on student growth and this at the same time?  We all know that most of our students need growth and instruction that falls outside of the standards and the test.

I think the biggest key is simple in theory but difficult in practice.

Teachers, know thine students.

You have to know those little rascals in your classroom.  You have to have a rapport.  You have to understand what makes them tick.  You have to have some knowledge of how and why they think they way that they do.

I think it is that simple.  This is only way to grow student understanding and create life-long learners.

When you know students, you know their interests and deficits.  You know their strengths and weaknesses.  You know what they need before they know they need it.  You are able to see growth where other people would see a stagnate learner.

When you know what growth looks like in a student, you can foster that growth.  You can differentiate.  You can push them to deeper understanding.  You can scaffold.  You can remove scaffolding.  You can see smart and intelligence where even the student and his/her family doesn’t, and you can bring it out for everyone else to see.

This is the core of it.  Knowing those young people in your room.  Getting to know and understand even the ones that drive you insane.  You have to know and want to know the students!

Does this mean that they will love you and students will all appreciate the work you put into this?  Goodness no!  But you will know what is best for them and give them what they need…even if they don’t want it!

Will this make you teacher of the year?

Maybe, but probably not.  This is not being your students’ best friend.  It is taking the time to get to know them, though.  It is hard work, but it is worth it in the end.

awesome teacher guy

Will your students see your awesome all of the time?  Nope.

But will your awesome shine through in the end, no matter what the educational system is like at any given time?  Yes!

This is the core.  This is the common thread.  Know your students and you will make them grow!

Grow those students, Teacher!  I know you will!  You are awesome!  Keep on getting to know those kiddos and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher