I really wanted to write to you this morning. I know that this has been a difficult and trying time for you. This time of the year usually is. I have been thinking and trying to come up with some way to remind you how awesome you are and encourage you to keep going and keep fighting…and I did.
It is time for something I haven’t done in a while – a theme song post. If you have never read one of my theme song posts, all you have to do is click play on the video and read. If you can’t read with music on, listen to the song and then read. Got it? Good! Let’s go!
Teacher…no one really knows but us what it is like. Teaching is one of the roughest roads that someone can choose to go down. It has a bright destination, but it sure can be a dark path sometimes. There is no sugar-coating it. Teaching is tough.
As teachers, we are fighting for the lives and futures of our students. That is no small thing. With just that, we are battling some pretty scary and menacing enemies.
On top of that, add the fact that we have “friendly enemies.” Well meaning people who are trying to make education better are making it quite difficult to do what we need to do to reach those minds in our classrooms.
And then there is the standardize testing…and I will just leave that without comment. Too much to say…
It can feel like the job of teacher is an impossible task…and it is…it is for anyone besides you.
Listen, Teacher, you were and are cut out for this. You are amazing!
In everything mentioned above, you keep going. You keep trying. You keep fighting. Because in your heart of hearts you know that you were made for this.
You are a fighter and this is your battle.
It can be a long, grueling skirmish…the enemies surround you…you feel alone in the fight…
But something clicks in for you. You remember who you are fighting for…and it is not for you. It is for people, young people, who can’t fight for themselves. This sparks something deep inside of you and gives you the will and strength to forge ahead.
This is who you are. These are your true colors.
Not everyone can see them, but I do. They are shining through…and they are shining brightest in the lives of your students now and tomorrow.
Those true colors are beautiful. Like a rainbow.
You are making a difference, Teacher! The stands you make are worth it. The time, energy, and tears are planting seeds in the minds of your students. And those seeds are growing!
Don’t lose heart, Teacher. Don’t give up. You are fighting a good fight. Keep on fighting and keep on teaching! You rock!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Movie break. This one of my favorite scenes from the movie Tommy Boy. Give it a quick watch and then read. I promise, there is a point.
“Why did I just watch this?”
I will be honest, when I went to write, I had this idea of writing about Monday being “Go Time” for teachers and I went looking for the scene when it was said in this movie. However, watching the clip brought a message to mind for me that I need to hear (even if it is hearing it from myself). This clip has a lot to do with teaching.
So often we feel like things are going well in a class or all of our classes. We have done all of the right things, as far as we know. We are using the best strategies. We are integrating. We are differentiating. We are rigorizing (yes, I just made up a word). We are doing everything a teacher should be doing…then…
Something hits us out of left field and destroys the classroom peace and joy that we thought we had. It could be a student meltdown. It could be a parent issue. I could be an administration situation. It could be a number of things that suddenly send us in a tailspin and weave us all over our little teaching road.
Before we know it we are in a fight for our teaching lives.
Then the chaos dies down.
The dust settles.
Blame gets assigned.
Usually, the fight is with ourselves. What did we do wrong? What could we have done different? Why did we not think of the issue that happened? So on and so on and so on.
Sometimes the fight is with others. A power struggle with students. A disagreement with parents. An accusation from administration or other teachers.
Who ever the fight is with, it usually starts at the blame game.
The part of the scene that hits me the most is when Tommy said, “I am trying my best. I am not my dad.”
How often do we feel that way? Okay, probably not the “dad” part, but we do compare ourselves to others, especially to the teachers that seem to make being a great teacher look easy.
When we get to that point where we feel like we can’t do better than we are because we are trying “our best” is when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and think before we act.
This is where we are most defensive. Because of that, we are also at the point when we can be the most stupid. In this movie scene there was a literal fight. But in teaching we can make bad choices when we feel this way…choices we may regret later.
Our “go time” needs to be different.
We need to make choices that will help and not hurt the situation. Choices that we can learn from. Choices that our students will see and learn from. Choices that will help us not get to this point in the future.
Sorry for the vagueness here, but every has different situations and triggers that get us to this point in teaching on any given day.
Luckily, the solutions are pretty much the same for most scenarios.
There are some steps to take to help us get in the right state of mind.
Like I said, pause and breathe. Most of the time, reacting immediately leads to those poor choices mentioned.
Remind yourself that it is not as bad as it feels. In the moment, things are blown out of proportion. You need to keep them in perspective…even if the other person/people isn’t/aren’t. When everything is sorted out in the end, you never regret having kept thing in perspective…but you almost always regret not doing this.
Remember why you teach. When the going gets tough, it is easy to forget that you actually love teaching. Look for the silver lining or just remember that teaching is your passion…the little hiccups to teaching are always short and small in the long run.
Take as much time as you can. Delay making a decision or action on the situation as long as you can. Be like the Ents in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Ents are tree-based characters and they are known for the lack of moving quickly. They try to never be hasty. One of their leaders, Treebeard, said in the book The Two Towers, “But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it.” When you move to quickly, your choices lead to more. Stop and stay stopped before you move. It really is much easier to say stop than actually do it once you are moving.
Put the students and their needs first. When you come to decision time, focus on the student/students. What do they need most from the situation. How can you turn a negative into a positive for them.
If you try to take these steps, your “go time” will be well thought out and meaningful in the end for all that are involved.
Teacher, things come up. We face hard times. Never forget that you love teaching, and the hard times never last forever. The tough things will pass eventually. Keep on teaching your teaching best, even in spite of the difficulties sometimes.
You are so awesome! I know that the challenges don’t keep you down long. I know that with every “go time” you have you get better and better at doing them well. I sincerely hope that you have the best day ever! Never give up and always keep on teaching, 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?
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!
For two wonderful, glorious minutes I thought today was Friday. Then like a slap to the face the shock set in that it was merely Thursday. It was like a cold water wake up…but now I am away to my Thursday reality.
That reality is simple:
I am a teacher.
It is a school day.
I have a job to do.
I have minds to mold.
I have hearts with which to connect.
I have students’ needs to meet.
I have arrows to block from my students.
I have monsters that need to be fought for my students.
I have content to teach.
I have concepts to make real.
I have weight that I need to carry for others.
I have lessons that need to be lessened.
I have ideas that need to be thought.
I have thoughts that need to be communicated.
I have too much to do and prioritizing that needs to happen.
I have a future to affect.
I have a world to make better.
I have a difference to make.
I have students who need me.
I have me to be.
I am a teacher.
The thing is, no matter what day of the week it is. You, I, and all teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world. We need to embrace all that we are as educators. I hear others (and myself) complain about all that we have to be for students. I am not talking about standards and administration expectations…I mean all that we have to be for students. We have to give them supplies. We have to make sure the get to where they are going. We have to remind, reteach, and re-give instructions until we can’t take it anymore. We have to be nurses. We have to be moms and dads. We have to be mentors. We have to be protectors. We have to be advocates. We have to be forgiving. We have to be patient. Oh, and we have to be teachers. We have so much that we have to be. It is easy to be overwhelmed.
I need to spend more time embracing these all-too-many roles that I have. I need to remember why I do what I do. It is because I care for my students. If they do not have what they need outside of school in these many parts we have to play, then we need to be those things and do so with pride. This is why we are in this game to start with. We are here to make a difference. We need to make that difference and do so joyfully…even when we are too tired to do so much.
And even when it is not Friday.
You are so awesome. I know you are better at embracing these things than I am. One day I will be as good as you. You are making that difference. You are embracing those roles. You are amazing! Keep on teaching and making a difference, Teacher!
I don’t know what you are going through. I do not know if yesterday was the best day ever or a day to try to forget forever. I don’t know if you are in an upswing or a down. I just don’t know where you are in your teaching life.
I do know one thing, though. I know what you have. You have this no matter what you are feeling or going through in you life and your role as a teacher. This one thing is more precious than gold or money (though more of those would be nice).
You have today.
You have today.
You have today.
Today is not only something that you have. Today is really the only thing you have.
You know the saying, “Yesterday is gone and we are not promised tomorrow.” It is an old and tired statement, but it is nonetheless true. Today is all that we have. It is the only thing that we can be positively sure of.
What are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it? How will you make it count? How will you make it last?
Are you going to use it up on bemoaning yesterday?
Are you going to waste it on worrying about tomorrow?
Or will you make every second something worthwhile? Can I challenge you to try?
Will you use it to connect more with your students? Will you make your lessons something that will be remembered? Will you make students feel special? Will you make them feel loved?
Just like you, our students only have today. They need it to count. They need it to last. They need it to mean something.
Will you be the one to help them do it?
Will you help them make today matter in their lives?
They need you to.
You need you to.
You are a teacher and that is what you do.
Today is what you have. Use it well, friend, use it well.
You are AWESOME! You are more than amazing. I know that you will make today count, matter, and last. You will teach your students to do the same. You are making a difference. Don’t you forget it! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
Once again, the busyness of this time of year has pushed back the weekly theme song until Tuesday this week. I do apologize! Here it is now, though. A new week, a day closer to a break for most of us. A busy time, but it does not have be stressful. Okay, not too stressful.
Wait, I am getting ahead of myself. I almost forgot. The song! Click play and then read on.
Like I said, this is a busy and stressful time of year. Unfortunately, though it is supposed to be the “peace on Earth” feeling season, we feel anything but peaceful right now. So much to do, so much to remember, and oh so little time. We can get down to the end of our rope, and those around us can get anything but peace from us (especially our students).
So what do we do about this?
How can we keep the “joyful” season keep up from wanting to kill someone? (I say that in jest, only, and for effect.)
Well, it sounds simplistic, but…we can smile.
Isn’t that like putting a band-aid on a severed limb if you are stressed out?
Maybe, but hear me out.
Smiling can change you. Smiling is powerful. A smile is powerful for those around you. A smile is power for you, personally.
To smile…to really smile and not fake one…makes something inside of you change. To have a sincere smile you have to think of something to smile about. When you are thinking about something to smile about, life and priorities get a little more focused. You start to remember what is important and what matters. As this happens, your smile becomes a little less forced and a little more natural. Stress melts away a bit and you start to feel like smiling.
Smiling changes your perspective. When that perspective changes, you will start to remember why you are up there in front of your students…to teach them, to care for them, and to help them grow into reasonable and self-sustaining adults one day. You remember that they are not there to make your life more difficult. They are there for you…for you to teach them…for you to care…for you to show them how to be them.
Smiling is infectious. You will help others smile when you smile. You will help your students feel better. You will help your coworkers feel better. You will help your family feel better.
Smiling changes things.
There is this old adage in teaching, “Don’t smile before Christmas.” I understand the sentiment. It is about classroom management and all of that. However, I am sorry. I have to cry, “BULL!” on that one.
Smiling is not a crime. Smiling breaks down walls. Smiling helps decrease stress. Smiling changes perspective.
Smiling is important.
It is okay to smile before Christmas. Heck, I say smile because it is almost the holidays. Smile because you have students to teach. Smile because your are a teacher and being a teacher is awesome! Smile because you are awesome!
I used to pride myself as not being the “Honey, Sweetie” kind of teacher. I hold my students accountable and I push them to learn and learn on their own. Not that there is anything wrong with the latter, however the former is important, too. This year a fellow teacher challenged my on my lack of terms of endearment for students. Mind you, I teach 6th grade so I did not feel like affectionate terms are important…that is for elementary school students. Anyway, I started to weave “buddy” and things like that into the day and into conversations with students.
I tell you, it has changed me. Stress has decreased. I can approach classroom management issues in different ways than before. The ice is broken by “buddy” and “pal.” Students had trouble with me talking like that at first, but now there is no fear in my approaching them about things and none for them to approach me with questions and misunderstandings in class.
“Buddy” changed things.
I share this because it is the same as smiling. Smiling and “buddies” de-stress us and de-stress our students. We can get to the heart of things and build a positive relationship and atmosphere. When we have these things, we can teach and learn a lot more effectively.
You are awesome, Teacher! You are amazing. Don’t forget to smile today as you are making a difference in your students’ lives. You are making a difference, and the smile will help that difference go further. Keep on smiling and keep on teaching, Teacher!
PS…Side note–Yesterday, I let the first “sweeties” slip from my mouth. Guess what? I did not melt into a pile of pixie dust! The students listened to what I had to say because they knew that I cared and was coming from the perspective of helping them make a better choice. Maybe “Honey, Sweetie” Teachers know what they are doing!