Posted in Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

Teacher, I See Your True Colors


Dear Teacher,

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.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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.

Image: Wikipedia Commons
Image: Wikipedia Commons

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!

Love, Teacher

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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, 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 Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

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

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

It’s Go Time…


Dear 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…

BOOM!

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.

We survived.

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.

  1. Like I said, pause and breathe.  Most of the time, reacting immediately leads to those poor choices mentioned.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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