Posted in A Call for Help, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Reason for Teaching, Uncategorized

To the Moon and Back for Teachers


Dear Parent/Guardian of a K-12 student,

I usually only write to teachers to encourage them, challenge them, and give a little hope in impossible situations. However, today I have something on my mind. You and I need to have a little talk.

Every day, some teacher wakes up thinking about your child. That same teacher, and other teachers, spend the week days working with your child trying to get him or her to see the best in themselves and get that best out of them. Every night, those teachers think about what went well, what didn’t, and how to be the best teachers they can be for the sake of your child.

Even on the weekends, holidays, and over the summer, chances are that there is a teacher, and probably more than one, with thoughts about your child and how much the hope for your child’s future.

Whether you think this is happening or not, I guarantee you that it is. You may not always agree with every teacher every year, but they do have the best interest in mind for your child…and most of the time they sincerely care about your child and their past, present, and future. The ones that care the most are probably wearing themselves out for the sake of your child.

And they do this willingly.

This image belongs to http://www.dearteacherloveteacher.com. If used, credit and a link to the site is required. Thank you!

Teachers get into to teaching because they care about kids and want to help them grow in the potential they have. They love watching students become learners and critical thinkers. They love the process of learning and growth of the mind and watching students become the people they can be. This is their heart. They truly care.

This care shows up differently from teacher to teacher. Some teachers are experts at directly connecting to your child. They nurture the emotional as well as the educational side of their students. Other teachers are content magicians. They make subjects come alive to children and inspire them to pursue careers later in life out of pure joy and wonder that was instilled by a passionate teacher. Some teachers make everything about learning fun. Some share their lives and make the students invest in them as a person because they make students care. And I could go on and on…but the care that teachers have for students is real even if it looks different from class to class.

And it is the teachers that work the hardest from the point of their care for students that make the biggest difference.

I mean think back to when you were in school. Which teachers do you remember? I remember a fifth grade math teacher that made everything about math seem like the best thing in the world. I remember a middle school French teacher that made us care about French because she made learning it fun. I remember an English teacher in high school that made me care about Shakespeare because he cared so much about Shakespeare. And I had a math teacher in high school that I am friends with to this day because she cared for me as a person and invested time and energy into all of her students. I am the teacher I am today because of her.

This is what education is meant to be! Yes, content and learning is important and the common thread. But we don’t become learners because of test scores, school ratings, and comparisons to other states and countries. We become learners because of the people that inspire us to learn.

And this is why teachers want to teach.

This image belongs to http://www.dearteacherloveteacher.com. If used, credit and a link to the site is required. Thank you!

This is why I want to talk to you. The system is broken. Teachers are the scapegoats. Everything is focused on results. Teachers are constantly having more and more results-oriented work put upon them. They are forced to teach in specific ways and very little wiggle-room is allowed for decisions based on what they know about their own students.

Schools are thought of like businesses…and every minute of the day is about the end product. And time is money…so teachers have students with them at all times and the paperwork and other responsibilities are put on teachers to do on their own time (remember, the time the teachers use to think about your child and what is best for him or her). A lot of teachers do not even have the luxury of using the restroom during the school day (and this is not an exaggeration).

Teachers are tired. Teachers are exhausted. Teachers are beat up, beat down, emotionally caved in, and about to all burn-out.

Not overplaying this, in a lot of states teachers are already leaving the profession in droves and it it getting worse and worse. The best teachers are leaving. This is the canary in the coal mine. When the best, most veteran, highly thought of teachers are leaving the profession, there is a problem that looks like will not be fixed.

I get to interact with many teachers every day, and I am seeing a trend that is not going to end well for public education, and it is not going to end well for your child getting that education.

Teachers still care, but they just can’t keep going. Something has to give. Something has to change. Something has to happen or we will be soon asking where all the teachers have gone.

This is why I am writing to you, parents and guardians. You see the news. You see how teachers all over the country are fighting. They are not fighting for more money…they are fighting for the respect they deserve and to draw attention to the system that is failing your child. They are fighting for your child!

This is about more than raises, smaller class sizes, and less testing. This is about the ability and freedom to teach your child, connect with them, and help them to become real learners and adults who can make this world a better place.

Teachers want to be able to give your students the same opportunities we all had to grow and learn and explore the world and be connected to educators that make them care about what they are learning. That world barely exists anymore, and it is slowly dying. Teachers are trying to save it! But they need your help.

Please talk to teachers and learn about what is going on and their concerns about the system. Get involved and find out what is going on at the local and state level in schools and how the system is changing to help teacher or changing to hinder them. Talk to leaders and share your concerns. Join the fight with teachers at the state level and demand a system that is best for your children…and one that will inspire them to become the people you know that they can be.

This image belongs to http://www.dearteacherloveteacher.com. If used, credit and a link to the site is required. Thank you!

Fight with us…not against us. Learn what we are fighting for…it really is all about your child!

Thank you for reading! Please share and spread the word. Teachers need your help more than ever!

You rock because you care about your child’s future! Thanks for joining the fight!

Love, Teacher

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Posted in General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, Pep Talk, Uncategorized

Ain’t No Tired Like Teacher Tired…


Dear Teacher,

It’s been a while. I am sorry about that. I have been busy…teacher busy. You know, no time for the extras in life. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but being a teacher is exhausting!

So much to do. So much to think about. So much to plan for. So much to do. Wait, did I say that already?

And that is just the school stuff. Then there is home life. Friend life. Life. Who has the time?

We do…we make the time…but we are tired. Being tired is okay. It comes with the job. But…

Make sure your tired is worth it.

Sometimes our tired comes from doing things that really, really, REALLY matter for our students (and our life). Sometimes it doesn’t.

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Sometimes we are spending our time and energy on things that may not be that important. Often times, these things are given to us to do by other. Other times we give these things to ourselves.

It is easier said than done, but we have got to prioritize…and that means taking a hard look at ourselves and what we are doing. It might mean carving away things we love to do in our classroom but really aren’t making much of a difference. It might also mean taking a stand with powers that be about things that are not worth the time and energy taken away from your students.

It is hard, but you need to do it, Teacher. I need to do it. Our students can’t afford to have us burn out.

And I know you can do this. You are awesome! You are amazing. You can definitely make changes and fight battles for the sake of your students and your sanity! You can do it. I can do it. We just have to step up and do it!

I can’t be anymore specific on how to prioritize because I don’t know your situation. But I think you know the things that can and need to go. Whatever they are, I totally have your back and believe in you. I don’t want an amazing teacher like you to burnout and leave the field that needs you.

Have I mentioned that you are awesome? Well, you are!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Thank you for all you do. Thank you for the work you put it. Thank you for fighting hard to make a difference in the life of your students. You are. You definitely are! You rock! Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…Could you do me a favor and check out the new posters I created and let me know what you think? They are based on growth mindset. I tried to come up with a way to promote the mindset with my classroom walls. This is the second set of these (you can get a free preview of some of the posters from each set here). I am a big believer in promoting growth mindset…and students eyes wonder around the room anyway, why not have something on the wall to help inspire them to set goals and work hard to reach them?! Oh, and if you like them, they are on sale right now! Thanks! ūüôā

DearTeacherLT2016 - The Motivational/Growth-Mindset ABCs (volume two)
DearTeacherLT2016 – The Motivational/Growth-Mindset ABCs (volume two)

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Note to Teachers, Uncategorized

Assesments, You, & Your Students


Dear Teacher,

It is here: Testing, Assessment, and Evaluation Season.

It comes around every year.  No one loves it, but it is a harsh reality that will probably not go away any time soon.

Students must be tested.  Learning must be assessed.  Teaching must be evaluated.  How else will accountability happen in education?  Right?

Why do I hear crickets after asking the question?

Oh yeah, no one wants to talk about it. ¬†Okay, so I won’t either. ¬†I just want to remind you about something.

You and your students are way more than just an assessment or evaluation result. ¬†The learning and growing that happens in your classroom can’t be measured by a standardized test and/or rubric.

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DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

The true measurement of what happened in the classroom can only be experienced. ¬†You have to know where the students were when they came to you in the beginning of the year…not just academically and according to standards, but also socially, emotionally, and ownership of learning. ¬†These things are hard to standardize…no, they are impossible to standardize.

So…DON’T LOSE HEART ABOUT TESTING AND¬†EVALUATIONS!

I know there is a lot tied to them…but breathe. ¬†Relax. ¬†Remember that the true worth in what happens in your classroom is in the results of the growth that is clear in the students that leave your classroom at the end of the year.

You can’t control the assessment process, but you can control how you react to it.

Don’t put all of your stock in the assessments and evaluations. ¬†Instead, take stock of what has happened and the change you have seen in your students…even if it is just a little bit of change in some students, you can celebrate it! ¬†A win is a win.

Reflect on what you have seen in each student.  Write it down.  Point it out to them.  Let them see the growth as you take time to see it, too.  Make sure they know that this is the true measurement of learning in your class.  This will help you and your students find a bit of joy here in the stressful season at the end of the year.

What have you seen and can celebrate? 

  • A student who asks questions more?
  • Someone who follows instructions more often?
  • Homework being done a little more often?
  • Effort being put in where it wasn’t before?
  • Finishing work and not giving up?
  • An increase in success for some students?
  • Waiting more often and taking turns?
  • Someone who has stopped being mean to others?
  • The list could go on and on, but I think you get it.

You are an excellent and amazing teacher.  I have no doubt you know how to measure the learning and change in your classroom.  This is just a little nudge to get back to what you know and to find joy at the end of what has been a trying and tough year.

You have done a great job this year!  Your students are changing.  They are different students than came to you at the beginning.  You are the one to thank for that!  You have stuck it out with them.  You have put in the effort and tears.  You have done whatever it takes to see that change.  Celebrate it.  You really are an awesome teacher!

Don’t let the testing and evaluations get you bogged down. ¬†You and your students are more than scores. ¬†You are learners and learning HAS happened this year . ¬†You are the reason that it has…and this means that you rock!

Thank you for all you do!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

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 General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Perseverance, You Are Awesome!!!

What You Can’t Afford to Lose


Dear Teacher,

I am sorry that I have had little to no time to write to you this school year.  Like you, I have been pulled in a thousand different directions today, and it has taken everything inside of me to keep focused on the one thing that matters: my students.  It has beat me up to do this, but I think that, most days, I have kept that focus.

And, also like you, I am tired.

I do not always have the energy to be the awesome, dynamic teacher that I can be. ¬†I have kept to my commitment to pursuing the goal of my students learning and learning how to learn on their own, but I have lost a little bit of the spark that makes me a good teacher some days. ¬†The exhaustion of keeping up with all of the spinning plates that we are given makes that hard…if not impossible from time-to-time.

Spinning Plates Image: Wikipedia Commons

We lose some of what makes us great.  It happens to us all.  It is inevitable.  It is real life.

So what do we do about it?

I do not think that we can avoid losing some of our teacher “fire.” ¬†It is an unavoidable reality.

No, I do not think that keeping all of our teacher flames burning is the key here.  No.  If we try to do that.  We burn out and we are not much good for anyone.

No, keeping a large bonfire of teaching enthusiasm is not what you or I need to strive for…not at all.

I think what we need to do is keep the right embers burning.  If we maintain intensity on the right aspects of teaching, we will avoid flaming out and be able to rekindle our fires once the smoke clears.

(Am I overusing the analogy?  Probably.  But I press on.)

Burning Embers Image: Wikipedia Commons

So what do we make sure that we do not lose in the battle of every day teaching life?

Some of it will be different from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, state to state, and person to person, but there is definitely one thing that makes all of the difference in the world for our students that I do not think any of us can afford to lose.  It hit me this year as I had to reflect after some very difficult weeks.

And what is that “one thing,” Teacher?

It is very simple, difficult, easy, and impossible…all at once.

Magic.

You need to keep the magic.

Image: openclipart.org

The magic of teaching is what will keep bringing your students (and most definitely you) back for more over and over again, no matter how hard the going gets.

“What do you mean by magic?”

Magic is the mystical side of teaching. ¬†It is the not-so-quantifiable relationship between wonder, teaching, and learning. ¬†It is the “Aha-moment,” curiosity, and awe that students can have when they are truly engaged in learning about language, math, science, and history. ¬†It is the amazement factor of teaching. ¬†Those moments when the students are wide-eyed and hanging on every moment in your classroom and every word that you say. ¬†It is when sighs of frustration ring through your room when the students hear the bell.

This is the magic of teaching.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesAwesome-High-School-Teacher.jpg.jpg

It is never every minute in your class, nor should it be.  These are the crescendos to the momentum that you build with every experience that you give your students.  They are what you build up to as you plan and teach.  It is the moment when you can almost physical see the students make the mental connection to what they are learning.

It is the moment that every teacher lives for…it is magic for the students, but it is also magic for the teacher.

It is this magic that you have to protect, against all odds.

This magic is why you teach. ¬†This magic is what makes students want to learn. ¬†This magic is what makes school…well…magical.

How can you be sure to keep this magic alive?

That is up to you.  Magic in my classroom is different from magic in your classroom.  You have to figure out where the magic is for you.  I have to know where the magic is for me.  And we both need to make sure that the noise of education does not drown out the magic of teaching and learning for us or our students.

I teach science. ¬†For me, the magic is tied up in letting the students explore a concept. ¬†I dress it up in a problem of some sort. ¬†I let the students tackle the problem from their current understanding. ¬†I keep some of the things they need to learn hidden…like in a magic trick. ¬†When they think they have things sorted out, I introduce something that most students did not know…which usually makes their solution not work the way that they thought it should. ¬†I then give them the big picture of the concept. ¬†That is when students start to make the connections and see the real solution(s). ¬†This is the “aha” that I live for as a teacher. ¬†This is where students learn on their own (helped along by the the Teacher-Magician). ¬†This is teaching and learning, in my eyes.

This is the magic.

This is what I can’t afford to lose. ¬†No matter what.

What is the magic for you?

How will you keep it in spite of everything?

How will you make it key to what happens in your classroom?

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Teacher, I know that it is hard.  It is less hard when you remember what makes you special as a teacher and you hold on to it for dear life!  I know you know what makes you special.  I know that you know what makes your class magic.  You have what it takes to make that central, and you have what it takes to hold on to that.  You have what it takes to be a great teacher.  Be that great teacher!  You are awesome!  You are amazing!  You are making a difference!  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