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 believe 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!  🙂

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

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

 

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Teacher, Can I Tell You a Secret?


Dear Teacher,

Today’s message will be short and to the point.

You are amazing!

You pour out your heart and soul for your students.  You care more about them than sometimes they do.  You think about what they need, what they feel, and who they are…and this matters to you.  You try as hard as you can to put them first.

Seriously, you are amazing!

You work hard for the sake of your students despite doing this work in a system that seems to be working against you at times.  You put in long hours.  You plan, plan, plan.  You implement…and modify, modify, modify.  You differentiate…and differentiate more…and differentiate again.  You test (even though you may not agree with the amount of testing)…and encourage, encourage, encourage.  You work with students and intervene, intervene, intervene.  You are tired, exhausted, and burned out, but you keep doing all of this because of point one…you care about your students.

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

No, really.  You are seriously amazing!

You have so many expectations put on you.  You have to prove how hard you are working for the growth of your students.  You find evidence of that growth.  You defend the choices you make in the classroom.  You make hard choices about stands to make for your students.  You fight for the students that “aren’t making enough progress.”  You engage in battles for your students in and out of the classroom.  This takes a toll on your teaching heart, but yet you keep going…again, all for point one.  You care for your students.

If you haven’t gotten the point yet.  YOU ARE AMAZING, TEACHER!

You do more than you have to.  You take flak for the things you do for your students, but you protect them from that flak.  You do what you need to do to reach your students.  Sometimes you are the only one that sees the goal and the purpose of what you are doing and you get resistance from every angle, from your students and from The-Powers-That-Be.  Still, you soldier on.  You take on more than you have to and more stress than you should.  But you do what you do every day because your students need you to.  And it will make so much more of a difference than you will ever know!

Yes, I keep saying it, but you need to know it.  You, my teacher friend, are AMAZING!

Thank you for all that you do.  I know that you feel beat up, beat down, worn in, and worn out right now, and you aren’t sure if you can keep going.  I don’t know how to help this besides reminding you that you are changing your students’ lives and futures…and I can say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  You are more amazing that words can say and that you will ever know!

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

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

Just in case you don’t get it yet, I think you are pretty dang AMAZING.  You are so awesome.  I am one of your biggest fans.  Please don’t lose hope!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, please check it out…many more words of the difference you are making and how awesome you are!  🙂

 

Attention All Teachers…


Dear Teacher,

You have had a tough couple of days (or weeks…or months…or whole school year).  I get it.  Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world…and people who have never been in the classroom (or haven’t been recently) do not understand that.  On top of that, some years are worse than others.  It just so happens that this year is one of those years.

You are tired.  You are exhausted.  You are burned out or right on the edge of burnout.

You are starting to lose your edge.  You are starting to lose heart.  You are starting to wonder what other careers might fit your skill set.

Trust me, I have been there.  It sucks.  It really does.

But there is one thing that you can do about all of it.  It is not a magic key to unlock teaching happiness, but it is something.

You can ask yourself one question.

What are you going to do about it?

You can’t really change your circumstances.  You can’t make your students be different.  You can’t control all of your classroom dynamics.  You can’t force your administration to be different and you can’t stop the system from being what it is.

You can change one thing.

You can change you.

I wish I had the words to explain what I mean by that, but I would rather quote Maya Angelou who said it better than I ever could.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

We can control how we are affected by our situation.  We can adjust the way we react to things.  We can check our feelings before we make a decision.  We can change the way that we let things affect us.

I think the best way to do this is to refocus on why we are teaching in the first place.  We need to remember why we started this journey we call the teacher life.  What brought us here?  What brought you to teaching may be what helps you stay with it.

I do believe that answer is probably close to the same for all of us.  It is all about students and trying to make the world a better place for them.

I know that reality has made that difficult to keep a view of, but you can start over every day and find that target again.  We can ask ourselves, “How will I make today better for my students (even the tough ones)?”

I am not saying that we forget about standards and curriculum, but I do think it will help if we double-down on putting students and what they need in front of those things.

I don’t know.  Am I making sense here?

Anyway, the best way to survive is looking at ourselves and how things are changing us as teachers.  Are we doing what we are doing for the sake of students or for some other reason?  If it not for students how can we change our practices (within the system) to make sure that they are the priority.  When you and I can do this, I think how the toughness of any given day or year affects us will change.

I will close with another quote.  This is from Jaime Escalante (a teacher hero of mine who I think lived out what I am saying here).

You don’t count how many times you are on the floor. You count how many times you get up.

Rough days and years come and go.  What matters is what you do about it.  How will you learn and move on?

Get Up Quote

Get back up, Teacher.  You are great teacher.  You are getting through to your students.  You are making a difference.  I think you are pretty awesome!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

An Open Letter to Teachers…Don’t Lose Hope


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

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

Dear Teacher,

You are beat up and beat down.  You are worn out.  You are worn down.  This has been one of the toughest and roughest years of your career.

You don’t know if you can do this anymore.

Somewhere in and through the stress of students, parents, administration, and the system, you have lost sight of why you are doing this.  You don’t see the difference you intended to make.  You can’t see the forest.  You can’t see the trees.  You only see dwindling patience, one more student that doesn’t have a pencil, and another email about lesson plans that you haven’t turned in yet.

You are at the end of your rope and it is becoming more and more tempting to just let go.

You are losing your grip.

While you contemplate how much the fall will hurt, can I just tell you something…well, a few somethings?

First thing that you need to know is that you are absolutely, one hundred and fifty percent not alone.  More teachers feel this way this year than don’t, I think.  It is a common thought and feeling.

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)

Even if it doesn’t fee like it, other teachers are going through exactly what you are right now.  Probably other teachers in your school…most likely the teacher in the room next door.

I know it is kind of messed up that a lot of teachers are in the same boat…but at least you don’t have to be alone in this.

And that is great, but what do we do about it?

We need to remember that the education system is not why we got into this business…we went through the trouble of becoming a teacher because we actually care about students and their future.  The system is what is wearing us out, but the students are who are keep us in.

Unfortunately, we are bound by the system.  How do we work within it to make the biggest difference in the lives of those learners in our classrooms?

I think it all comes down to spending a bit of time before each school day remembering why we teach.  It means thinking about each student (or some of them each day, if you teach multiple classes).  We have to remember that each of those souls are people and that we actually care about them and where they are going in life.

If we do that, it will lead us to think more carefully about our decisions in the classroom.  We will be driven to take stands for what is best for students.  We will fight for what is right.  We will truly differentiate for each child and what they need from us.

As that happens, our teacher heart will start to beat again.  We will find our passion again for teaching.  We will be ready to change the world all over again.

I know this is all easier said than done, but I think it is time we start doing what we know needs to be done.  I think it is time to be brave and bold…for our students good and for ours.

You are a TEACHER!  You actually do know what you are doing most of the time.  You know your students and care about their lives.  You know how to make classroom decisions.  You are courageous!  You are strong!  You are intelligent!  You matter to the future of your students and you are making a difference!

Remember why you do what you do and that you are not alone in this.  Be brave and do what needs to be done.  You will be happier in the long-run because you are doing what are made for!

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)

You are amazing!  You are awesome!  Thank you for all that you do!  Remember that you can do anything for a year, and this year is almost done.  You’ve got this!  Don’t give up!  Keep on persevering and keep on teaching, Teacher!  You rock!

Love, Teacher

Stop Everything and Read this Blog Post Right Now!! Or don’t…


Dear Teacher,

I bet you might be thinking that the title of this note was just a gimmick to try to get you to read it.  It wasn’t.  Not that I don’t want you to read it…I do…I just have a point to make using the it.  However, not yet.  I want to tell you a little story first.

My little family and I had the awesome opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Break at the beach with my wife’s family.  I am not much of a beach person, but there was something pretty great about being near the water, hearing the crashing waves, and being able to walk the beach with my sons and wife.  I did, unfortunately, became a little obsessed with finding shells (and shark teeth).

There were plenty of common shells (clams, scallops, and the like), but I was after other game.  I really wanted to find conch or nautilus shells…oh, and did I mention shark teeth?  I kept looking for all of these, but all I found was a few broken pieces and thousands of common shells.  I would see something out of the corner of my eye, veer of my path, and find it only to see it was more of the same.

I outlasted my boys and wife with each trip out.  Still I couldn’t turn down the inner call to keep looking.  I just knew I would find something!

I kept chasing the bits and pieces that I saw in the distance sure that I would find something rare and worried that I would miss out on it if I didn’t go after what I saw.  No matter the disappointment, I kept chasing.

Until…

IMAG1872

My oldest son kept asking me to go back.  He wanted to just play in the sand.  I could see the other family members down the beach having a good time together…and off the other way there was something that I just knew had to be what I was looking for.  I had this moment where I knew that I just had to choose.  Chase something that was not assured or savor the moments with my family.

A thought came to me…

There will always be another shell.

I talked back to that thought (not aloud, of course)…what if I miss out on something good.

There will always be another shell.

What if this is the shell I am looking for?  What if it is a shark tooth?

There will always be another shell…and shark teeth aren’t that big, idiot!

I made a conscious decision to turn and go back.  I go spend the quality time I always want to have with my family when I can’t have it.  I went back with my son and had some fun on the beach.  I dare say it was much better than not finding shells!

It hit me that this is something similar to what happens to us in education.  I can only speak from a teacher’s perspective, but it seems like sometimes we are always chasing something off in the distance.  The latest strategy, the newest assessment-style, or the latest book that will change everything in education.  Not that any of these things are bad…they definitely aren’t…but it can be something we are constantly looking for all the while missing out on what is right in front of us.

Our students are here.  Our students are now.  They are why we do what we do.  Despite the latest and greatest trends, what makes some of the biggest effects on how students learn is us and our relationships with them.  We need to talk to them.  Learn how they learn best.  Help them learn how to learn on their own.  This has to be our priority.  It is the only way that true learning, understanding, and growth happens!

This means some serious thought into what we need to let go of sometimes.  It can be a mere change of focus.  It can mean putting things on the back-burner.  It often will mean that we have to not always chase every “new” idea in education…some books may need to wait until summer to read, some conferences may need to be unattended, and some blog posts may need to be bookmarked for later.  This doesn’t mean that these are not important things, it just means that some of them will have to wait for the sake of our students.

1448971273673

So.  Back to the name of this post.  It is so easy to get caught up in what we are told needs to happen right now.  We can be led to believe that we need to stop everything to investigate what we might be missing.  Just like me and the shell hunt, there may be something back in the other direction that is more worthwhile – quality time really getting to know and work with our students on their level.

Hitting pause on the things that seem vital for our growth as professionals can be quite difficult.  But it is a reality that does occur (more often than we would like).  As an educator, sometimes the hardest thing is letting go…but often it is the only way to move forward for the greater good of our students.

Remember…

There will always be another shell.

There will always be another book.

There will always be another PD.

There will always be another blog post.

There will not always be another year with the students you have right now.  Don’t let it slip away!

IMG_0438

If I know you, though, I am preaching to the choir.  You do realize these things most of the time.  That’s what makes you awesome and an amazing teacher!  Keep on make your students the ultimate priority and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Every Learner Can Learn


Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, I presented the idea of the #HowToTeacher Rules and gave you Rule 1 (if you haven’t read it, go there first…this post will make more sense if you do).  I feel like that rule is key to being a great teacher.  All other things that great teachers believe and do stem from the passion for teaching and learning.  Rule 2 is tied very closely to the first, but it focuses on who you teach.  These two rules are the key to all of the others!

You know what?  Maybe I should tell you what Rule 2 is before I talk about how great it is.  🙂  Let me do that now.

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn and they act on those beliefs.

Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn an they act on those beliefs.  This is just something that is in the DNA of great teachers.  There does not seem to be any challenge too big for them.  They are relentless in the idea that every student in their classroom can learn.  It seems like they have a million tools in their bag of teacher tricks to try.  Nothing that students can throw at them will change their minds that every student can learn.

Students with IEPs?

No problem.  They have been to trainings, talked to other teachers, and read strategies for this just for fun.

ESOL students that have little to no English?

Great teachers have workbooks, translators, and are even learning the language the best that they can (almost enough to almost enough to say a couple of things to parents during conferences).

Class with five ADHD poster children all at once?

Multiple seating options, standing desks, a focus corner, and lots and lots of back-up activities for different learning styles.

Apathetic students?

They don’t know who they are messing with.  “I can’t” or “I won’t” are not words that great teachers understand.  They will find a way to reach those students (or die trying)!

I could go on and on, but you get where I am going here.  Great teachers are not stumped by students with difficult situations or difficult students.  Their belief in the ability of every student to learn trumps the challenges to make that happen.  They live for the teaching and learning process (Rule 1), and they will not accept that anyone is not able to be a part of that process.

You know the teachers like this.  They make other teachers frustrated with their refusal to think that any student student can not learn at the same level (with scaffolding) as the others.  These teachers make the other teachers want to try harder and find a way to reach each and every student.  They are relentlessly relentless!

This is the key to great teaching.  You must not only believe that this is true, but you have to act like you believe it.  Never give up on a student.  Never stop finding ways to reach them.  There is some way for each student to learn and you will find it!

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)

How to find paths for each student will be covered in other #HowToTeacher Rules, but the belief that every student can learn has to got to come first!

I know you are one of the never-give-up teachers!  You are one of the amazing ones that won’t take “I can’t” for an answer!  I applaud you for that.  You are an awesome teacher!  Thank you for all that you do to reach your students!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

The Easy Button for Increasing Classroom Engagement


 

Dear Teacher,

If you have been teaching for any length of time, you know one thing to be true above most others…there are no silver bullets.  There is no “one thing” that will be able to fix all things in your classroom or for your students.  There is not a magic teaching pill that will cause all students to learn, grow, and find success.

No, you no the very real reality that teaching, learning, and education take work.  And I am not going to go against that.  Not one bit.

There is much truth in the fact that you have got to be an active learner yourself and find out best practices and new ideas.  You have to practice those best practices.  You have to know your content.  You have to be creative.  You have to figure out new ways to plan and facilitate learning in your classroom.  You have to keep up with technology and how to use it as a tool to help students learn more effectively.  Speaking of students, you have to do the very challenging and messy work of getting to know them and building rapport and relationships with them.  The same goes with your students’ parents, other teachers and staff, and administration.

Teaching is work.  Difficult work.  Rewarding work, true, but hard work.

Um, so far this post is pretty much the opposite of your title…where is the easy button?

Everything said so far is what we know in our teacher reality.  But…there is one thing that does make all of this a lot easier and will increase student engagement in your class.

Image Source: http://www.authormedia.com/mybooktable-1-3/

Image Source: http://www.authormedia.com/mybooktable-1-3/

That easy button is….wait for it….

Oh no.  Is this one of those times where you give the big build up and the one answer is me?

You guessed it.  The easy button for making some of the hard parts of teaching and to increase engagement is, indeed, YOU!

Just like all of the other times I have set you up for a big secret in education, the key is you.  Something inside of you and about you can unlock the easiness to making tough things seem less tough.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Maya Angelou:

If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

There is so very much that we can change about education and what needs to happen in our classroom.  We can’t change the content we are required to teach.  We can’t change the students (not directly, at least).  We can’t change their parents.  We can’t change their home environments.  We can’t change expectations from administration, districts, and the state (again, not directly).  We can’t change what needs to happen for teaching and learning to truly happen in our classroom.

No, there is not very much that we can change in education…but we can change ourselves.

There is a lot of ways that we can change our attitudes as teachers, but I want to just focus on one…above all else, we need to love what we do!

I am not saying that we have to love all of the bureaucracy, paperwork, and struggles with the harsh realities that our students have to deal with…no, I am not sure that anyone should love that.  I am saying that we need to love the fact that we get to teach students and open them up to wonders of the world and the awesomeness of fighting to understand something new and the thrill of the moment when it all clicks.  We also get to have the hope of being a part of changing the lives of our students for the better and helping them realize how learning new things changes possibilities!  That is what we live for.  That is why we teach.

We need to love what we do!

We have to be excited about what we are teaching in our classes.  If you don’t love all of your content, be excited about the way that you are teaching it!  Don’t love how you teach something?  TEACH IT DIFFERENTLY!  You are in control of that.  You have got to find a way to love what you teach and how you teach it!  You have to!  This is what makes students take notice and want to be engaged in the process of learning.

It is our passion and love of the teaching/learning process that draws students in.  That is the key.  That is the easy button.  Our engagement in the process makes them not want to miss out and be a part of whatever has you so excited!

Think about the great teachers you have had or that you know…they were passionate about what they do, weren’t they?  I bet the answer is yes.

Teachers who love and are passionate about teaching breed students who love and are passionate about learning.

Teacher, love what you do!  Let it show.  Make it obvious.  The students will want a sip of what you are drinking, I promise!  They will be engaged!

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)

You are awesome.  I bet I was preaching to the choir the whole time, wasn’t I?  You do love what you do.  You aren’t afraid to show it.  Remember to keep that passion for teaching and learning going!  Help students be ignited by your fire and their passion for learning will be contagious to others!  Keep on loving what you do and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher