Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Pep Talk, Quotes to Inspire, Teaching Power, You Are Awesome!!!

The Easy Button for Increasing Classroom Engagement


Image Source:
Image Source:

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:
Image Source:

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

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Poster/Graphic, Quotes to Inspire

Baby Steps away from Insanity


Dear Teacher,

As you reflect and start thinking about next year, what is it that you need to change and do differently?

Classroom management?

Teaching/Learning paradigms?

Use more technology?

Use less technology?

Brain-based strategies?

What is the area of your teaching that you feel like you get the same results every year?

It is easy to get beat up by these things.  Don’t beat yourself up.

In the coming weeks, choose one thing to work on…and then work on it.  Come up with ideas.  Make a plan.  Find a way to be, act, and react differently.  Just one.

Oh, and I don’t mean pick one thing like “classroom management.”  We all know that is not one thing.  That is about a million things.  Pick one aspect of the area you need to work on most.  For instance, if classroom management is the area you have to work on, pick something like how you react to students blurting out and/or disrupting class.  One thing.

When you work on one thing at a time, you take baby steps towards the goal of ending Einstein’s definition of insanity in your teaching life and classroom.

Baby steps.

One at a time.

Little movements away from insanity.

Summer is a great time to think and work on your baby steps…so get stepping, Teacher!

You are awesome!  I hope that you are enjoying your summer.  Keep recharging your batteries, but don’t forget to think about the little things you can try to change.  Keep stepping and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Quotes to Inspire


Dear Teacher,

This is going to be a quick one!  I, like you, have a zillion things to accomplish and the time to finish about three!  Thus is the life of a teacher.  Too much to do…and not near enough time to even think about how do to half of what needs to be done let alone get any of it done!

And that is what I want to talk about.  What do we do when we have too much to do.

We just do.

We move.

We go.

We do.

It is old and tiresome to quote, but I feel like I need to mention something that the Chinese philosopher, Lau-tzu said a long, long, long time ago:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

We have a thousand miles to move every day as a teacher.  It is overwhelming, to say the least.  But we can’t let this stop us.  We can’t.  Our students need us.  So we just need to start.

We need to take a step.

Then another.

Then another.


You get it.

We need to move.

Sometimes movement is the best we can do.  Sometimes we can only muster up the energy, strength, and time for a single step…other times it might be seventeen…we might even be able to go a few miles.  No matter how far we go, we just need to move.  We need to step.  We need to go.

Start stepping.



You may not get far today, but just move.

Oh, and make sure your students and their needs are you destination!

So what are you waiting for?  Just move!

(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)

You are tired, but you are awesome!  It is hard, but you can do it!  Don’t stop!  Don’t give up!  Keep going, Teacher, and keep on teaching!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Quotes to Inspire

Apple Influence

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

Dear Teacher,

Good Saturday morning!

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday, it was quite a busy day.  If I find the time, I might do two posts today.  For now it will just be a quick one.  A friend of mine share this quote with me.  He is a “teacher” at our school (he is not a teacher-teacher, but he is a teacher, he runs our ISS), and he is really good at working with our most difficult cases.  This has stuck with me ever since he said it do me.

I looked it up and there are conflicting sources as having said this, but the top two are Robert Schuller and Karen Jensen.  They both have a nice ring to them, and Jensen focuses on teaching, so I am going to share both.

Any fool can count the seeds in an apple. Only God can count all the apples in one seed. -Shuller

You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed.  When you teach, you will never know how many lives you will influence…you are teaching for eternity. -Jensen

I share this quotes and this poster because we need to focus on the big picture.  This week I talked a lot about our need as teachers to change (Wednesday and Thursday), and I will continue to talk about it for the next couple of weeks…can you tell the workshop I went to had a big effect on my thinking?  We do need to take a look in the mirror and see where we can change to make a bigger impact on students and our learning.  I think the idea of never knowing how many lives the live you influence will go on to influence.  It puts it all into perspective.

It is time for us to get out of our comfort zones.  Another Jensen, Eric Jensen (who put on the training I went to) said something that stuck with all of us there:

Is maintaining you comfort level more important than our kids graduating?

Read that again and let it sink in.  Is being in a teaching “grove” and being good enough worth any student not graduating if you could have affected this at some point for the better?  This should speak to you no matter what kind of school you teach at or the grade level you teach?  Can you stand up and say, like Jaime Escalante said at t staff meeting, “I’m not [doing enough].  I could teach more.”  Escalante is the teacher that the movie Stand and Deliver was about and the center of my first Teacher Rockstar post series I hope begin next week.

We can all do more.  It is probably not “doing more” for most teachers, especially you.  You, and others, already do so much.  It is more about doing what you do more effectively and with a new focus.  I think the quote about seeds and apples is a great place to start to thinking about what our focus is.  How can we grow the most apples from each seed that go on to grow more apples from more seeds?

You are so awesome!  I know that some of this is hitting home, because the post It’s Not Me, It’s YOU has been the most viewed post here…hitting 800 in three days…and still going up.  I am going to keep hitting this them, but I am also going to give you so help, ideas, and models that will help us all go out there and grow as many apples as we can…and we will never know the final tally!  You ARE making a differences and influencing those seeds!  Keep growing and keep teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…Dear Teacher/Love Teacher has made the move use Instagram, along with the other social media sites (Facebook and Twitter).  Check us out!

Posted in Challenge, General Inspiration, Quotes to Inspire

The Power of Real Encouragement


Dear Teacher,

While at training this week I have a lot of time to think about hope and encouragement (which are some of the things that can impact brain growth and change). Believe it or not, I have only recently come to realize my gift/talent for encouragement and hope-giving. I never thought that it was my “thing” to help people pick themselves up and strive for great things. It has been there in me for a long time, but I just never saw it,

I thought about this earlier this week because of something that was said to me. One of the activities at the Teaching with Poverty in Mind workshop was to have perfect practice at encouraging the right things in students (strategies, effort, and attitude) that bring about long term brain and thinking change that leads to success and achievement. As I was going around and finding people to talk to, I encouraged a teacher’s attitude and tied it to success. This was only practice, and we were only pretending the other teachers were students, but he told me something after it was done. He said, “Wow, I actually feel encouraged and fired up to strive harder because of what you told me. Thank you!”

I have gotten that a lot from people lately (students, teachers, and others), even before I started this blog. It is one of the other reasons that I started this whole thing. It has become clear to me that I have a gift for it. A gift is worthless if you do not use it for the good of others, and who needs encouragement and hope more than my fellow teachers and educators? 🙂

The reason that I did not see this gift in myself before is because I did not view how I talked to people as encouragement. I thought encouragement was “feel good” language with the intent of cheering people up. I am not good at that. All that I do is tell people what I notice about them or what they have done and point out the benefits of it and/or how it helps others (or themselves). That’s it. I saw my skill as being telling the truth of what I saw to others. I just do that. I can’t help it. It is just in the core fiber of my being to do that.

For some reason, positive truth is powerful. It can change the way people think. It changes how you fell about yourself and situations. It gives you new perspective. It helps you to remember that nothing last forever, you can and will get through it, and that you have resources that you forgot or did not see in yourself.

It is true that “cheer up” sentiments do help in the short term. That is “good encouragement.” However, that kind of encouragement is not what changes you and changes the world around you. Good encouragement is quite temporary.

As I thought about this over the last few days, I came up with one idea to boil this all down and show how how and why real encouragement has true and sustaining power (if you get my Tweets, you got a sneak preview of this last night):

Good encouragement helps you to feel better; great encouragement cuts you open and repairs your heart, soul, and mind with positive truth.”

What kind of encouragement are you giving out and spreading around you home, school, and community? Is it the kind of encouragement that lasts, or is it the short term, temporary,cheer-up brand? How can you give more of the hopeful, life-changing variety? Are you willing to start trying to change this today?

Challenge: Give two people the cutting, life-changing type of encouragement today and then come back and tell us the reaction it had/caused.

You are awesome! I know that you probably already give out the great type of encouragement! It never hurts to hone and tweak those kind of skills and abilities. You are so amazing! I want you to keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Challenge, Pep Talk, Quotes to Inspire, Uncategorized

It’s Not Me, It’s YOU


Dear Teacher,

I mentioned this briefly at the end of my last two posts, but I am at a workshop this week. What I did not mention is that I am at one of the most amazing workshops EVER! Well, at least the most amazing one I have ever been to. :). I am learning so much and getting to meet some awesome teachers from around the US and this corner of the globe.

The workshop is put on and led by Eric Jensen, who is the author of the book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, which inspired the events in my teaching that inspired this blog (see my About page for that story). The workshop is called Teaching with Poverty in Mind, and it gets into the research behind the book in depth, but it has been mostly about how to use the research and giving very real strategies and practices that allow students, brains to change for the better. Basically, it is about how poverty changes the brain and what we can do about that as teachers.

The workshop has been wonderful, as I said. Everything being taught is being modeled ad we are helping each other practice. We are being given ways to take this all back to our campuses and to help other teachers apply the principles, strategies and research and spread the fire of change at out schools. We have been shown examples of what we are being taught working at schools like ours and being challenged to prove it can work at our schools. Have to say, I am quite fired up and there are still two days left! I can’t wait to take what I am learning back to my school!

I share all of this to talk about a theme and idea that has come up over and over. I am really buying into this idea, and I hope that it will inspire you and that you buy into it to. Something has been said over and over, and I bet it will be said more over the next two days: teachers are the key to change in students. Teachers…not the students, parents, administrators, legislators, etc…TEACHERS. If we make the needed changes in how we approach what we teach (not necessarily how we teach…a lot of us our doing the “right things” but our approach, reasons, and intentions need to be adjusted and tweaked) then we will start to see changes and successes in our students, especially the harder cases.

I won’t get into details here…I will leave that to Mr. Jensen (read the book and catch the workshop if you can)…but I want to focus in on the idea of change. No matter how good we are, we can find things that we can change and do better. It does nothing to lean back and just bemoan what is going wrong. One thing that has been repeated at the workshop is that “we need to stop pointing fingers and start holding up a mirror to see what we need to change.” I know that teachers are blamed a lot….I am not saying buying into that, but I am agreeing that we all need to stop pointing fingers and start changing what we can…and that starts with us.

Mahatma Gandhi is often misquoted as having said, “Be the change you long to see in the world.” Great idea, but what he actually said is even stronger.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

What he is basically saying is that change starts with us. We, as teachers, can’t wait for our students, the environments, or the education system to change. We need to hold up a mirror to ourselves and change what we can change for the better. We can then be an agent of change by spreading the changes to others. That is kind of what this blog is about…changing the climate of negativity towards teachers to an atmosphere of encouragement. We need to make the same adjustments in our classrooms!

So how are you doing, Teacher? Are you ready to hold up a mirror and let the changes start with you? Find a deficit or weakness in your teaching, find out ways to change it, makes some plans, and then make changes. Are you ready to start this? A know that I am!

You are so awesome! I know that you are going to take this challenge in stride! I believe in you and I know that this coming year (or current one) will be the best one yet! Keep on teach, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Quotes to Inspire

Quotable Quotes to End Your Week

Dear Teacher,

On the Dear Teacher/Love Teacher Facebook page and Twitter feed I have start to share some cool and inspiring quotes about teachers, teaching, and education.  To end off your week, I thought it would be a nice end to the week to share them and some more that I have found.  If you are looking for a great source to find quotes, by the way, Brainy Quotes is the best source I have found online.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” -Ben Franklin

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” -John Steinbeck

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” -Albert Einstein

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” -Albert Einstein, again

“Love is a better teacher than duty.” -Albert Einstein (can you tell I am a fan?)

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” -Robert Frost

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” -Aristotle

“That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.” -Maria Callas

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'” -Maria Montessori

“The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.” -Horace Mann

I also shared this clip of Helen Keller.  I thought it was amazing, so I will share it here, as well.  Watch and be inspired!

Read, watch, enjoy, and share.  You are awesome!  Pick one of these quotes to motivate you over the weekend to help you get ready for next week!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher