Posted in Reflection, Take Care of Yourself, You Are Awesome!!!

Lost and Found


(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)

Dear Teacher,

I bet you thought I was gone for good, huh?  I haven’t written you in quite some time.  I am sorry for that.  But it was necessary.

I needed a break.

Sometimes we all do, and I definitely did.  I needed one and I took one.

I did not know how long the break from blogging would last.  I even let the domain name go for a bit.  I wasn’t sure if I would be back…but here I am.  I am here for you.

Where did I go?

Well, just like for you, the world is spinning.  I think everyone feels that, but teachers and educators especially do.  We have so much to do and take care of between school life and home life…and sometimes the world is moving faster than we can keep up with and all we can do is hold on for dear life.

That is where I was…holding on for dear life.

I had to do what we all do.  I had to evaluate all of my self-given responsibilities and decide which ones needed to take a backseat and even go in the trunk for a while.  I had to make some hard choices.  Writing to you was one thing that I could put down for a while, and I did.  I did because I had to.

I am back, now, though.  Hopefully you didn’t need my encouragement too much and were able to find some from another source for a while.

I am writing to you to challenge you to take some time this summer and figure out what you might need to put down for a while.  What is the extra that is good but might be the one-too-many for your life?  What are you juggling that you don’t have to?  What can you put aside for a while?

And sometimes you need to think about picking something else up once you put it down.

What is something that you want to do or love doing that you could buy some time for by stopping something else?  Is there a hobby?  A bucket-list item?  A place you want to visit?  Anything?

Find a way to make some time for that this summer.  You might just find the you that you’ve forgotten for a while.

For me it was a little (big) side project…I invented a math-based board game, and followed through with it until it was an actual game.  I will share about it in another post later, but I can’t tell you how good it felt to do something different and try a new challenge.  It brought my creativity back to life after a good but draining school year.  I am refreshed and renewed because I put something down (this blog) and tried something new (board game design).

Could you do something similar this summer?  I encourage you to try!

Have you been doing this already?  If so, let me know what you have put down and what you have picked up in the comments!

You are awesome, as always, and I hope you are having an amazing break from the day-to-day of teaching.  You are making a difference for everyone in your life!  Keep on resting this summer and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

(Oh, and if you are interested in hearing more about the board game that I am quite proud of, let me know in the comments, as well!)

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 Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Reason for Teaching, Reflection

It’s Grow Time


Dear Teacher,

Happy New Year!  And so a new one begins, huh?  I am not sure what this school year has been like for you so far, but you have a fresh start to the second half.  What are you going to do with it?

Image: Wikipedia

I can’t help but think of a new year as a seed.  It is something that is up to you on how it will grow.  Like I teach my students whenever I teach my unit on plants, seeds stay dormant until they have the right conditions to grow.

I moved into my current classroom and curriculum three years ago.  In one of the drawers, I have many as a science teacher, I found a bag of beans.  I had no idea how old they were and decided not to use them….until this year.

Image: Wikipedia

This year, I went a little “grow crazy” during the plant unit and tried to plant as much as I can using the big grow light set-up we have.  I remembered those seeds.  I did the germination in a damp paper towel thing, and despite the age of the seeds, they still germinated!

I planted them, watered them, and let time and nature do the rest.  As I said, I grew several things all at the same time.  I was disappointed that, though many things flowered, nothing came to fruit…or so I thought.

Another teacher came to observe in my room and we got talking about my plants and how the plants flowered by nothing else.  He knows a lot more about growing than I do, and he started looking through them.  And he found something…on the bean plants.  He found little bean pods.  Not only did they grow, they produced more seeds!  I was disappointed in the size until some students and I started looking through the plants and we found large bean pods!  It was a cool moment for this science teacher who is bad at growing stuff!

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Though the beans were who-knows-how-old, they were still dormant and waiting for the right conditions to grow.

Why did I share this story?

Teacher, you may have had a rough school year.  Not much may seem to have happened for you or your students.  You may have seen nothing but seedlings so far…or worse, you just see empty soil.

Do not give up!

You have a fresh start coming up!

Your seeds may still just be dormant.

You just need the right conditions for growth!

I do not know what growth or the right conditions look like for you, but you do.  What will it take to make that happen?  What do you need?  What do you need to focus on?

Stop whining about what is going wrong this year and work on what is going right!  Give yourself and your students the light, water, and nutrients needed for growth!  Reflect, regroup, and regrow!

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You can do it!

You know what it takes!

You have what it takes!

It time to get growing!

It is grow time, Teacher!

You are awesome and I know you have what it takes to get things growing this year.  You are an amazing teacher.  You are making a difference.  Don’t give up!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

Posted in Cheer Up, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Reflection

So, You’ve Had a Week from…Well, You Know…



 

Dear Teacher,

If you are like a lot of other teachers that I have talked to this week, you may have just had a pretty rough week.  It was pretty mediocre for me, but I have had a bad week or two recently, as well.

Fridays of bad weeks can be good and bad.  They are great because the week is over.  They really stink because you have to take stock of the week and figure out what went wrong.

If the week was bad enough, we probably lost our cool and did some things that we aren’t quite proud of…poor reactions, poor choices, etc…  Fridays like that are even worse.  We have to deal with the week and deal with ourselves.  Never, ever, ever fun.

So, for those that had a long week, let’s have a theme song post.  Click play and then read on.

Teacher, your job is hard.

You have so much to deal with every day.

It seems like the days that go bad, go bad in almost every way possible.

One bad day can lead into another…and another…and before you know it, you have had a bad week.

Bad weeks happen.  They happen to the best and worst of us.  They bring out the worst in us…but don’t forget, they also bring out the best of us.

“What do you mean, teacher-who-obviously-did-not-have-a-bad-week?”

I know that you don’t want to think about it today, at the end of your awful week, but bad days and weeks teach us more than the good ones.

  • We learn what doesn’t work.
  • We learn what some of our “triggers” are.
  • We learn what we need to avoid.
  • We learn that the students may nor have learned as we thought they did.

Not only that, weeks after bad weeks always seem to help us get stronger as a teacher.  We dig in, we find a way to keep moving and keep going, and we find ways to try to avoid weeks like we just had.

  • We learn new strategies because we had to work so hard just to get through the week.
  • We learn that we had resources that we did not know that we had.
  • We learn that we are stronger than we thought we were.
  • We learn that we have students that cared about our bad weeks (when they come and say that they are glad the next week is going better for us).
  • We learn that we have colleagues that actually do care about us (even if it is just one or two).
  • We learn that we love teaching as much as we thought we did, even though we hated it the week before (the bad week).

There is a silver lining, Teacher.  Even if you don’t see it now, it is there.

It is okay to bemoan your bad week.  It is human.  Hate this week.  Wish it never happened.  Lick your wounds and do what you need to do, just don’t stay there.

Find the strength.  Find a way.  Move on.  Use this week to become the awesome teacher that you are and can be.

Bad weeks suck, but we need them.  You can get through this.

And never forget…you are not there for you.  You are at your school and in your classroom for your students.

They matter most.

They are your motivation to get through this.

You can do it.

You are awesome!  I know this week was bad, but you can and will keep moving.  Even in this horrible week, you made a difference…even if you don’t know it now.  Keep going.  Never give up.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Poster/Graphic, Reflection, Thank You!

The Thankful Teacher


(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)

Dear Teacher,

I was going to take a break from writing over Thanksgiving break, but I had a rough day on Tuesday (the last day of school for me before break) so I have been reflective.  My reflections have been some thoughts that I really feel like I should write down.  Writing helps me process them and will make them real to me.  I decided to write them to you because, maybe, you are going through something similar and need some similar encouragement and thoughts.

This is one of those times that I am writing to myself and letting you listen in.  Eavesdrop away, Teacher.

Too often I let myself get wrapped up in the actions, behavior, and/or attitude of one or a small handful of students.  I let this small cluster change my day and change my attitude because of these students.  I let this affect how I am feeling and change my behavior, actions, and reactions towards other students and my coworkers.  I let this make me feel like a failure.  I let this make me feel like a bad teacher.  I let this make me doubt my choices the led to becoming a teacher at all.

These feelings do not last long, but they are nonetheless real.  The feelings do affect me.  They really do.  Even if they are short-lasted, they do take a toll on me from time to time.

I know I shouldn’t let this happen.  I know that letting one or a few students make me go down this road is not productive.  But it happens.  Every year.  At least once or twice.  The cycle begins and I have to work through it.

If I know that this cycle is not productive, why do I keep letting myself get forced into it?  Do I have to go through this cycle?  Do I have to let the few students affect how I am with the many other students that are learning and doing the right things every day?  Do I need to go through this cycle of doubt and wonder about my choices?

If not, how do I avoid it?

Don’t get me wrong, reflection and analyzing what we do and say is important.  It is vital.  I am not saying that.  I know that doubt can make you stronger when you work through it.  I am just talking about the cycle that a handful of students can take you down where this few makes you feel like a failure as a teacher.  Where your focus is on them and not the rest of your students who are thriving in your class.  (I guess I should mention that it is not always the student that makes you feel like a failure…sometimes it is a parent like happened for me last year.)

So, how do I avoid this?

Today being Thanksgiving gave me a thought.  Maybe one tool that helps here, one weapon in this battle, is thankfulness.  Gratitude.  The attitude of taking stock of what is going well instead of what is not.

Being thankful for the good things takes your focus off of what is going wrong.  It puts into perspective that things really aren’t that bad and you that you can build on those things that are going great.  It lets you see the “silver lining” and move on.  Thankfulness lets the not-so-great things roll off your back like water off of a duck.

Being a thankfully reflective teacher can change you…especially in the moment when one or few students make you feel like you aren’t doing a good job.

Really?  Can it be that simple?

I don’t know that this is all of it, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.  A big step in that direction.  As I have thought about this on this Thanksgiving morning, some of my stress from Tuesday has started to melt away.  Not all of it, but a lot of it.  It is changing my attitude.  It is changing me.  It is letting me remember why I do what I do and put up with what I put up with.

It is refilling my patience.  That is a feat that is hard to do in the thick of a school year!  I will be honest, it helps that I have a break from school…but I still needed a patience refill!

So, what can we be thankful for as teachers?

I am just going make a quick “Thankful List” for me.  You can be thankful for whatever you need to be thank for…it sounds simplistic, but I think it will make a difference for you as it has for me.  What are you teacher-thankful for?

My Thankful Teacher List

  • I have a job.  That is important.  Not all teachers have one right now.
  • I work at a great school with great teachers.  ‘Nuff said.  🙂
  • I am on the best team of teachers at a school of great teachers.
  • I have wonderful, amazing students.
  • I have students who actually care when I am having a bad day.
  • I have students succeeding in my class who have had little success in school to this point (and I teach 6th grade).
  • I have students whose behavior has improved immensely and they are really starting to take their job as a student seriously.
  • Almost all of my students are interested in science, even if they haven’t been until this year (I teach science).
  • Most of my students work, cause no problems, and are improving in their ability to think and learn on their own.
  • I get to teach science to middle-schoolers, which is an amazing job to have!
  • I have a few students who work hard just because they know I care for them and want them to succeed.
  • Even those giving me a hard time will come around at some point.
  • I work with teachers who will help me become a better teacher.
  • I know I said it already, but I have amazing students.

Wow, I am glad I wrote those out instead of just thinking them.  I feel so much better.  Thankfulness does change you!  Can you do the same?  Write out a list of what you are thankful for in your classroom and with your students.  You don’t have to do it here, but you can if you would like!

Let gratitude change your attitude.

I know that sounds cheesy, but it does work!  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, Teacher!  If you aren’t from the US…Happy Thursday!

You are amazing!  You are awesome!  You are getting through to your students.  Don’t give up!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Reflection, Weekend Note

As You Look Back…


Dear Teacher,

How was your week?  Was it a rough one?  Was it a “blah” one?  Was it the best week ever?

Looking back is a part of our job.  It is a part of what we do.  It is a part of who we are.  It is a vital function to the process of teaching.  We have to do it.  Good or bad, we have to analyze the week.  What went wrong?  What went right?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Where did you thrive?  Where did you fall on your face?

Reflection can be hard.  It is hard to relive the week, sometimes.  But we need to do it.  We have to.  As painful as it can be, we have to go through it day by day.  This is the only way to become a better teacher and let your awesome shine in the weeks to come.

As you look back, though, focus.  What matters most?  What are the most important things that you need to do in your role as a teacher at your school (and any other roles that you might have)?  What do your students need most?  What do they need to learn?  What do they need to learn about learning for themselves?  What do your students need outside of learning?  What do they need to become better, independent Earth dwellers one day?

What does your school need from you most?  What do your colleagues need from you?  What does your family need from you?  What do you need from you?  I mean truly need.  

What matters most?

Let what matters most be the mirror that you judge yourself by.  There are so many little things, the minutia of teaching, that can get us wrapped around the axle of the teacher’s life.  These things can stress us out.  These are the things that wipe us out.  These are the things that can lead to burnout quickest.  These are the things that don’t lead to what matters most.

Fun=House Mirror

Don’t reflect by these muddle puddles.  They are fun-house mirrors.  They are not a real reflection of you as a teacher.  They do not show you who you really are.  They are a false reflection.  Don’t judge yourself by these things!  Easier said than done, but you are going to have to let those things go.

Let them go. 

Let them go.

Let them go.

Focus.

What matters most?

Use the “matters most” for reflection.  How was your week when you look at those things?  What do you need to change?  What are you doing well?  How will you make the “matters most” matter more next week?

Mirror – Ikea

Look back, Teacher.  How are you doing?  How was this week?

You are awesome!  You know what matters most.  You know how to let the other stuff go.  You are making a difference…what matters most is your goal.  This makes you amazing!  Keep on focusing and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Picture Note, Poster/Graphic, Reflection

Well Done!


Dear Teacher,

Same message as yesterday and last weekend…don’t forget to see the good and positive along with the “needs work” areas as you reflect on the week.  You had some awesome in you this week and do did your students.  Don’t forget to celebrate and take a little bow.  You deserve to and have earned it!  You rock because you are awesome!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Share this encouragement with another teacher.  He or she deserves it, too!

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)
(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
Posted in Challenge, General Inspiration, Pep Talk, Reason for Teaching, Reflection

The Lost Goal


Dear Teacher,

I am in the trenches with you!  This has been a long week.  I am tired.  I am beat up.  I am worn out.  I am not broken, but I am a little battered.

Do you feel the same way?  If not today, have you recently?

I talk a lot about the pressures and struggles of teaching and the difficulty in finding balance while juggling a thousand things at once.  I won’t remind us of that today.  We know what we have to do.  We know how hard it is.  We don’t need to be re-educated on those things we know oh so well.

I am in a reflective mood.  In this time of reflection, I am thinking a lot about what are really the roots of my frustration right now.  I really don’t think it has anything to do with the students.  I don’t think it is the burden of having so many responsibilities every minute of every day.  I don’t think it is the pressures form above me in the hierarchy of things.  I don’t think it is the content or curriculum.  I don’t think it has much to do with the job of teaching at all.  I think it has everything to do with me.

I don’t think I have focus.

I am not saying that I am not focused as a teacher.  I am not saying that I am not looking to the standards for direction.  I am not saying that I have forgotten my heart for students.  I am not saying I do not see my place in the span of things at my school.  I think I have a focus on all of these things, and everything else that I should.

And therein lies the problem.

The funny thing about focus is that it is very specific and pointed.  When you focus on something, everything around it is slightly more blurry, even if just an imperceptible amount.  You cannot truly have more than one focus.

What you focus on is the center of what you do.  Everything else gets a little less attention and energy.  It has to be this way.  If it is not, then you are not really focused on anything.

When you focus on more than one thing at the same time (or many, many, many things), your energy is scattered.  Your mind is scattered.  Your heart and your soul is scattered.

When you are scattered, you are all over the place.  You cannot sustain that.  It will lead to frustration, heartache, and burnout.  You can not run in more than one direction.  You can not have more than one main goal.  It just is not possible, at least not at the level it takes to be effective and meaningful.

So, that leaves me with the question, “What do I do now, Self?”

I find the goal that matters most.  The goal that I lost along the way.  I make that my focus.  I give that my energy.  I give that my all.

And what is that goal?

I don’t even have to think about the question to answer it.  My students are my goal.  Their growth, maturity, and becoming learners and people that care about other people is what I personally care the most about.  Their who I work for, in essence.  They are my reason for all that I do as a teacher.

What does this mean, then, to what I do day-to-day?

It means I weigh decisions based on what they need.  It means I get to know them so that I know what they need.  I means that I make sure I am not losing them for the sake of lesser goals (like following lesson plans to a “t,” sticking to a strategy that I am told is excellent when it is not working for my students, or staying “on-pace” when my students are falling behind).  It means that I work on finding strategies that work for them.  It means I am willing to have more than one lesson plan for the day because some students need a little more than others.  It means I differentiate,  I means I encourage and affirm them.  It means I write notes, make parent phone calls, and take time to just say, “Hi, how are you doing?”  It means that I never give up.  It means that I find a way to reach each and every one of my students.  No matter what!

(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)

If I find the lost goal…if I make the old goal my new one…if I commit to keeping my focus where it matters most…I will change the world.  I will change my students.  I will change myself.

I don’t know if this rang true to you, but it is an open and honest reflection for me.  This was needed.  Thanks for reading if you made it this far!  Do you need to readjust your focus, too?  Join me in doing that today!

You are awesome!  If you are here, it is because you are trying to be the best teacher you can be and looking for a boost of encouragement to keep up the fight.  I hope you found that today.  You deserve to be encouraged!  You are a great, awesome, and amazing teacher!  Your students are your goal.  They are what really matter.  Keep going.  Keep fighting.  Keep making that difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Reason for Teaching, Reflection, Teacher Testimony

Tilted Windmills: Part II


(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)

Dear Teacher,

How the heck are you this morning/afternoon/evening (circle the correct choice)?  Okay, I thought that would be funny because Tilted Windmills: Part I was about my change in feelings about the results of tests.  🙂  I do hope that this reading finds you well, though.  By the way, if you haven’t read Part I, please go read that one first.  This post won’t make much sense without it!  If you read it the other day, you may want to skim it to get a refresher.

Are you back, now?  Okay, lets move on!

However, before I move further we need to talk about Don Quixote.  You know, the Man of LaMancha.  If you are not familiar with Don Quixote, you should be!  It is a great story of humanity and among the classics!  The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha was written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.  The story is about a man who leaves his normal life to take on a life of chivalry and eventually live in a fantasy world of knights, nobility, giants, etc…

The reason that I bring up Don Quixote is that that I am reminded about a part of his story.  As he and his “squire,” a farmer named Sancho Panza, were out on their adventures, there is a time when Quixote sees windmills along the side of the road and he takes off after them.  He “tilts” at them with a spear (tilting is a jousting term…go watch A Knight’s Tale for more on that) because he thinks it is an army of giants.  “Tilting at windmills” has become synonymous with the idea of going off after an imaginary enemy or fighting a battle that does not have to be fought.

Okay, enough with the literary lesson.  Back to school stuff.

So, I told you the story about the devastating emotional consequences of grading my first test as a first year teacher (on a Friday).  Then I followed that with what happened a week ago when I graded my latest test (on a Friday).  How did, in eight years, did I get from poor results shaking me up to poor results leaving me content?

Because the test data was not much different, obviously it is not because I am a spectacular teacher that can get students to learn and understand everything the first time through.  It is also not because I got so good at helping the students learn problem solving skills and test-taking strategies that ace every test that I give.  No, the test data was pretty much the same.  The change was not in that, and the change was not in the students.

That only leaves one thing.  The change was in me.

What was that change and when did it happen?

I will be honest, the change happened slowly.  As a matter of fact, it has only been in the last two years, or so, that I have started to view test results differently.  Actually, this was the first year that I have really felt almost completely at-ease about how a test went when it did not go well.

Wait, you never said what the change is!

I am getting there.  I just need to give a little more back story.  Give me a minute!

Okay.

Thanks.

You are welcome.

I used to view testing in a few different ways.  Tests allowed me to assess student learning (well-trained answer there, huh?).  Tests allowed me to assess how the students received and applied what I taught them.  Tests allowed me to see how well students might do on the State Tests.  Tests gave me some insight on the test-taking strategies that students have and use.  Tests gave me a stopping point to which I can move on to new content and material.  Tests judged how well my students and I did during the unit and what I probably ought to find some time to reteach.

Tests played a lot of roles in my teaching life, didn’t they?

Over time, testing became something that was make or break for me.  Therefore, test results became this harbinger of how the students were going to do during State Testing, and something that must be revered and feared for this reason.  Test data was disheartening.  It showed me the failures of my teaching and the failures in student learning.  It became even more disparaging and depressing for me as the years passed that it was that first year.

Over time I started to dread testing.

Then came school benchmarks.

My school started doing quarterly benchmarks in the core classes.  These results were as bad or worse than my unit tests.  They were rigorous and difficult, just like the State Tests.  The students hated them.  They seldom did well on them.  Because they were quarterly, and happened in every class, I started to only give these and stopped using unit tests.  The students were up to their eyeballs in tests, so I helped where I could and gave other types of unit assessments (mostly writing prompts for essay-type assessments).  Another side effect of the quarterly benchmarks is that, because of lack of time, they were results that I could not use because I could not go back and reteach anything.

I think I got “tested out.”

However, there was a positive result of those benchmarks.  My essay assessments gave me real insight on student learning.  I was able to really see what students knew, kind of knew, only knew by memory, and what they really understood.  I was able to truly differentiate and help scaffold students up to the understanding that they needed because I knew where they were with the content.  They did not have it always at the point of multiple choice questioning, and they was some of the problem on the tests.  I helped move students as far as I could in the curriculum based on what I found out from the writing.

Back to this year.  The essays taught me something.  Assessment is not about results, it is about data.  I had the two confused.  Data is knowledge, results are trying to judge success or failure.  Assessment should not be a goal, assessment should be a tool.  Assessment should tell us what students know, not know, and truly understand.  Assessment should give us clues about teaching strategies that worked and didn’t work.  Assessment should assist us in making  a plan for moving on.  Assessment should be what helps keeps us motivated to keep teaching.  We know where students are, now we can keep them moving!

The change was with how I viewed assessments and the resulting data.  They are not something to be feared.  They should be embraced.  I need to look at results more in the “why did this happen” mindset more than the “why did this happen to me” state of mind.

When I looked at my test data last Friday, it told me what I needed to know.  I knew what I needed to work on and with who.  I was able to start formulating plans for that work.  I had information.  I could use that information to push my students further on and further in to what they need to learn.  Why would this information make me happy?

Tests and test data used to make me feel bad.  But I was tilting at windmills.  I was looking at something that was mundane (I say this lightly…not that tests and data is mundane…but they are normal parts of the teaching life and not out of the ordinary) as something to cower and fear.  Data is not that.  Data is data.  It is information.  It is not a giant to fight, but it is something that can give me energy to keep on teaching and teaching better and better.

Are you tilting at any teaching windmills?  Are there things that you view as scary and as enemies that might just be the normal parts of the teaching life that can spur you on to being a better teacher?  What are they?  Tests?  Test data?  Observations?  Evaluations?  Parent contacts?  Any other menacing parts of the teaching life?  How can you change your mindset about them?  How can you use them to move on and be better without them destroying your teaching heart?

You are not alone!  We are all with you!  Other teachers do understand!  We really do!  Seek out a teacher to help you turn your giants back into windmills!  Can you help someone else do the same, too?  We are in this together and we need to help each other!

You are awesome!  You are amazing!  I know that you will stop fighting windmills and fight the real battles that we need to fight!  You can do it!  You are doing it and you are making a difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I feel like I need to say this.  This post is not a commentary on State Tests.  It is about the every day teaching life.  Please do not read in to what I have said!  State Assessments serve their own purpose for who get the results.  I am not making a statement for or against State Assessments.  Sorry, but I did feel like that should be said!  🙂  Lets avoid doing this in the comments, too!  Thanks!  There are a lot of places for that debate.  Let’s keep it out of this place for encouragement.

Posted in Pep Talk, Reflection, Take Care of Yourself

Celebrate Teacher Times, Come On


Dear Teacher,

For those of you on summer break, what have you been up to so far this summer?  I have had a little break, as you know, but now I am back to work…at least the planning part of our job.  My school is emphasizing planning over the summer, and understandably so.  For this reason, this has been a week of intense planning for me.  After a few days of hardcore planning like this, I feel very worn out.  I don’t know how that goes for you, but it can get exhausting for me!

Or are you still in the let-last-year-fade-away phase of summer?  It was a great year, or not so great, and you just need to let the memories slide away and relax a bit so that you can be ready for the next one.  This is an important part of the summer.  We can not carry all of the stress (good or bad) from last year into next year.  A part of summer is to unwind so that you can get wound back up again.  It is vital to your teaching heart to have a little time to let last year go!  You have been emptied out and you need to fill back up!

To those teaching right now (especially the Southern Hemisphere-ers), how are things going for you?  Are you still in the easier times of the year or is it the nose-to-the-grindstone time when the students are not as excited to be in school and you have a million things to do?  Are you still pumped up and enthusiastic about all that you have to do?  Or are you tired, beat up, and on the edge of burn out?  Are you just somewhere on the roller coaster in between the too extremes?

Where ever you are in all of this, it is important to remember not to sweat the small stuff.  Almost a month ago I posted about this and encouraged you to celebrate the small stuff.  Today’s post is just a reminder to do just that!  All of the little things that annoy us, wear us down, and beat us up little by little (including those held over from last year) can become a mountain that eventually falls and crushes us.  We need to build a retaining wall against them…and we do that by celebrating all of those little things that are great every day, week, month, and year!

Another way to look at it is to think of the motivational poster I shared yesterday.  As teachers, we really are a buoy in the water there to guide, protect, and lead our students to where they need to go.  It can be lonely and hard as the “small stuff” comes in as waves and beat on us.  The thing about buoys like the one in the poster, though, is that they are held in place by an anchor.  Celebrating and remembering those little things that go well can be the anchor that holds us in place!  The waves can come, but we know why we are there and why we became a teacher.  To lead the way for a brighter future for our students!

(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the picture only if you link back to this blog.)
(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the picture only if you link back to this blog.)

So…

Summer planning teacher:

  • Celebrate what you have already finished!
  • Throw a party for the work you will not have to do during the year because you did it now!
  • Toast the great things that your students will be able to accomplish because you worked so hard to plan for them!

Summer relaxing teacher:

  • Celebrate those small changes you saw in your students throughout the year, especially the more challenging students!
  • Throw a party for the growth that you see in yourself as a teacher!  You are an even better teacher than you were at this time last year!
  • Toast the accomplishment of a year well done, no matter if it was your best year, your worst, or somewhere in between!  Teacher, you made it and now you are on the other side!

Teacher in the throws of teaching:

  • Celebrate those things that are going right!  What is working well for you right now?  Those are awesome!  Celebrate them!
  • Throw a party for those students that are truly connecting to what you are teaching!  This is why you do what you do!  Have a 10 second party for these kids once in a while!
  • Toast the things that you have been able to notice that are not working and you have changed to teach your students better!  How have you monitored and adjusted to improve student learning?  Here’s to those things!  Cheers!

Teacher, celebrate!  Dig that anchor in deep and the sweaty small stuff won’t affect you as much!  The celebrations are important.  You need them.  Don’t forget to celebrate a little something every day!

You are so awesome!  You are a great teacher!  You are making a difference!  I truly believe in you!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Reflection

Happy and Not-So-Happy Endings


Dear Teacher,

Well, my hiatus was cut a little short because of a short summer school teaching opportunity that has come up.  Because I am ending my teaching sabbatical early, I have decided to go ahead and come back to the blog, too.  It is good to be back.  I hope that you did not miss me too much.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts of my Substitute Teachers.  I thought each post was insightful, challenging, and full of hope.  I hope that you feel the same!

Today’s message is about endings.  Endings are what I am thinking about as my little vacation comes to a close.  Endings are inevitable.  They will come no matter what…and it can be a challenge or a hope to keep that in mind.

When things are going well, an ending does not seem like a good thing.  The end of a break.  The end of a vacation.  Or just the end of a great year with your students.  Good things do not last forever and it is sad to see them go.  These kind of endings do not have to be bad, though.  There is a ways to view them as a positive, and this is where the challenge comes in.

  •  Keep the end in mind to help you savor every wonderful moment…take it in and enjoy every fleeting second.
  • Memories of good times that have ended give you something to hang on to when things get rough…build those memories well when things are good!
  • Good times have to end sometime…remember this…we grow more and learn more during difficulties.  What kind of teacher would you be if things only went well?

The flip-side of endings are the endings of not-so-good times.  When things are not quite as awesome, and the “going get rough,” endings are the light at the end of the tunnel.  Knowing that there is an ending gives you the opportunity and ability to have some hope.  The following are a few thoughts for you if you are going through one of those phases right now.

  •  Nothing lasts forever, especially the hard times, so don’t give up!
  • You are growing and becoming a better teacher right now, don’t lose sight of that.
  • I know it is Kelly Clarkson cliché, but what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger…when you come out on the other side you will be stronger and better for it.
  • The light at the end of that tunnel is getting larger every day. Hold on to hope.  You will make it through!
(c)DearTeacherLT (You may use this picture if you link back to this blog.)
(c)DearTeacherLT (You may use this picture if you link back to this blog.)

What is your impending ending right now?

Are you in a good time that will soon be over?  Savor it.  Take it all in.  Enjoy it and make memories.  You will need those memories eventually!

Are you in a down time right now?  Does everything seem to be going up in flames around you?  The end is near!  It will not last forever!  Find those “good times” memories, hang on to them, and hold on tight for the arrival of that light at the end of the tunnel!

Teacher, you are amazing.  You are awesome!  You are believed in and you are getting stronger every day!  You are changing lives and making a difference!

Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

For more hope and encouragement: @DearTeacherLT (Twitter), Dear Teacher/Love Teacher Facebook Page, and the Dear Teacher TpT Store.