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)

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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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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)

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