A Call for Help – Let’s Raise Our Teacher Voices


Dear Teacher,

I have been working on this letter to you in my head for over a week.  I just haven’t been sure what to say.  Today I decided the best way to start is just begin.  Pretty easy, really.

So I have a pretty big podcast addiction.  I love listening to them.  I really like shows that cause me to think.  And because of this, last week I heard something that has inspired me.

There is a choral composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre, who had an idea.  He put one of his songs out on the internet and gave a call on Youtube for people to sing their parts on video and send them to him.  With this, he posted a silent video of him conducting the song.  He had a huge response and put together a video of his “Virtual Choir.”  This is the first video…

There has been subsequent “Virtual Choir Concerts,” and with each one the response is bigger and bigger.  The latest have had thousands of singers from around the world.

Think about that.  Thousands of people from around the planet singing one song together.

And it is beautiful.

Very beautiful.

And I am not just talking about the songs.  They are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the most beautiful thing about this is the thought.  People with a shared passion from different countries, different cultures, and different views all joining together for one song.  One thought.  One idea.  Beautiful.

This got me thinking.  Is there an application to this idea in education?  Can educators from around the country and even around the world come together and have one voice?  One message about something?  One heart and one passion?  And how would we share it?

The more I think about it, the more ideas I have, but it keeps coming back to the question, “What is our one thing as educators?”

And it hit me…we do have something beautiful to share.

This something is so beautiful that it might just change what people think about education…and maybe the way that the education system is viewed and legislated.

That beautiful thing is our students growth and change throughout the year.  It is our stories of the magic that happens in the classroom.  It is the knowledge of the changes that happen in the lives of our school kids when teaching and learning happens through hard work and relationships.  It is in sharing those amazing things that we see happen between day one and the last day of a school year.

We need to share these things.  We need to talk about them.  The world needs to hear them.

These are the things that cannot be standardized.  They do not show up on a test.  They cannot be measured.  They can not be quantified.

This is our song.

Let’s sing it together!

I want to start collecting stories.  I want to hear your voice and share it with the world.  Will you help me?

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)

For now, I am going to collect the stories in written form via the contact form at the bottom of the post.  I may eventually move to video and/or audio format…but baby steps.  Lets start here.

What do you think?  Are you in?

So here is all you need to do.  I want to hear one of your magical classroom stories about student change and growth.  You know, those stories that you hold dear and that keep you going.  Tell the story how ever you would like.  Just remember to change names to protect privacy.  I will share the stories here.  Just let me know if you want to be kept anonymous or if I can share your name.  The contact form is at the bottom of the post.

Oh, you can share as many stories as you’d like…and please share this post far and wide so I can get as many stories as I can!

This is going to be awesome!  You are awesome.  I can’t wait to hear your stories!  You are an amazing teacher and I know that there are some beautiful things that have happened in your classroom.  Keep making those beautiful things happen and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Trial run…leave a story via Google Voicemail: (864) 660-3858).

 

 

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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

A Little More Magic…


Dear Teacher,

Last week I wrote to you about holding on to the magic that makes you special as a teacher.  It is your magic that keeps your students engaged.  It is one of the keys to avoiding burnout (at least it can make the burnout take longer).  It is what you live for as a teacher when your students minds are blown and they are left with the “aha” moments of learning that stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Yes, your personal magic is pretty important, and you better hang on to it for dear teaching life!

So…

How do you tap into your personal teaching magic and how do you develop it deeper and create more?

As far as the magic that you already contain in the classroom goes, I can’t really help you from here.  You have to reflect and think about what it is that the students latch on to and help them connect with you.  Is it you dynamic story-telling?  Is it how you build relationships?  Is it how you know just what to say to make someone feel better about life?  Is it how you connect with students that no one else can?  Is it how you can make the most mundane and boring subjects come to life?  I don’t know, but you can find out if you aren’t sure.

Talk to students.

Take a survey.

Ask other teachers what they hear from students about you.

You may not always like what you hear, but you might be surprised on what you find out students like about you.  What they like is probably tied to your magical side.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

It can be rough sometimes, but doing the investigative work will help you find what you can build on to make the magic happen time and time again in your class.

Once you find out, then research.

Look for teachers that are good at the same things, and find out what they do and how they use their magic.  Magicians learn from magicians and then make the magic their own.  Teachers need to do the same.

Research online.  Are there teachers and non-teachers that are good at the same brand of magic?  What do they do?  How do they use their magic in life and work?  What makes them magical?  How can you replicate and adapt that style of magic for your classroom and students?

Lastly, look for ways to personalize your magic and make it meaningful to your specific students.  How can you involve them?  How can you make them a part of your “show?”  Can you have students share in your magic?  Can they be your magician’s assistants?  Can you develop some magic apprentices?

Image: Wikipedia Commons

I know I am talking in vagaries right now, but that is all I can do because personal magic is, well, personal.  It is different from teacher to teacher and class to class.  I hope this made sense to you, even so.

I wanted to write a little about how to find more personal magic than you already know, but I think I will save that for later this week.  A lot of it is tied to you and what interests you in life.  I found out about something amazing this weekend that is directly tied to personal magic, but I want to make it a post all on its own.  I will leave you with a link and let you make the connection to personal magic on your own until I am able to write further about it.

Star Wars in the Classroom

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 amazing.  You are magical.  You do reach your students.  You are making a difference!  I know you are…even when you don’t feel like it.  Never give up and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Do What You Do…


Dear Teacher,

Today, step out in faith.  You know your students.  You know what they know, need to know, and how to get from point A to point B.  This is what you do.  This is who you are.  You are a teacher.  You teach.  And you’re good at it, I might add.

I know, I know.  There are a lot of voices.  There are a lot of expectations.  There are a lot of opinions, best practices, and researched-based strategies.  But…you are the one that knows what you do best and what your students need from you.

I am not saying do not try what you learn in PD, from books, and the latest post from Edutopia.  By all means, try strategies and ideas to make your teaching better.  BUT, I am saying, be guided in your decisions by the one thing you have that is better than anyone else’s ideas or opinions…knowledge of your students.

You know what you need to do.  You know what resources you need to seek out.  You know what needs to be tried for the sake of your students.  You are the key to it all.

Be confident.  Take a stand for what needs to happen in your classroom.  Do what needs to be done.  Advocate for your students and teach the way that they need you to teach.

Will you have to defend yourself?  Yes.

Will you have to take a little flack?  Of course.

Will you be worn out, beat up, and beat down?  Probably.

Will it be worth it?  Eventually…and you may not see the payoff yourself.
Why do it then?  Because you are a teacher and this is what you do.  You care for your students.  You want them to reach their potential.  You are willing to pour yourself out for your students.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesBaby-Godfather.jpg.jpg

Teacher, you know how to teach YOUR students.  Teach them well.  Do not be afraid to teach the way that needs to be taught.  You’ve got this!

You are awesome!  You know what to do.  Do it.  Teach your heart out today and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

As You Plan…


Dear Teacher,

A new week approaches.  A new performance.  A new show.  A new presentation.

You do the research.  You make the plans.  You write the script.  You learn your part.  You practice, practice, practice (even if only in your mind).

You do your best to be ready for when the curtain opens.

You breathe through the Sunday night “butterflies” as the time to go “on” is only hours away.

This is the weekend for you, a teacher.

Breathe, Teacher.  Breathe.

And let some of the worries go.

Let them go?

Yes.

Go.

Why?

Because you know that as soon as you step in the door on Monday, your plans will already be changed.  You know that you can never really know what the week will throw at you.  You will have to monitor.  You will have to adjust.  And just when your adjustments are adjusted, you will have to monitor again…and adjust.  And monitor and adjust.  Monitor and adjust.  And monitor and adjust…all because you are a GREAT TEACHER.

Great teachers do not let plans and preparations rule the week.  They are just what they are.  Plans and preparations.  The week has a plan of its own…and though you don’t let the week master you, you move and roll with it so you can master the week.  Plans are not the end, they are just the means, and they can change.  Your students and their needs are the end.  You know the path to the end will change, and that doesn’t matter as long as you get to the end.

(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, amazing teacher, know what it takes to be an amazing teacher.  Not because you are trying to be amazing, but because your students matter most.  This is why you need to let go of some of the stress and Sunday night anxiety.  Your plans will not work the way you planned them this weekend.  Your ideas for the week will change.  You will be thrown curve balls on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  You will have to monitor and adjust, monitor and adjust, and monitor and adjust.  But…you will make the right choices because you will think about your students above all else.

(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)

So, plan and prepare away, Teacher.  We do need to plan, I am not saying we don’t.  I am just saying that I think we need to let go of some of the Sunday, pre-week stress.  It will all work out by Friday if we keep our students as our focus and make the needed weekly choices based on them and not the pressures that come from sources that are not our students.

I promise you, I am speaking to myself as much as I am to you…if not more!

Let’s remember our lost goal this week as we get ready for Monday…our students and their needs.

Let’s remember and breathe.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

This is going to be a great week!

You will be ready when the curtain goes up tomorrow!

You are so awesome!  You are one amazing teacher!  You are going to make an impact on those students of yours this week, I just know it!  I believe in you because you believe in your students!  Be amazing and awesome this week!  I know you will be!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…Just have to share!  I remembered that I had some cool video editing software.  I did a little experimental project.  It is not great, but it is a start into adding some Dear Teacher/Love Teacher videos into the mix of encouragement.  What do you think?  Be nice.  🙂

Motivational ABCs: The Movie

The Power of Positive Words


(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 has your week gone?  Mine has been pretty good, just tiring.  I do think my students are learning, and that is the key to it all!  It helps me remember why I love being a teacher.  Has your week let you remember that?

Lately, I have been observing the power of words.  Words have power…both positive and negative.  Positive words can change your perspective on the world, and so can the negative ones.  Words change our minds, attitudes, perspectives, tones, and hearts.  They are, indeed, quite powerful.

I am seeing that I need to use my words more carefully.  I need to choose them with great effort and do so intentionally.  I need to do this at home, at school, with adults, but more importantly with my kids and my students…especially my students.  With my own children, I have the currency of time.  I can “undo” and “fix” issues that arise when I am not careful with my words.  This is not so much true with my students.

Do you realize that, if you are on a typical American schedule of a school year, we only get 36 weeks with our students?  That is not much time, if you really think about it.  We don’t have the time correct the effects of negative words constantly.  The time is just not there.  We need to be careful with our words!

We need to be precise with what we say.  We need to think through situations before they come.  We need to turn negative situations around in a more positive light, at least in the terms of what we say.  We need way more positive verbiage and a whole lot less negative!  We need more awesome and less awful!

We also need to take chances to use positive words when no words are needed at all.  I know, that is a confusing statement.  What I mean is that we do not need to wait for a situation to come up to use words, especially positive ones.  We should not wait for a negative situation to put positive words into, but we need to use every minute we can to fill the void of silence with as many positive words as we can!

Just in case that was not cleared up, let me give some examples.  When you pass students in the hall, find something positive to say to at least one of them, even if it is just, “I like your shoes.”  Find little reasons in your classroom to praise a student for something.  It can be as small as, “I liked the way that you got your book out without making a lot of noise, that was awesome!.”  Just tell a student they are awesome without a reason at all.  Last, but not least, finds some time to write some notes of affirmation and encouragement to students.  These are worth their weight in gold.

Handwritten notes go so far with students…well, they go far with all of us, no matter how old we are!  Everyone loves when someone takes the time to write something down about us.  I makes us feel better.  It affirms us.  It motivates us.  It moves us.  It is the same for our students.

I have written about it before, but I wrote a note to each of my students (85 of them) and each teacher and administrator at my school last year at the end of the year.  I had mixed responses from the adults, but the students were almost all the same.  They loved them.  The notes were all personal and the students knew that I took the time to write directly to them.  I did them in phases.  After the first phase, students that did not get one hounded me every day until they did.  Some students came back to me this year and said they still have them.  Words have power.

I am trying to do the same this year.  I am slowly trying to write to each student here at the beginning of the year.  Once a student gets a note, something changes between them and I.  They know longer work in my class just because they are supposed to, they work and learn because they know that I care about them.  Students need to know that we care.  They really do.

Do you let your students see how much you care?  How are you with how you use words?  Can you take the time to write some notes to your students over the next couple of weeks?  Try it.  I think you will witness the awesome power of words just like I have!

You are awesome!  I know that you care about your students.  Show them.  Tell them.  Write to them.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!  You are amazing!

Love, Teacher

PS…Another little plug.  Last year, I wrote the notes on quarter sheets of paper and note cards.  Over the summer and into the school year this year, I have been working on notes that I can print and write on the back of to give to students and teachers.  The students love them!  I have been giving stacks of them to other teachers to use, and they love using them.  I am sharing them in my TeachersPayTeachers store.  I am not asking for much.  The only reason that I am even selling them is because they do take a lot of time to make.  Please consider checking them out.  I am working on making the files more user-friendly, but they are not too bad now.  Thanks!  Oh, and the picture in this post is available as a printable note there.  Have an awesome day, week, and weekend!

Some [funny and inspiring] Thoughts on Teaching


(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,

This week was full of some heavy posts…inspiring and encouraging, but still heavy.  I thought I might make today a lighter day and celebrate some of what we love about teaching!  And because my post have been longer this week, I am going to have you do more watching than reading.  🙂

Our job is difficult.  We try to use innovative methods and strategies, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem like the kids are getting it.  Sometimes it feels like this…you may or may not remember this Saturday Night Live sketch from the 90’s.  If you have seen it, watch it again and enjoy.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it for the first time and laugh your socks off!  It is hilarious, but it is amazing how it actually feels this way sometimes!  The only difference is that in real life you don’t give up…you don’t give up because you are AWESOME!  🙂

Now, unfortunately, the world at-large thinks that it is really always like this and that we are just flying by the seat of our pants.  But we don’t.  We plan.  We fight.  We do all that we need to do to make the biggest impact we can on students.  It is hard work, and we don’t get paid enough to do it.  That doesn’t matter to us, in the big picture, though because we know we do this for more than money.  Sometimes it is hard to get other people to understand why, though.  Here is another video you may or may not have seen; but you most likely have heard the dinner party story before.  Taylor Mahi does an awesome job of telling the story and showing the passion of why we do what we do.  Have a watch.

To round out this all out, I want to go back to the first video.  That was a comical look at what we do, but I want you to see a teacher’s perspective, someone like us, on what we do day to day…and why we love it.  I found this while I was looking for the Taylor Mahi video.  This is another one by him, and I really think it sums it all up nicely.

You are so awesome.  What you do is hard.  It takes time, it takes heart, it takes grit.  You are good at it.  You are making a difference.  You are a miracle worker, and you are amazing!  Never give up and never surrender to stress that we swim in.  Keep going and keep teaching, Teacher!

Wait…before you go.  I want to give a weekend homework assignment.  Homework over the weekend?  Yes, home work over the weekend!  I want you to go through and find three of your favorite posts here at Dear Teacher/Love Teacher and share them with someone (or a lot of someones).  Share on Edmodo, Facebook, Twitter, email, or how ever else you can.  Then come back here and tell us all the response.  Encouragement is hard to find in our job sometimes, so when we find it we need to share it!

Thank you, Awesome Teacher!  You are the best!

Love, Teacher

PS…Oh, and for those of you who use Edmodo, I have started an Edmodo Group for the daily updates.  This way I will be able to make the “Edmodo blasts” in the Communities few and far between…I don’t know that everyone “loves” them.  🙂