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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Attention All Teachers…


Dear Teacher,

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

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

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

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

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

You can ask yourself one question.

What are you going to do about it?

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

You can change one thing.

You can change you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Up Quote

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

Love, Teacher

‘Twas the Week Before Break…


Dear Teacher,

I know this week is full of excitement and anxiety…excitement for the students and anxiety for you.  How are you going to keep their attention?  How are you going to keep your attention?  How can you contain and focus the craziness that is the week before Winter Break?

I don’t have a lot of advice for you.  You have to find what works best for you, your students, and your situation.  However, I did write a fun little poem a couple of years ago that will give you a little laugh as you face this week.  I thought I would share it again this year.  It is based on the poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.  Have a little giggle and enjoy!

‘Twas the Week/Day Before Break

‘Twas the day before break, when all through the classroom,
Each creature was stirring; the teacher, too, I assume;
The students were antsy and moving here and there;
In hopes that the clock would move faster if they just stare;
The administration was nestled all snug in their offices;
With having visions of no calls about students from all of us;
And you in your holiday sweater and matching cap,
Just want to settle your brain for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the hall there arose such a clatter,
You sprang from your chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the door you flew like a flash,
Spun doorknob and moved the door with a crash.
The fluorescent light from the hallway gave off quite a glow,
You looked left and right to see what you could know,
When the noise that had traveled to your wondering ear,
Helped you realize that it was the bell that you did hear.
The end of the day really did come so  quick,
It was just like a present from dear old St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles the students they came,
And they hustled and shouted, and you called them by name:
“Now, students! bye-bye students! Bye you wonderful children!
Bye, students!  Do be careful as you leave this dear buildin’!
To the top of the hallway! to the top of the hall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As papers and dust in their happy wake fly,
When they meet with their bus they jump in not shy;
And back to their houses with them the bus oh it flew
With all of the girls and boys, and their energy too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard you so true
Your prancing and dancing to your door as you did shoo.
You got in your car without turning around,
Down the parking lot you and your car were home-bound.
The school, in your rear view got smaller by  sight—
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”
Have a wonderful holiday break, you amazing Teacher!  You rock and you deserve the break.  Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your friends and family!
Love, Teacher

The Easy Button for Increasing Classroom Engagement


 

Dear Teacher,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That easy button is….wait for it….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to love what we do!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Teacher

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


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)

Dear Teacher,

This is it!  Can you feel the excitement?  There is electricity in the air.  The sun is brighter.  The colors are more vivid.  The world just seems right!  It is a new school year!

This is what you live for.  This is what you do.  This is who you are.  You are a teacher!

Seriously, what better time of the year is there?

Your classroom looks amazing.  You and the other teachers at your school are buzzing about all of the wonderful new ideas you have had and learned about over the summer.  You have fresh supplies in your room…and not a pencil is missing yet!

Administration is happy.  They are presenting the new goals and thoughts about school culture.  PD makes sense right now!  You have heard quite a few times about how awesome your plans for the year are.  You feel supported completely (not that you aren’t later in the year…it just feels like more support now).

Oh, and I have failed to mention the students!

If they aren’t in your classes yet, they soon will be.  They are ready.  They are excited to be back.  They can’t wait to meet you or are very happy that you are their teacher.  They are expecting great and wonderful things.  They want to learn right now!  Aha moments are happening all over the place!

And the parents love you.  They know you are going to make a difference in their children’s lives.  They are ready to help from home and support what is going on in your class.  They are happy to give their children over into your care (because they have a fresh understanding of what it is like to be a teacher because the kids have been home all summer).

Everyone is on the same page!

This is the sweet spot for us, Teacher.  This is our time to shine.  Enjoy this time.  Take it in.  Savor it.

The memories of now are what will help get you through the slump that comes later…but don’t think about that.  Just bask in the glory of now!

Build those relationships with the staff at your school.  Share your new strategies and plans.  Help out another teacher in working through what they want this year to look like.  Write some notes of encouragement to yourself and others for later in the year when it is not so great.

And take every possible moment that you can to connect to those new students of yours.  It is worth it.  Don’t let trying to get too much content covered here in the beginning get in the way of that.  It is the relationship that matters.  Build it now while it is the best time for it.  The soil is ready.  Plant the seeds of connection so that you will have something to expand upon and grow later.

This is your time, Teacher.

This is your moment.

Let your awesome shine!

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)

And, Teacher, you are awesome!  I truly mean that.  You are an amazing teacher, and this is going to be the best year ever for you!  Keep on reaching those students and making a difference!  Oh, and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I want to close with a video that was share with me.  It was created by Remind (something I definitely want to tell you more about later because it is even more awesome than I thought!).  This video captures what I was trying to say today in an awesome way.  It really shows what being a teacher is all about…especially here in the beginning of the year.  Please share the video…it so needs to go viral!  Teachers need the encouragement from it and the world needs to see what being a teacher really means.  Enjoy!

Show ‘Em Who You Are


Dear Teacher,

You have a gift.  You have something to say.  You have something to offer.  You have something that the world at-large needs.

You are not “just a teacher.”  You are a great teacher.  Nay, you are an amazing teacher!

You have a way of connecting with your students and getting them to connect with what they are learning.

You are special.

There is not a lot of teachers out there like you.  There just aren’t.  And that is a good thing.

You have something to teach others who teach.  You have something to give back to the good of education.

Don’t be afraid to share the something that makes you great.

You have a spark to share that might ignite others to greatness in teaching.

Do not keep it to yourself.

Be proud and share it.

You will be nervous at first, but as you see the effect of your spark you will see that it will set others and their teaching ablaze.

Don’t hold back.

Share that uniqueness that is you.

You are awesome, never forget it!

Keep on teaching and sharing how you teach with others, 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)

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