Posted in General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Note to Teachers, Uncategorized

Assesments, You, & Your Students


Dear Teacher,

It is here: Testing, Assessment, and Evaluation Season.

It comes around every year.  No one loves it, but it is a harsh reality that will probably not go away any time soon.

Students must be tested.  Learning must be assessed.  Teaching must be evaluated.  How else will accountability happen in education?  Right?

Why do I hear crickets after asking the question?

Oh yeah, no one wants to talk about it.  Okay, so I won’t either.  I just want to remind you about something.

You and your students are way more than just an assessment or evaluation result.  The learning and growing that happens in your classroom can’t be measured by a standardized test and/or rubric.

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DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

The true measurement of what happened in the classroom can only be experienced.  You have to know where the students were when they came to you in the beginning of the year…not just academically and according to standards, but also socially, emotionally, and ownership of learning.  These things are hard to standardize…no, they are impossible to standardize.

So…DON’T LOSE HEART ABOUT TESTING AND EVALUATIONS!

I know there is a lot tied to them…but breathe.  Relax.  Remember that the true worth in what happens in your classroom is in the results of the growth that is clear in the students that leave your classroom at the end of the year.

You can’t control the assessment process, but you can control how you react to it.

Don’t put all of your stock in the assessments and evaluations.  Instead, take stock of what has happened and the change you have seen in your students…even if it is just a little bit of change in some students, you can celebrate it!  A win is a win.

Reflect on what you have seen in each student.  Write it down.  Point it out to them.  Let them see the growth as you take time to see it, too.  Make sure they know that this is the true measurement of learning in your class.  This will help you and your students find a bit of joy here in the stressful season at the end of the year.

What have you seen and can celebrate? 

  • A student who asks questions more?
  • Someone who follows instructions more often?
  • Homework being done a little more often?
  • Effort being put in where it wasn’t before?
  • Finishing work and not giving up?
  • An increase in success for some students?
  • Waiting more often and taking turns?
  • Someone who has stopped being mean to others?
  • The list could go on and on, but I think you get it.

You are an excellent and amazing teacher.  I have no doubt you know how to measure the learning and change in your classroom.  This is just a little nudge to get back to what you know and to find joy at the end of what has been a trying and tough year.

You have done a great job this year!  Your students are changing.  They are different students than came to you at the beginning.  You are the one to thank for that!  You have stuck it out with them.  You have put in the effort and tears.  You have done whatever it takes to see that change.  Celebrate it.  You really are an awesome teacher!

Don’t let the testing and evaluations get you bogged down.  You and your students are more than scores.  You are learners and learning HAS happened this year .  You are the reason that it has…and this means that you rock!

Thank you for all you do!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

Posted in Hope for Teachers, New Day, Reason for Teaching, You Are Awesome!!!

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!

Posted in Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

Am I Wrong [when the test scores fail]


Dear Teacher,

I don’t know how your summer is going, but I have had quite a week.  I have had great family time, presented at a conference, and got a good jump on something I am planning for next year.  Overall, it has been a pretty exceptional week…but there is a heavy cloud hanging over me that I don’t know if I will shake for a while.

I found out how my students did on the state tests at the end of the year.

Needless to say, the scores were less than stellar.

Even though I thought that last year, by far, was my best as a teacher, the scores were lower than I think they have been for me.  Their are A LOT of factors in play here…more than there have ever been in a year of teaching for me…but I can’t help but feel like I failed my students a bit.

Something tells me I am not the only one in this boat.  Even if you don’t have your results back yet, I know you might be bracing yourself for the worse.

For this reason, I think it is time for a theme-song post.

I love these types of posts, and they always help me to gain perspective, and I hope it is the same for you.  For those new to this blog, click play, get past any ads that might be there, and then read on while the music plays.  You may want to go back and listen to the song and watch the video again after reading…I think I found the perfect song for today.

Let’s just start where it probably hurts the most…STOP DOUBTING YOURSELF!

You are a great teacher…nay, an amazing teacher.

Do not let the test scores make you think anything else.

You are bold and brave, and you care for your students like few others do.

You and I took risks this year.

We banked on what we know about our students, what we have learned about the learning process, and tried some outside of the box strategies.  Our kids were engaged.  They were learning.  They were becoming better students and better people.

We were courageous in one thing more than others.  We had the audacity to do something that seemed crazy in the high-stakes testing era…we didn’t focus on the test…we focused on each student.

We got to know each child in our classroom.  We tried to find their strengths and weaknesses.  We tried to accommodate every child and their needs, with or without a piece of paper that requires us to.  We differentiated.  We helped students to learn how to process content on their own.  We slowly gave the reigns of their learning over to them so that they could be responsible for learning.

We laughed with them.

We cried with them.

We helped them grow.

We watched them change throughout the year.

We know more about them than a test will ever show.  We saw students go from not wanting to try to begging for a chance to prove themselves.  We saw students who hated school become students who couldn’t wait for Monday to come when Friday was over.  We saw children become students and members of our school communities.  We saw growth on almost every level.  We saw magic.

We also saw the hurt that our students experience in and out of school.  We saw the difficulties that they face at home.  We saw pain.  We saw hunger.  We saw low self-esteem.  We saw challenges for children that we could not even imagine.  And we helped our students succeed despite all of this and helped them start to see how they can rise above it.  Yes, I need to say it again…we saw magic.

There is not a test made that can prove how our students went from kids barely ready for the grade that we teach to being ahead of the game for the grade they are going into next year.  There is not a test that takes into account the students that may have had to sleep at a friend’s house the night before the test or in a motel room because of something going on at home.  There is not a test that can show how students finally came alive at the end of the year after you working with them for 3 1/2 quarters before you saw any growth.

There is not a test that proves the magic that we saw.

So, we did not focus on a test that does not show students overcoming obstacles in their lives.  We focused on the child.  We believed in them.  We helped them strive in situations where everything was stacked against them.  We made magic happen…and that is hard to do while teaching to a test.

We made a conscientious decision to think about our students as more than numbers.  We decided that we want the students to know how to learn on their own and not need us there to help them after they leave our room.  We decided to take into account what they may me going through in life.  We decided to dig in and not give up on students that gave up on themselves.  We decided to believe in something bigger than ourselves and trust in the magic that can happen in our classrooms. 

Is that wrong?

Are we wrong?

Am I wrong?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that I can think of living in a world, especially educational world, where this is wrong.  I chose to believe in my students and believe in educational magic.

(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 the test scores were not great.  Is that what really matters?  What can you look to that proves that there was more going on in your classroom than can be judged by the test?

Here is a test for you…with results to change your mood after learning about your state results:

  • Who is that student that was your your class that could not do anything on grade level and refused to try that ended the year trying their hardest just because you asked them to and they know you care?
  • Who is that student that you know had a rough go of it at home, but looked to your classroom as a sanctuary?
  • How did the atmosphere of the student interactions in your room change from being kids in your class to a classroom family?
  • How did each student you teach change from day 1 to day 180?
  • How did you grow as a teacher from day 1 to day 180?

Take some time and think through these questions.  Write down your answers if you journal.  I think that, if you do, you will start thinking less about your state scores (good or bad) and know how well you taught based on your students.  After all, aren’t they the reason that you are there?

You are not wrong, Teacher, and you are awesome!  Keep on believing your students matter more than scores.  I believe in you as you keep believing in them!  Keep on teaching, Teacher, and keep on making that magic happen!

Love, Teacher

 

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, You Are Awesome!!!

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)
Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

The Pantry List


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,

So, you had a rough year last year?  I hear you.  I was there, too.  The word “challenge” barely covers it.  It was quite a mix of difficulties all wrapped up into one not-so-glorious year.

But I survived.

And you survived.

And now that we have settled into summer a bit, it is time to do one last difficult thing related to last year…reflect.

Reflection is the key to growth and change as a teacher…especially after a tough class period, day, quarter, or year.  When we reflect, we take stock of what went right and wrong, what we need to change for the better, and what we can let go of.  The process can be painstaking, but it is therapeutic…and more than that, it is vital to making next year better.

As I was working through my own mental system of reflection today, I thought of a new approach to reflecting, but before I tell you about it, I need to tell you a story from this morning.  I need to tell you about breakfast.

It all starts with muffins…

I do my wife a favor in the mornings when I can and get our boys going.  This includes breakfast.

This morning, I decided to do a secondary favor.  We had some overripe bananas and she talked about making banana bread yesterday.  I had an epiphany…I can make banana muffins for breakfast!  So, I looked up some recipes.

There was a problem, however.

As it seems, you need certain ingredients to make said banana muffins…not all of which were present in our cupboards.  We had most of the staple products, but since today was shopping day some were missing.

You don’t know me that well, but if you did you would know that once I get an idea in my head to do something I do not give up easily.  So, I pushed on.  I know some recipe replacements, and I thought I knew enough to guess some others.

It was rough, but I was able to get something together that resembled batter…and I poured into the muffin tins and baked.

I had to keep adding a few minutes of time in the oven, but eventually they looked a lot like muffins.

I took them out.  I tried one…

Honestly, they were not the worse muffins I have ever had, and if you added butter they were not too bad.  They weren’t the best, but they were my muffins…and they would pass as breakfast.

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)

So…what the heck does this have to do with teaching and reflecting?

Every year, we start of with some pretty high goals for our students and ourselves.  We know that we have the basics that we come in with as teachers, but sometimes the ingredients in our classroom are not what we expected.  We do our best with what we have and we strive towards those goals.

We have to alternate plans.

We have to do things a little different than “the norm.”

We have to compromise.

We have to make do.

But in the end, though our results may not be exactly what we hoped for, we still have results.  Sometimes “kind of” results are okay.  We did what we could with the resources at hand, our skills, and some ingenuity.

They may not be the best results, but they are our results.

As we reflect, we need to look at how everything went and see the positive in what we had at the end.  Sometimes that can be more difficult than others that like to judge education will ever know, but they were not in our classroom and do not know our students.

Sometimes edible muffins are the best you can do with baking…and sometimes students getting through the year know more than when they started and able to learn more on their own than before are giant strides for the situation you are giving.

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 that brings us to the looking forward side of reflection…this is where my new approach to reflection comes in…

You have got to take a good, long look at your “teaching pantry.”  Ask yourself these hard questions and make a PANTRY LIST:

  • What really went well last year that you can go into the new year armed with?
  • What are your strengths as a teacher?
  • What strategies vibe up well with your teaching personality?
  • What is the upside to that teaching personality?
  • How do you connect with students best (both inside and outside of the content)?
  • What are your best improvs as a teacher?

These are the things currently in your pantry.  This is what you bring to the table.  These are what you can bank on being a part of you.

On the other side, you need to ask some harder questions and add these to your PANTRY SHOPPING LIST:

  • What did not go well last year that shows a skill that you may be lacking?
  • What is an aspect of teaching that is a weakness that is vital that you work on?
  • What is something that you would like to learn from a teacher you think is a great teacher?
  • What are ways that you know your classroom atmosphere needs to change?
  • What are some ways that you do not connect well with students?
  • What are your worst improvs as a teacher?

These are the things that you can work on this summer.  DO NOT MAKE THE SHOPPING LIST LONG!  Small steps get you in the right direction.  Do not think of these things as what you are bad at…think of them as things you would like in your teaching pantry.  Spend some time this summer making a “supply run.”  Pick something to read a book about.  Attend a PD session over the summer.  Find a teacher good at one of these things, buy her/him lunch or coffee, and pick their brain.  Make a plan for getting some new ingredients in the cupboard.  And don’t forget to rest!

I hope that this made sense!

What is in your teacher pantry?  What do you need to go shopping for?  Share here and perhaps we can all help you find some resources,

Teacher, you are amazingly awesome!  I bet you already reflect on this level and I am preaching to the choir.  If not, please don’t give up.  Your students and all of the other teachers need you!  You are amazing.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Perseverance, You Are Awesome!!!

What You Can’t Afford to Lose


Dear Teacher,

I am sorry that I have had little to no time to write to you this school year.  Like you, I have been pulled in a thousand different directions today, and it has taken everything inside of me to keep focused on the one thing that matters: my students.  It has beat me up to do this, but I think that, most days, I have kept that focus.

And, also like you, I am tired.

I do not always have the energy to be the awesome, dynamic teacher that I can be.  I have kept to my commitment to pursuing the goal of my students learning and learning how to learn on their own, but I have lost a little bit of the spark that makes me a good teacher some days.  The exhaustion of keeping up with all of the spinning plates that we are given makes that hard…if not impossible from time-to-time.

Spinning Plates Image: Wikipedia Commons

We lose some of what makes us great.  It happens to us all.  It is inevitable.  It is real life.

So what do we do about it?

I do not think that we can avoid losing some of our teacher “fire.”  It is an unavoidable reality.

No, I do not think that keeping all of our teacher flames burning is the key here.  No.  If we try to do that.  We burn out and we are not much good for anyone.

No, keeping a large bonfire of teaching enthusiasm is not what you or I need to strive for…not at all.

I think what we need to do is keep the right embers burning.  If we maintain intensity on the right aspects of teaching, we will avoid flaming out and be able to rekindle our fires once the smoke clears.

(Am I overusing the analogy?  Probably.  But I press on.)

Burning Embers Image: Wikipedia Commons

So what do we make sure that we do not lose in the battle of every day teaching life?

Some of it will be different from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, state to state, and person to person, but there is definitely one thing that makes all of the difference in the world for our students that I do not think any of us can afford to lose.  It hit me this year as I had to reflect after some very difficult weeks.

And what is that “one thing,” Teacher?

It is very simple, difficult, easy, and impossible…all at once.

Magic.

You need to keep the magic.

Image: openclipart.org

The magic of teaching is what will keep bringing your students (and most definitely you) back for more over and over again, no matter how hard the going gets.

“What do you mean by magic?”

Magic is the mystical side of teaching.  It is the not-so-quantifiable relationship between wonder, teaching, and learning.  It is the “Aha-moment,” curiosity, and awe that students can have when they are truly engaged in learning about language, math, science, and history.  It is the amazement factor of teaching.  Those moments when the students are wide-eyed and hanging on every moment in your classroom and every word that you say.  It is when sighs of frustration ring through your room when the students hear the bell.

This is the magic of teaching.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesAwesome-High-School-Teacher.jpg.jpg

It is never every minute in your class, nor should it be.  These are the crescendos to the momentum that you build with every experience that you give your students.  They are what you build up to as you plan and teach.  It is the moment when you can almost physical see the students make the mental connection to what they are learning.

It is the moment that every teacher lives for…it is magic for the students, but it is also magic for the teacher.

It is this magic that you have to protect, against all odds.

This magic is why you teach.  This magic is what makes students want to learn.  This magic is what makes school…well…magical.

How can you be sure to keep this magic alive?

That is up to you.  Magic in my classroom is different from magic in your classroom.  You have to figure out where the magic is for you.  I have to know where the magic is for me.  And we both need to make sure that the noise of education does not drown out the magic of teaching and learning for us or our students.

I teach science.  For me, the magic is tied up in letting the students explore a concept.  I dress it up in a problem of some sort.  I let the students tackle the problem from their current understanding.  I keep some of the things they need to learn hidden…like in a magic trick.  When they think they have things sorted out, I introduce something that most students did not know…which usually makes their solution not work the way that they thought it should.  I then give them the big picture of the concept.  That is when students start to make the connections and see the real solution(s).  This is the “aha” that I live for as a teacher.  This is where students learn on their own (helped along by the the Teacher-Magician).  This is teaching and learning, in my eyes.

This is the magic.

This is what I can’t afford to lose.  No matter what.

What is the magic for you?

How will you keep it in spite of everything?

How will you make it key to what happens in your classroom?

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Teacher, I know that it is hard.  It is less hard when you remember what makes you special as a teacher and you hold on to it for dear life!  I know you know what makes you special.  I know that you know what makes your class magic.  You have what it takes to make that central, and you have what it takes to hold on to that.  You have what it takes to be a great teacher.  Be that great teacher!  You are awesome!  You are amazing!  You are making a difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers

To Be a Teacher…


Dear Teacher,

I am sorry that my words of encouragement have been few and far between this year.  It has been a rough and busy school year.

But I guess that this is not news to you.

As I talk to and get feedback from other teachers, I am hearing the same thing from them.  It is a tough year.  There is no time.  It is all that I can do to keep my head above water.

We are all just trying to survive this year, aren’t we.

It isn’t easy for any of us, even the most veteran teachers.

This school is is just plain difficult.

I have some good news and some encouragement for you today.

The Good News:  For most of us, this school year is half-way over!

And there was much rejoicing.

The Encouragement:

You know what takes to be a good teacher.  Nay.  You know what it takes to be a GREAT teacher.  You know because you are one.

I know that this is a trying year.  There is so much extra on your plate.  There are so many curve balls to contend with and handle.  There is just a lot of…well…everything this year.  It is not easy to let your greatness show.

But, you awesome teacher, you, know what your students need.  You know what is best.  You know how to reach and teach even the most difficult students in your class.  You know what it takes to get your students where they need to go.  You have the knowledge and the know-how!

I have four words for you: Stick to your guns!

Stay true to the teacher that you know you are.  Sometimes that means having to fight battles over what is best for your classroom.  Sometimes you just have to go through the motions of the extra that you are asked to do.  Sometimes you need to let a few of those unneeded plates drop (you know all of those many plates that you have to spin for the sake of spinning and not for the sake of the precious ones in your class).  Sometimes you just have to stand up for what is right.

It is not always easy to do, but you have to remember who you are there for…your students.

I know, there is voice after voice after voice telling you the best way to do your job.  Sometimes those voices are right.  Sometimes you are already doing a good job and can afford to put some voices on mute.  Have the courage to do that.  Find the voices that count, but don’t forget your own.

Be courageous and do what needs to be done today.

Make your students your goal.

Remember them today.

Be strong.

You can do it!

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

You are awesome and I completely believe in you!  You have what it takes to do what it takes.  You are making a difference!  You are strong and courageous.  I know that you will make choices today that will help your students be everything that they can be!  Keep going!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher