Posted in Dream Big, General Inspiration, More Than Scores, Note to Teachers

A Teacher’s Gift – What the World Gives and Gets…

Dear Teacher,

I had an epiphany this week.  I wish I would have had this mind-blown moment years ago…it is going to revolutionize the way I think about teaching and my role as a teacher.  I am almost ashamed to admit it, though.  I have worked with teachers who live this out every day.  It just didn’t sink in and click in for me until this week.

This mind-storm (pun intended…LEGO fans) was initiated by two things: a documentary about the man behind Segway scooters (and FIRST Robotics) and the story of LEGO Africa.  The documentary is about Dean Kamen and how he is trying to solve the world’s clean water problem (which I think he might just do!).  If you have Netflix, you really need to watch it; it’s called SlingShot.  LEGO Africa is a program started by a 6 year-old boy with an idea and his father to send LEGO to schools and communities in Africa.  It is an amazing program!  I will share a video at the end about it.

Before that, I need to get back to my epiphany.  Are you ready for it?

Teaching is not about teaching.

Now that I write it out, it doesn’t make sense.  Maybe I need to add to this a little to fill in the gaps of thought.  Let me try again.

Education is not about teaching…

The true heart of being an educator is not about delivering content…the internet does that on it’s own just fine (before that we had little things called books and encyclopedias).  It is not about helping students learn the ins-and-outs and nuts-and-bolts of the world.  It is not about making students feel better and increase their self-esteem (not that this is not important, but it is not the main goal of teaching).  It is not wrapped up in the art of presenting and knowing all of the cool ways to use technology breakthroughs to be the best at it.  It is not, obviously, about planning, grading, and keeping up with the latest and greatest PD.  No, the role of being a teacher is not all about these things that define being a teacher in our society.

Education is much, much more than teaching.

At the core of education is something very much deeper than teaching.  It is something almost indescribable.  It is something we can’t put our finger on or even quite know for certain from where we stand.  It is something that is vital to our planet more than ever, I believe, and the world that know won’t survive without it.

Education is about the future.

It is not about the here and now.  It is not, quite frankly, about us.  It is, however, the very heart and soul of generations to come.  Our role as educators, especially the teachers at the front lines, is to prepare the leaders of tomorrow to solve the problems of today and make the world a better place.  It is all about making tomorrow better without knowing what it will bring.

No pressure.

I actually am kidding there.  It is slightly stressful to think about, but at the same time it is also freeing.  It really lets you take stock of your true purpose in the classroom.  You can drop back, reflect on all that you do, and then start fresh with a new perspective and drive.

A quick disclaimer…

As I continue, please know that I realize that content is important for all of this, but I am thinking more about our reasons and thoughts behind teaching content.  What are we doing it for?  Do we have a bigger purpose?  I do believe there is a great picture here.

It is all about equipping leaders, thinkers, and doers.

Our job is to help students become who they need to be to lead the world to a better place than it is right now.  We are making leaders that will look at what is going on and be determined to find ways to fix it.  We are developing the thinkers that will be able to look at problems with fresh eyes and see new solutions to age-old problems.  We are training doers that aren’t afraid to get dirty and do the work that needs to be done to clean up the messes that have been made.  We are changing the world…but only from a distance.

Image Source:
Image Source:

So how, pray-tell, do we do this?

We have to come to our role as educators from a different perspective.  We have to ask some hard questions:

  • Are we giving our students practice at solving real problems and making this the reason that content is needed?
  • Are we telling students how to learn or giving them opportunities to need to learn and find how they do that best on their own (with a lot of scaffolding)?
  • Are we honest with students about what is going on in the world at-large and giving them opportunities to think up ways to help contribute to solutions?
  • Are we giving students chances to think outside of themselves and show compassion to others (or at least to empathize with them)?
  • Are we allowing students the time and space to work on ideas for helping others or solving problems in their communities?

I could go on and on, but I think you get it.

If you teach using PBL, than you have already thought through a lot of this.  I do challenge you to keep thinking and questioning your true motives for how you teach…is it really about the future or getting the content in?

I am pretty sure that if you are reading this, you already think on this level.  I just really wanted to share my thoughts on all of this today.

It truly hit home for me this week that there is a real world out there with so many problems that our students are going to have to grow up and solve.  We need to start them thinking about this all now and giving them the opportunities to start working through it.  They may already be able to come to better conclusions than we have!

To sum this really long post up…the Teacher’s gift is the future.  It is ours to mold and take care of, but it is also ours to give.  How are you doing with that gift?

You are awesome!  I know you already think on these terms.  Thanks for reading as I verbal process these thoughts and reflect on them!  You really are making a difference and you are most definitely changing the future for the good!  You rock!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher


Here is the LEGO Africa video:

Posted in General Inspiration, Pep Talk

I am a Teacher and a Fungi

(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,

To get the title, you need to pronounce “fungi” as “fun guy.”  I am a teacher and a fun-guy…get it?  Okay, I know it is a little cheesy, but I have your attention now.  That was the point.  🙂

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a middle school science teacher.  I know, doubly crazy.  You have to be a little crazy to teach science, and you have to be a lot of crazy to teach middle school!  I do love it, though.  I love teaching middle school students, and I LOVE teaching science.  One of the cool things about being a science teacher is that we get to do a lot of fun and interesting professional development!  I am on my last day of an in-district science workshop, and it has been a blast!

I bring this up because yesterday we learned about fungi.  We learned more about this organism kingdom and new and fun ways to teach about them and tie them into other parts of our curriculum.  I found out so many things I did not know before.  I did not realize how fungus connects to so many parts of our lives!  (Side note:  I also learned about zombie ant symbiosis…very cool and creepy!)

I am going to talk a little “science,” but please keep reading…there is a point with some hope and encouragement in the end!

Fungi are a vital part of life.  Really.  Without fungus, life on planet Earth would probably not be here.  They play a vital role in the ecosystem and environment.  Decomposition is key to breaking down the “dead stuff” and bringing out the nutrients and minerals that allow “live stuff” to be alive.  Things die, decompose, and new things are born, grow, develop, then die…repetition is necessary…the circle of life!

Fungi are a major part of that circle (I wonder if they were upset that their part was cut from the Lion King movie).  They are one of the most important decomposers, right up there with bacteria.  They break down dead things.  That is what they do.  That is what they literally live for…they live for the dead stuff.  This is their job, and they do it well!  Take a short walk through the woods, which we did yesterday, and look closely, and you will find that you are surrounded by fungi.  It is everywhere.  It needs to be.  Imagine if they were not doing this…dead stuff everywhere…wait, let’s stop thinking about 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)

Okay, think I have bored you with fungi enough.  Why did I talk about them so much?  Because sometimes we, teachers, are fungi, or at least we feel that way.  Most people do not get all that excited about fungi (except science teachers).  Actually, most people are the opposite of excited about fungi, unless they ordered it on their pizza.  Dislike of fungi is understood and valid, though, being that many mushrooms and molds are nuisance and a health hazard.  However, this does not change how vital they are and the need for them to sustain and continue the circle of life.  Teachers are the same way.

Last month, I wrote about red pandas.  Red pandas are a misunderstood animal, fungi are a misunderstood organism, and your have a misunderstood career.  People, even in the education “business,” do not usually know all that we do or get why decisions that we make daily are so important.  Like fungi, we are known about with out truly being understood.  We usually take this in stride, hold our heads up, and stand tall.  Other times it gets to us, especially in those times that we are overwhelmed with all that we need to do.

We need to remind ourselves of our importance.  We need to remember that everything we do makes a difference.  We need to know beyond a doubt that we are vital to the future…just like fungus.

We are the fungi that take what is good from generations current and past and pass them on to the future.  We are the key to the circle of societal life.  We are what drive the future.  We do not make the future, but we pass the energy on from one generation to the next.  Be proud of this.  Be proud to be a fungus!

(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!  Hopefully this made sense and you get what I am saying!  It has been a long week, and my brain is a bit tired.  I hope this came across the way that I intended and encouraged you.  You are amazing!  You are important.  You are needed.  You are making a difference!  Keep on passing on the good to the next generation and keep teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…Check out yesterdays post to learn more about a Teacher Rockstar who took his role as fungi seriously!