I am writing this mid-week, but who knows when you might read it. No matter what day of the week or time of the school year, I want you to remember something…
YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN ANYONE CAN EVER KNOW!
The world at large has no idea what it means to be in your classroom with your kids this year. They want to boil what you do down to a formula or thing that can be measured. But it is not about numbers or about data. It is about what is behind each set of eyes that look to you everyday from those seats in your room. You try to know what they need and work hard to make sure that happens. It is hard to do with everything else you are asked to do, but that is your goal and that is your heart.
Not going for political thought here, but the legislators and federal and state admin do not have a clue what it means to be you in front of your class and meeting the needs that are there each and every day. They say that they care for the students…and I am sure that in some way that they do…but you are the eyes, hands, and heart that is actually there for the students. That is what drives you…those kids in your room. You are more important than what comes in a bill or document from somewhere far away from where you are. I know that those things effect you, and it is right to speak up…and it is right to speak up because you are those eyes, hands, and heart there for students. Don’t lose heart!
I could go on and talk about how school admin does not get you every day, how your friends misunderstand what it is you truly do for a living, how parents do not always see what you are seeing, and how students do not yet comprehend the hard choices you make that are best for them in the long run…but I won’t. Just know that I know and get it…and I want to encourage you to keep doing what you do.
You are amazing! Do not let all of the stuff that has been piled up on you destroy you today. Take today for what it is and make the best today for your students. No matter what is on you, YOU’VE GOT THIS!
Keep on going! Keep on fighting! Keep on teaching, Teaching!
PS…If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments. If you like the post and it encouraged you, please share…there are a lot of hurting teachers out there right now! And if you there are certain types of posts you would like to see more of or less of, or if you have an idea for a post for me to do, please let me know…firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one can really measure your worth. I mean really. There is no way to distill everything you do or simplify it into a formula.
Plain and simple, you are there for students. You know what to do in most situations in your classroom most of the time. If you don’t, you look for answers and experiment with solutions.
Programs are good, Curriculum is vital. Tests can help us know progress. But they are not you!
You can scan the room on Monday morning and know who has had a rough weekend and may need a little break, something from your desk that makes them smile, or just a simple hug.
You know the fine art of convincing students to try harder. You are keen on when and how to coach them through failures to master a concept. You are a pro at inspiring students not used to working at a problem until they solve it to do just that…work with grit until they get there. You know that being a little upset, and sometimes a few tears, are a part of the process for students like that. You know when to help and when not to, it is one of your gifts.
You are aware of your students at all times. You know authentically where they are in the content and stages of learning it. You don’t always need a data wall to tell what learning and growth is happening at those desks and tables in your classroom. You just know. It is who you are. It is what you do. And you know how to push each one just a little deeper in and higher up in what they know and can do.
You, my Teacher friend, are a professional. You are good at what you do. Without you we just have programs, curriculum, and tests. But education is oh so much more than that. Students are oh so much more than that. They need oh so much more than that.
Students need you. The system needs you. Education needs you. We all need you.
Thank you for each and everything that you do. Seriously, thank you! Thank you for fighting for students and for what is right. Keep it up. You know the stakes. You are worth it. You are awesome. And, as always, you rock.
I want to try something a little different and see if it helps you. I want to write you a little note every day. Just something to lift your spirits, get you pumped, remind you why you teach, or maybe just give you a little giggle about being a part of the world we call education. I will try to organize the messages better so that if you need a certain kind of encouragement on any given day, you can go to the archives and find it.
We’ll see how it goes. I really like this idea. Do you?
Without further ado, let’s talk about today.
Today is today. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is just today.
And even though it is quite a cliche, it is nonetheless true…today is what you make of it.
In my life and in my experience teaching, I can’t get way from the fact that my attitude determines about 97.5% of how my day goes. Circumstances are just what happens. Attitude is how I happen.
There is a line in a song by a band called Superchic(k) that says, “Life doesn’t happen to you, you happen to life.” I’ve always liked that line. It is true. It is about how we react to the ebb and flow of life. We can let it wash over us and determine how we feel…or we can set our determination and make each day what we want it to be.
So, Teacher, what are you going to make today be?
What is your determination?
How are you going to happen to life today?
What is your day going to be?
You know I think you are pretty dang amazing, right? You are a great teacher. You’ve got this today. Don’t let circumstances and small stuff (or big stuff) change you…change those things by being the awesome that you are! Never give up and always keep teaching, 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!
(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!)
Wow, this is the very first time that I addressed someone here besides teachers!
The reason I want to invite everyone in on this post (and future posts like this one) is because there is a something that teachers and other educators realize that others may not. The education discussion starts on the wrong track because there is something that happens day after day and year after year in most classrooms, and it is something that cannot be measured. There is magic and beauty.
Students start in one place in the year academically and they should end in academic growth, that is for sure. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. They also start somewhere socially, somewhere emotionally, somewhere with work ethic, somewhere with empathy, somewhere in the understanding of self…and it is in the classroom that growth in these areas happen, as well. Sometimes, growth in these areas far outweighs academics, and academic growth can’t happen until the other changes do.
And these things are not quite as measurable as academics…but they are far more beautiful.
Beauty can’t be tested, but it can be shared. And it should be shared.
So I sent the call out to teachers two days ago to share their stories with me so I can share them with you. I have been overwhelmed by the response and stories I have received. The teaching and learning process, for both teachers and students, is such an incredible aspect of life. I can’t help but share it with you.
The following are three stories from three different places in the US. The schools, states, and grade levels are all different…but the beauty is the same. Please read and take in how amazing education truly is!
Teacher Rita from Wisconsin:
We’ve been working on shoe-tying in kindergarten. We feel it’s important for several reasons. One, it builds fine-motor skills. Two, it builds perseverance strategies to deal with frustration. Three, it makes kids feel successful! One little boy just couldn’t get it…until…he DID!!! He had his mom video him tying and posted it to my Facebook page. He was sooooo proud! His mom was too, she wrote, “You are amazing! He has been working so hard and is so excited to show you in person! He even told me he wants to bring my shoe to school to show his class…. ” What a feeling for all three of us!
Teacher M from Maryland:
This is my 18th year of being a classroom educator. I have taught in Ohio and Maryland, and would not change my profession for ANYTHING in the world. I work with Co-teach sections of 6th and 7th grade Science in a Title 1 school. Many of my students do not have a great home environment.
During the course of the year, my students learn Science topics, but I also try to get them to understand that our class is like a family…dysfunctional as it may be at times with 24+ pre-teens/teenagers in a room. Because I am in a new building this year, I do not have the immunity that I had at my previous school, so I have been out sick a lot. The last time I was out some of my students got together and made a card for me and chipped in together to buy me a little stuffed octopus. The look of joy on their faces when I was reading the card and looking inside my “goodie” bag to find Octo was priceless! These students have so little and don’t realize how rich they really are if they but look past their circumstances. My students constantly keep me going and I love them for it!
Teacher Irene from Iowa:
I am a middle and high school special education math teacher. This is my seventh career, and I have finally found my calling. This story is about my Life Skills Math class from this year. These are the lowest kids we have in our school. My goal every year is to equip them with the math skills they will need to be successful and not get taken advantage of after high school. I work with these students year after year, so we grow quite close as a group. This is my eighth year teaching.
I never, ever, thought I’d be able to teach multiplication to this group. I see the need for some instant recall of facts at the higher levels, but wasn’t convinced that these students would benefit from that knowledge. Or that they’d even be able to retain the info.
But I’m a risk-taker, and these kids have grown tremendously this year, so I thought I’d give it a try as we’ve spent a good part of the year practicing skip counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. I researched and came up with strategies for the “easiest” multiplication. And one of my students presented a strategy for multiplying by 6’s that I had never heard of!!! I fully believe she may have come up with it on her own…
I am extremely proud to say that my students can now multiply by 0, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10!!!! I have made colorful signs to hang on the wall reminding us of the strategies for each. I cannot wait to see what they do next year!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but be blown away by stories like these…both as a fellow teacher and as the parent of a child in school (soon to be two in school). Teachers, administrators, and school staff help make magic happen every day and every year, and it is amazing!
World, thanks for reading and taking a glimpse at what we get to see every day at schools and in our classrooms. Please know that there is more that is going on than can be measured on a test. Great things really are happening! I will share more of them with you soon.
Teacher, I hope you found something else besides just the beauty in these stories. I hope you found yourself. I hope you were thinking about the amazing things you see happening all of the time. These are what count. These are what we are meant to focus on. What beautiful things have you seen in your time as a teacher? Will you share them with me? Check out this post to find out how you can share your classroom magic with me and let me help you join the Teacher Song that the world needs to hear!
You are amazing! Thanks for all you do, Teacher. Keep making those magically beautiful things happen! Keep on teaching! You rock!
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.
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?
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!
Trial run…leave a story via Google Voicemail: (864) 660-3858).
You do so much. I don’t mean that as a meaningless platitude because it is Teacher Appreciation Week. I mean that as someone who knows. Someone who has and is living the life of a teacher. You do so very much!
It is almost inconceivable how much that you do for your students, your students’ families, your coworkers, your administration, your family, your friends, and…sometimes, every once in a while, on the rare occasion…for yourself…though, that is seriously not as often as it should be. You live and breathe for others. And you do it because you have a heart for others, especially your students.
You do so much!
And there is not much that you get in return; at least not tangible things. This is something you are okay with. You are because you are doing what you do for something bigger. You are working for the lives and future of your students…which is what matters most to you.
You do deserve more, though.
In all honesty, you do deserve more money for all that you do. You deserve more respect from others. You deserve more recognition for the extra miles that you go. You deserve more freedom and autonomy within the system because you do know what you are doing most of the time. With that, you deserve the trust that you can make good decisions for the sake of your students. And the list could go on and on.
You are a great teacher and you deserve more than you get!
You deserve more and you know it…but this is not what is important to you. What is important is that you impact your students lives and help them become the amazing people that they can be one day. This is what makes you awesome. You know you deserve more, but that is not what drives you. Your students drive you. And this is one of the many reasons you deserve more.
We both know that the “more” may never come. But there is one thing that I can offer you. I can offer you a thank you.
Really, really, really, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Teacher.
I thank you for all that you do. I thank you for the things that you do that you don’t have to. I thank you for your heart. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
I thank you as a fellow teacher who you serve as an example for. I thank you as a parent who has teachers that are like you and are influenced by you. And I thank you as a citizen of the world because you really are making the future better.
Teacher, I can not give you all that you deserve, and for this I am sorry. But I do promise to always try to thank you…even when it is not Teacher Appreciation Week. A thank you is something you deserve every day! I will do my best to try.
You are an amazingly awesome teacher! Thank you for teaching on even though you do not get everything you deserve! You are making a difference and changing lives. Keep going and keep on teaching, 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.
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!
I so try to avoid this issue here. It is something that we all deal with. It’s something I think most of us feel the same way about. It is a reality of teaching that we all just kind of “deal” with and try not to let it get us too down.
However, this time of year it is hard to avoid, and I think it is getting to a point that we won’t have any choice but to really talk about it.
Standardized testing…state testing…MAP testing…testing to prepare for testing…benchmarks to help us test to prepare for testing…quizzing to help us no where students are before benchmarking progress towards testing…
Testing, testing, testing.
It is an unfortunate requirement of the teaching life in the system we are currently in.
I will probably one day have no choice but to write some of my opinions on all of this, but that is not my goal for the day.
No, my goal is you.
Testing season is one of the most trying times of the year for teachers…know that you are not alone in how you feel right now. And, it is not because it is hard to test students or difficult to keep their attention during reviews (which it can be). Testing season is tough because we have to separate our teaching mind from our teaching heart.
I heard someone say or read something someone said recently (I don’t remember which), “Why do we work so hard to differentiateinstruction for each student just to prepare them for standardized tests?” I think they were being tongue-in-cheek and making a joke, but it really is a good question!
If research shows that differentiated instruction leads to deeper learning, understanding, and memory, wouldn’t follow through that testing should be differentiated so students can show what they have really learned?
There is so much I could say here about this, but I will save it for another time. I think you see what I mean. There is this part of us that really wants to see our students succeed. It is this drive that pushes us to find ways that help each student learn. This is our heart. We want our students to become the people we know that they can be.
Then there is this other side of us that wants (or is forced to need by the system) evidence to prove how much our students are learning. This is where standardized testing fits in. It is the way that we have been given to provide that evidence. If they can answer questions the same way other students do, then they have learned…or so we are told.
Because this is the measure we are using (whether we like it or not), we want to see our students do well on the tests…and this is where the problem lies…
In order for us to prepare our students for the tests so they can do well, we need them to take tests like the one they will take. Some students do this better than others, so we scaffold and differentiate instruction in test taking. We need to prepare for all variances in vocabulary on the test, so we drill, drill, drill. We need to make sure that students know how to find wrong answers, too, so they can eliminate them. So we practice, practice, practice. Also, we need to see real results on how students are progressing toward the test, so we test, test, test…and so the cycle goes on…and on…and on.
All of this takes time. We have to cut out some of the time we want to take for teaching content. We have to cut corners and cut back. We have to teach content in limited ways to buy time. Differentiation of instruction becomes more and more standardized…
And this breaks our teaching heart when we realize this is what we are doing…but not doing this means that some students may not do as well on the tests…and we are torn.
I don’t have an answer for this. I just want to let you know that you really are not alone in this. We are all feeling this tension. It is hard. It make teaching less of a passion and more of a job…and our heart breaks more for this.
Don’t give up, Teacher! Trust your teaching heart. Do what is right for your students! This is the only advice I know to give right now. You can never go wrong in trusting what you know about your students and letting that drive your decisions. Students first!
You know what your students need because you know them and have been fighting hard to differentiate for each one all year – don’t start doubting yourself now!
I know that you try to do what is best for those souls in your room everyday. This is what makes you a great teacher! You are doing a great job! Keep on doing what you feel is what is needed. Don’t doubt yourself! You are amazing and doing an amazing job! Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!
Thank you for all that you do! You are awesome and you rock!
You pour out your heart and soul for your students. You care more about them than sometimes they do. You think about what they need, what they feel, and who they are…and this matters to you. You try as hard as you can to put them first.
Seriously, you are amazing!
You work hard for the sake of your students despite doing this work in a system that seems to be working against you at times. You put in long hours. You plan, plan, plan. You implement…and modify, modify, modify. You differentiate…and differentiate more…and differentiate again. You test (even though you may not agree with the amount of testing)…and encourage, encourage, encourage. You work with students and intervene, intervene, intervene. You are tired, exhausted, and burned out, but you keep doing all of this because of point one…you care about your students.
No, really. You are seriously amazing!
You have so many expectations put on you. You have to prove how hard you are working for the growth of your students. You find evidence of that growth. You defend the choices you make in the classroom. You make hard choices about stands to make for your students. You fight for the students that “aren’t making enough progress.” You engage in battles for your students in and out of the classroom. This takes a toll on your teaching heart, but yet you keep going…again, all for point one. You care for your students.
If you haven’t gotten the point yet. YOU ARE AMAZING, TEACHER!
You do more than you have to. You take flak for the things you do for your students, but you protect them from that flak. You do what you need to do to reach your students. Sometimes you are the only one that sees the goal and the purpose of what you are doing and you get resistance from every angle, from your students and from The-Powers-That-Be. Still, you soldier on. You take on more than you have to and more stress than you should. But you do what you do every day because your students need you to. And it will make so much more of a difference than you will ever know!
Yes, I keep saying it, but you need to know it. You, my teacher friend, are AMAZING!
Thank you for all that you do. I know that you feel beat up, beat down, worn in, and worn out right now, and you aren’t sure if you can keep going. I don’t know how to help this besides reminding you that you are changing your students’ lives and futures…and I can say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You are more amazing that words can say and that you will ever know!
Just in case you don’t get it yet, I think you are pretty dang AMAZING. You are so awesome. I am one of your biggest fans. Please don’t lose hope! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
PS…In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, please check it out…many more words of the difference you are making and how awesome you are! 🙂