Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers

What Great Teachers Do Everyday


Dear Teacher,

So I have told you much about my new position as a teacher this year.  This post is not about that, but I currently work at my district’s science center as a STEM teacher.  In this job I get to come into contact with many of the students in the district and areas near by, but more than that I get to see many, many teachers in action with students.  I get to talk to them and find out how things are going and what is working for them.  This is one of my favorite things about my job.

Let me just say, I have been able to meet and interact with some great teachers.  Some really, really excellent teachers.  And I have been impressed and humbled by them.  I do not know if I was in the same league as some of them when I was still in the classroom.  Seriously.

They all have many different traits, but I have been able to observe some commonalities between them.  It seems like there is a “formula” to being a great teacher.  However, I do not know how much it can be learned versus natural ability and personality.  They are not the kind of things that fit on a lesson plan, but, even so, some things are worth practicing and trying!

Image Source: http://www.adoptaclassroom.org via http://www.facebook.com.

The number one thing that I noticed among the great teachers I have met is that they know each of their students and have individual ways of interacting with each.  I don’t know if this makes sense.  What I mean is that their way of talking with and helping each student seems to be differentiated to the personality of each student.  This does not come easy.  This means knowing each student as an individual and know how to bring the best out of each.  This is an amazing feat and trait.  There is a video being passed around Facebook of a basketball coach and his team that shows this better than I can explain.

I love this video.  I have probably watched it at least 20 times.  The time it took him to know his players and develop these handshakes was probably enormous, but the relationship building that happened was priceless.  This is the kind of individualizing and differentiation I see among the great teachers.  Not necessarily with handshakes, but with the way that they approach each student.

The second common trait of great teachers I have seen is a willingness to put students first, even over schedules and non-essential policies.  Great teachers see what students need and bend the rigidness of their structure (or schedule) to make sure that learning happens or needs are met.  This is hard to explain much further because it depends on the situation on what this means, but I can give an example.

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

When I see classes of students, it is usually in the form of a field trip to the science center.  There is a pretty tight schedule between arrival, labs, lunch, and departure.  Most teachers try to stick to that schedule, and rightfully so.  However, some of the great teachers work around the schedule a bit when their students are on the edge of making some real connections with content or concepts.  Some teachers will sacrifice a few minutes of lunch or be willing to take the fall for making the bus wait for them for a few minutes.  They know that what the students are doing at the center is worthwhile, and they are willing to take flack for the sake of their kids.  And I am sure this applies to situations in their classrooms, as well.

The next thing that seems to be a commonality between great teachers is that they do not waste one teachable moment.  The greatest teachers always have a way of making learning happen everywhere.  No situation is without something to spark curiosity, review concepts, or teach about life in general.  Learning is a way of life for those teachers, and so is teaching.  And it happens in every moment of the day is some little way.

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

Great teachers also always make great strides in making sure that everything connects.  Just like learning happens everywhere for these teachers, learning is also connected to other things and never stands alone.  You have to make every minute count, and that means that students need to see that content and concepts are connected.  Math relates to science which relates to social studies which relates to ELA…or any combination of this…and all of it connects to students lives and the world at-large.  This come back to making every moment a teachable moment.  If there is a connection that can be made between things that students need to learn, great teachers make sure that they try to help their kids connect those dots.

Last, but definitely not least, great teachers all tend to make sure that students see the impossible as being possible.  I am not talking things that are physically impossible like putting on a cape and flying, but the things that students see as impossible that are actually quite possible.  Students that struggle in reading can be great readers.  Students who don’t know their multiplication facts yet can be great math students.  Students who see school as a place where they can’t live up to the expectation can survive, thrive, and love learning.  Great teachers help students see what is impossible to them as possible and help them do the work to make the impossible possible.  Great teachers help students past their failures and through the work it takes to be a success.  It takes time, effort, and determination, but these teachers stop at nothing to make it happen.

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

There are many other aspects of great teachers and great teaching, but I think these five are very attainable by all of us.  Does it take hard work?  Yes.  Are we going to have to make decisions that are “off plan?”  Sure we will.  Will we take flack for the choices we make?  You better believe it.  Will it be worth it for the lives and futures of our students?  More than we will ever know!

So, as you write your lesson plans, remember the things that don’t quite fit on the plans.  The needs, personalities, and futures of your students.  Remember what comes first.  Don’t be afraid to leave the lesson plans and fly without a net from time to time.  It’s what great teachers do…and I have a feeling you are one of those great teachers!  Do remember, though, that the impact you make by doing these things may not be something you see for quite a while…but you will be making a lasting impact.

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

You are an amazing teacher!  I know that you put students first.  Know that this is what makes you a great teacher!  Keep doing what you do and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS… A quick update.  After I wrote this yesterday, I saw this video posted on Facebook.  This is a great teacher.  She gets it.  Students are more than can be measured (especially measured by a test and a formula of how much computer time they “need”).  She is a great teacher…we can talk later about how so many of the great teachers seem on the verge of giving up.

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: Pinterest.com
Image Source:
Pinterest.com

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

PS…

Here is the LEGO Africa video:

Posted in Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, You Are Awesome!!!

‘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
Posted in Cheer Up, General Inspiration, Note to Teachers

The Teaching Dead…Attack of the Zombie Teacher!


Image Source: amazon.com
Image Source:
amazon.com

Dear Teacher,

I have always thought that The Walking Dead would make a much better title for a book or movie about teaching during cold and flu season.  It’s no secret that we basically work in a Petri dish for viruses and bacteria.  A whole lot of people all in one building together and a majority of those people struggle with hygiene and the concept of personal space.  We really should be allowed to wear hazmat suits sometimes.  Seriously.

We walk through the halls trying to avoid the infected.  Handshakes and hugs become fast fist-bumps and vigorous application of hand sanitizer.  Think about it.  It is much like a zombie show or movie.  We just don’t try to destroy the sick…although we are quick to recommend a phone call home or trip to the nurse…I guess that is kind of like a shot to the head for the cold and flu.

Image Source: www.someecards.com
Image Source:
http://www.someecards.com

Anyway, the inevitable happens, and we become one of them.  We get whatever is going around.  Teachers get sick.  It is a reality that is bound to happen, no matter the precautions we take.  We become one with the zombies.  We take the plunge into Walker-dom.

The most awful thing about getting sick as a teacher is that rest, getting better, and even going to the doctor is not that simple.  This is one of the many things that I wish the world knew about the life of teaching.  “Calling in a Sub” is not an easy task.  It is, more times than not, easier just to play through the pain and just work sick.

Image Sorce: www.someecards.com
Image Sorce:
http://www.someecards.com

Oh yes, we know that the other teachers are going to hate us for it.  We are, in essence, upping the chances of their zombie-transformations.  There is a slight chance that our own sickness came from the kindness of other teachers not wanting to bother a sub.  And we are irritated by that, but at the same time the effort of going through the trouble of getting things set up for a substitute teacher is not always possible when you feel like you have been hit by a truck.

We have all done it.  We have all avoided messiness of finding a sub, figuring out what to leave for students that sticks with pacing and what you have been doing, setting all of that up, dealing with the issues of the plans not being followed, and playing catch-up with students when you come back.  We have gone in sick.  We have because it is sometimes more restful just do that than all of that.

Sometimes we come in sick because we have to.  There is a major test of some sort to give.  There is a project that has to be finished.  There is some kind of training during planning that is a one-time-only kind of thing.  We come in because there is no other option.

Image Source: pixabay.com
Image Source:
pixabay.com

Whatever the reason, we have all taught while sick.  And now we are back to The Walking Dead.  There is no better word for how that feels.  We feel like walking dead.  It is like the Theraflu commercial…

Theraflu ExpressMax

We are barely there.  We are miserable.  We feel bad.  We feel worse that we might make other people sick.  But we are there.  We are trying to do what is right.  It is the heart of the teacher in us.

Well, I would like to thank you for all of the times that you worked sick, Teacher.  You are awesome to care so much for your students!

If you are experiencing this right now…like me…chin up.  You will feel better eventually.  It feels like being sick is your new reality, but colds and the flu go away.  You will be back to yourself before long.  Keep fighting!

And I would like to give you a piece of advice.  If you can work up the muster to get everything together, call in a sub.  You will be sick longer if you don’t rest.  I know it is hard, but it is worth it.  Many people have told you to look out for yourself, but it is true.  You need to.  Take care of yourself, Teacher.

You really are amazing.  You are such a great teacher!  I believe in you and you are making a difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher (even when your sick)!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Reason for Teaching

Stop Everything and Read this Blog Post Right Now!! Or don’t…


Dear Teacher,

I bet you might be thinking that the title of this note was just a gimmick to try to get you to read it.  It wasn’t.  Not that I don’t want you to read it…I do…I just have a point to make using the it.  However, not yet.  I want to tell you a little story first.

My little family and I had the awesome opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Break at the beach with my wife’s family.  I am not much of a beach person, but there was something pretty great about being near the water, hearing the crashing waves, and being able to walk the beach with my sons and wife.  I did, unfortunately, became a little obsessed with finding shells (and shark teeth).

There were plenty of common shells (clams, scallops, and the like), but I was after other game.  I really wanted to find conch or nautilus shells…oh, and did I mention shark teeth?  I kept looking for all of these, but all I found was a few broken pieces and thousands of common shells.  I would see something out of the corner of my eye, veer of my path, and find it only to see it was more of the same.

I outlasted my boys and wife with each trip out.  Still I couldn’t turn down the inner call to keep looking.  I just knew I would find something!

I kept chasing the bits and pieces that I saw in the distance sure that I would find something rare and worried that I would miss out on it if I didn’t go after what I saw.  No matter the disappointment, I kept chasing.

Until…

IMAG1872

My oldest son kept asking me to go back.  He wanted to just play in the sand.  I could see the other family members down the beach having a good time together…and off the other way there was something that I just knew had to be what I was looking for.  I had this moment where I knew that I just had to choose.  Chase something that was not assured or savor the moments with my family.

A thought came to me…

There will always be another shell.

I talked back to that thought (not aloud, of course)…what if I miss out on something good.

There will always be another shell.

What if this is the shell I am looking for?  What if it is a shark tooth?

There will always be another shell…and shark teeth aren’t that big, idiot!

I made a conscious decision to turn and go back.  I go spend the quality time I always want to have with my family when I can’t have it.  I went back with my son and had some fun on the beach.  I dare say it was much better than not finding shells!

It hit me that this is something similar to what happens to us in education.  I can only speak from a teacher’s perspective, but it seems like sometimes we are always chasing something off in the distance.  The latest strategy, the newest assessment-style, or the latest book that will change everything in education.  Not that any of these things are bad…they definitely aren’t…but it can be something we are constantly looking for all the while missing out on what is right in front of us.

Our students are here.  Our students are now.  They are why we do what we do.  Despite the latest and greatest trends, what makes some of the biggest effects on how students learn is us and our relationships with them.  We need to talk to them.  Learn how they learn best.  Help them learn how to learn on their own.  This has to be our priority.  It is the only way that true learning, understanding, and growth happens!

This means some serious thought into what we need to let go of sometimes.  It can be a mere change of focus.  It can mean putting things on the back-burner.  It often will mean that we have to not always chase every “new” idea in education…some books may need to wait until summer to read, some conferences may need to be unattended, and some blog posts may need to be bookmarked for later.  This doesn’t mean that these are not important things, it just means that some of them will have to wait for the sake of our students.

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So.  Back to the name of this post.  It is so easy to get caught up in what we are told needs to happen right now.  We can be led to believe that we need to stop everything to investigate what we might be missing.  Just like me and the shell hunt, there may be something back in the other direction that is more worthwhile – quality time really getting to know and work with our students on their level.

Hitting pause on the things that seem vital for our growth as professionals can be quite difficult.  But it is a reality that does occur (more often than we would like).  As an educator, sometimes the hardest thing is letting go…but often it is the only way to move forward for the greater good of our students.

Remember…

There will always be another shell.

There will always be another book.

There will always be another PD.

There will always be another blog post.

There will not always be another year with the students you have right now.  Don’t let it slip away!

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If I know you, though, I am preaching to the choir.  You do realize these things most of the time.  That’s what makes you awesome and an amazing teacher!  Keep on make your students the ultimate priority and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in #HowToTeacher Rules, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Every Learner Can Learn


Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, I presented the idea of the #HowToTeacher Rules and gave you Rule 1 (if you haven’t read it, go there first…this post will make more sense if you do).  I feel like that rule is key to being a great teacher.  All other things that great teachers believe and do stem from the passion for teaching and learning.  Rule 2 is tied very closely to the first, but it focuses on who you teach.  These two rules are the key to all of the others!

You know what?  Maybe I should tell you what Rule 2 is before I talk about how great it is.  🙂  Let me do that now.

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn and they act on those beliefs.

Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn an they act on those beliefs.  This is just something that is in the DNA of great teachers.  There does not seem to be any challenge too big for them.  They are relentless in the idea that every student in their classroom can learn.  It seems like they have a million tools in their bag of teacher tricks to try.  Nothing that students can throw at them will change their minds that every student can learn.

Students with IEPs?

No problem.  They have been to trainings, talked to other teachers, and read strategies for this just for fun.

ESOL students that have little to no English?

Great teachers have workbooks, translators, and are even learning the language the best that they can (almost enough to almost enough to say a couple of things to parents during conferences).

Class with five ADHD poster children all at once?

Multiple seating options, standing desks, a focus corner, and lots and lots of back-up activities for different learning styles.

Apathetic students?

They don’t know who they are messing with.  “I can’t” or “I won’t” are not words that great teachers understand.  They will find a way to reach those students (or die trying)!

I could go on and on, but you get where I am going here.  Great teachers are not stumped by students with difficult situations or difficult students.  Their belief in the ability of every student to learn trumps the challenges to make that happen.  They live for the teaching and learning process (Rule 1), and they will not accept that anyone is not able to be a part of that process.

You know the teachers like this.  They make other teachers frustrated with their refusal to think that any student student can not learn at the same level (with scaffolding) as the others.  These teachers make the other teachers want to try harder and find a way to reach each and every student.  They are relentlessly relentless!

This is the key to great teaching.  You must not only believe that this is true, but you have to act like you believe it.  Never give up on a student.  Never stop finding ways to reach them.  There is some way for each student to learn and you will find it!

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)

How to find paths for each student will be covered in other #HowToTeacher Rules, but the belief that every student can learn has to got to come first!

I know you are one of the never-give-up teachers!  You are one of the amazing ones that won’t take “I can’t” for an answer!  I applaud you for that.  You are an awesome teacher!  Thank you for all that you do to reach your students!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

Posted in #HowToTeacher Rules

#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Passion for Teaching & Learning


Dear Teacher,

Throughout my time in the classroom, I made great efforts to meet, talk to, and observe as many teachers as I can.  In my role now as a STEM teacher at a Science Center, I see teachers with their classes everyday.  Through the process of observing and talking to teachers, I have been able to come into contact with some of the greatest teachers…and there are definitely some commonalities and trends among them.

I have decided to try and put words to what I have seen and experienced when it comes to great teaching, and I am calling these observations the “#HowToTeacher Rules.”  Take them for what they are worth.  🙂  With this post I would like to present Rule 1:

#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Great teachers are passionate about the teaching and learning process.

Great teachers know that the journey of learning is more important than the destination of specific content.  How students learn how to learn on their own is of the highest priority.  No matter what the system says, great teachers (like you) make this rule one each and every year and day!

image

If you are reading this, something tells me you agree with this rule.  You are one of those great and amazing teachers.  You know that it is more about how to learn than rote knowledge.  You stand up for what you believe when it comes to this…and that is one of the things that makes you awesome!

Keep on believing in the heart of education, keep up the good fight for it, and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I apologize for any typos – I wrote this with my phone. 🙂

Posted in Theme Song

Fight Song [for Teachers]


Dear Teacher,

It is not even almost halfway through the year, but I am already tired.  How about you?  It gets busy fast doesn’t it?  So much to do…

I think it is time for a little rally.  There is a lot of year left and our students need us to be on our game.  It is time for a theme song post, and I think I know the song we need right now.  Click play and then read on.

Sometimes it feels so lonely as a teacher.

We are only one person, but we are trying to change the lives of our students each day.  We are helping to shape and mold their futures.

We believe in them.  We care about them.  We know what we do matters.  It is our nature, heart, and calling to do our best to make a difference.

We have ideas.  We have plans.  We have a drive.  We are committed.

But we can feel so overwhelmed sometimes.

There is so much to do in order to do what we need to do.

Some of the the stuff to do is extra and not from us, but some of us is from ourselves because we want to do the best we possible can do for our students.

We want them to see how great that they can be.  We want the experience in our classrooms to inspire them to move on and move deeper.  We want them to become learners that never stop.

We can’t stop.

We have more to give.

We have more to be.

We have lives to change.

Teacher, you have fight in you.  You have a warrior inside of you.  You are a monster, in a good way.  You have battles to wage for your students.  They need you to keep fighting and keep going.

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs https://goo.gl/wU4BW9
Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs
https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

Find those reserves.

Remember why you are doing this…

You may only have one match, but you can make an explosion in the life of a students!

You have a lot left inside of you.

Keep going.

You’ve got this.

Never stop.  Never give up.  Never lose hope for the difference that you are making.

Keep dreaming.  Keep moving.  Keep going.

Don’t lose the part of you that realizes how important what you do is!  I know that you have a lot to do.  I know that you don’t love all of the aspects of your job…but your students need you!  It is worth fighting through.  It is worth doing all that you can to keep going.  The little things you do matter more than anything.  Remember why you a teacher…the students.

You are not crazy to keep doing this.  Just focus on those lives behind the eyes that are looking at you.  You have a purpose.  You are needed.  You are vitally important to the people in your classroom and the world.

Keep fighting!  We all need you to!  Keep breathing and keep going!

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’ve got this.  I believe in you!  You are amazing.  You are making a difference.  You really are.  Keep fighting and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Pep Talk, Quotes to Inspire, Teaching Power, You Are Awesome!!!

The Easy Button for Increasing Classroom Engagement


 

Image Source: www.staples.com
Image Source:
http://www.staples.com

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

Posted in General Inspiration, Pep Talk

The Secret Ingredient to Being a Great Teacher…


Dear Teacher,

We live in an interesting time to be in the field of education, do we not?  This is not a set up to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a teacher or administrator in this day-and-age, though there are a lot of difficult and harsh realities for us right now.  There is another side to being an educator right now…

Resources.

We have some of the most amazing resources available to us.  Some teachers have more than others, but we all have more than teachers had at any time in the past.  We have the internet (if not readily accessible to student, you have access to it for planning…you are reading a blog right now, aren’t you?).  We have technology (very few teachers do not have the availability of some kind of tech).  We have each other (we can connect with educators around the world and collaborate and learn from each other).  The list is endless.

We have so much.

Yet, do we have more great teachers than ever before?  I am not sure about that.  It seems like we should, but there is probably the same average amount of great teachers as there ever has been (which is a large number…I am not saying this to knock education).  Great teachers will always be great teachers…no matter the resources.

So how do great teachers become and stay great teachers?

There are A LOT of factors here…

  • Studying education and the latest research
  • Workshops and staying in touch with other great teachers
  • Focusing on students more than content
  • Knowing when to teach more and when to teach less
  • Mastering the art of facilitation
  • And so many other things…

But there is one secret ingredient that I think matters the most and is common among most of the great teachers in history, and it is amazingly simple.

The secret to you being a great teacher is you.

What?

Great teachers know themselves.  They know their strengths and weaknesses.  They work on the weaknesses and play to their strengths.  They do not deny who they are as people, and this lets their passions for teaching and for life play themselves out in the classroom.  Their zeal for what drives them pushes students to strive harder and become interested and engaged.  Because great teachers are keyed into who they are, their dreams are big and they fight to achieve them.  They also know what they need and go after those things…for this reason fund-raising seems easy for them and  “personal PD” is not a new idea because it has been a theme of their lives!

Great teachers are aware of themselves and this makes the more aware of their students and what needs to happen  in their classroom.

Resources are not what make great teachers great…great teachers make all resources great because they are keenly aware of how to use them.  The type of resource or school “realities” are not limitations…they do not really know limitations!

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)

Great teachers know who they are and do not hide it.

Great teachers share their passions and interests and make them a part of their instruction.

Great teachers have a sense of what they need and this gives them a sense of student needs.

You are a great teacher…you just have to get to know yourself to bring the great teacher out!

You are the key to you being a great teacher!

You are a much greater teacher than you think  you are!  We can all be greater…so lets work on it.  You are amazing!  I know you are a great teacher!  You are making a difference because you are completely awesome!  Keep working at your greatness and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher