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.
The hallway is clean and shiny as if the floors have just been waxed this morning. You hear your footsteps echo in click-clacks down the hall as you walk slowly and peer into the rooms through the windows on the doors. The rooms are empty, but today you have a strange sense of curiosity about what this place was like some time in the distant past.
Your parents told you stories about what school was like for them. How strange it must have been to have an actual person in the room leading the class in discussions and activities that happened in the room you were in with them. You can not even imagine. Even when you were in school, instruction happened more from a distance and interactions with the others there with you were few and far between.
You stop at a room that you heard used to be a science class. As you look into the room that has been filled with rows of console stations, probably 40-50 total, you think about what it might of looked liked with lab tables and equipment for real experimentation. Holy crap, it must have been so unsafe. You pause at the thought, and then smile. You bet it was fun.
You remember your mom telling you that one of her teachers once brought in a balloon. You can’t remember what you said she told you it was filled with, but it floated like a helium balloon you recall from childhood birthdays. She said that the teacher lit a match on a long pole and touched it to the balloon and it turned into a fireball. A small one, but a fireball, all the same. It was probably frightening. But still, again you smile, it was probably also amazing.
As you think about that, you also have a memory of your mom telling you about the time that same teacher brought her family a pizza one Friday night. What a nice person to be willing to do that. She said that her parents gave the teacher money. You don’t know why. She also told you that the teacher had on a hat of the pizza company. The guy must have really liked that pizza.
As you walk away, saddened a little, you think about how when you were a student, there were seldom times you really knew your teachers. They were in the room some of the time, but it was more about checking on progress than teaching you anything. You had your digital learning system doing most of that work, so teachers did not have to worry about that much. They were too busy to help you learn because the digital systems were still glitchy when you were in school and they needed to work out the kinks.
Besides, as your parents told you, most of the great teachers they had or knew about moved on from the world of working with students. They said they could not afford to do it anymore. Teaching was a job that did not pay well and had a lot of responsibility. That must be part of the reason the profession was phased out. Even when you were in school a lot of states did not even use the word anymore.
Your title, Educational Facilitation Technician, does suit what the role has become better, anyway. Your facility only requires six total to handle the 600-plus student load. Efficiency is key. There is no need for the extra effort, because the learning systems handle all of that.
Still, you think as you arrive at your small office to load the systems to the consoles in the room, you think about how it might have been to be a teacher. As you sit down and launch the program to the rooms on your hall, your wonder where all of the teachers went to and those that might have become one are doing in the world that you live in.
With a sigh, you sit and watch the code on your monitors and wait for the learning to begin.
It has been a little while. Last you heard from me was a few weeks ago. I told you about my computer issues (which still aren’t over), but that is not the only reason. The other reason you haven’t heard much from me is because life is busy, difficult, and demanding. But that is not news for you – you are a teacher!
Breaks from teaching are usually fun and somewhat relaxing…but they also remind us that the teaching life is not easy. We are reminded of the other things in life that we neglect for the sake of our students (which is a noble act, don’t get me wrong). It is great to live our “normal life” for a couple of weeks! But then we have to get back to our other world, and that can be a difficult transition.
That is part of what has happened for me with the blog. I took a break because of the computer issues and the holidays…and it now has taken me a while to get back on my Dear Teacher feet. It is a time and energy commitment to blog here and try to say something to help your day better as a teacher. It is a sacrifice that I willingly make because you are worth it and deserve it, but it takes a while to get back into the swing of it. Today is my attempt. I am sorry if this is lackluster…but I am trying.
And that is the key for us after a break, bad day, or difficulties in or out of school…we just have to get on our feet and try.
We don’t need to worry about being awesome (though, you always are)…we just have to move and focus on our students. We don’t have to have the most amazing lesson. We don’t need to make amazing Dead Poet’s Society inspirational speeches. We don’t have to add Pinterest-ing features to our classrooms. We don’t even have to be completely “all there” yet. We just need to be there and make an attempt. The more we try to do the things we know are important, the more that we start being the amazing selves that we are.
This is what it takes to make a difference for our students and change their futures.
All it takes is you being you and being there trying. Day in and day out. Some days will be great. Some days will be the opposite. And most days will just be somewhere in the middle. But it the sum of these days that matter. You just have to get up, get going, and try.
What is great about you is that you know this, and you do this.
This is why you are AWESOME and you are making a difference.
Please know that even when you don’t hear from me, I truly believe in you and am always in your corner. You are amazing and you totally rock! Thanks for all you do and keep on teaching, Teacher!
It’s been a while. I am sorry about that. I have been busy…teacher busy. You know, no time for the extras in life. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but being a teacher is exhausting!
So much to do. So much to think about. So much to plan for. So much to do. Wait, did I say that already?
And that is just the school stuff. Then there is home life. Friend life. Life. Who has the time?
We do…we make the time…but we are tired. Being tired is okay. It comes with the job. But…
Make sure your tired is worth it.
Sometimes our tired comes from doing things that really, really, REALLY matter for our students (and our life). Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes we are spending our time and energy on things that may not be that important. Often times, these things are given to us to do by other. Other times we give these things to ourselves.
It is easier said than done, but we have got to prioritize…and that means taking a hard look at ourselves and what we are doing. It might mean carving away things we love to do in our classroom but really aren’t making much of a difference. It might also mean taking a stand with powers that be about things that are not worth the time and energy taken away from your students.
It is hard, but you need to do it, Teacher. I need to do it. Our students can’t afford to have us burn out.
And I know you can do this. You are awesome! You are amazing. You can definitely make changes and fight battles for the sake of your students and your sanity! You can do it. I can do it. We just have to step up and do it!
I can’t be anymore specific on how to prioritize because I don’t know your situation. But I think you know the things that can and need to go. Whatever they are, I totally have your back and believe in you. I don’t want an amazing teacher like you to burnout and leave the field that needs you.
Have I mentioned that you are awesome? Well, you are!
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for the work you put it. Thank you for fighting hard to make a difference in the life of your students. You are. You definitely are! You rock! Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!
PS…Could you do me a favor and check out the new posters I created and let me know what you think? They are based on growth mindset. I tried to come up with a way to promote the mindset with my classroom walls. This is the second set of these (you can get a free preview of some of the posters from each set here). I am a big believer in promoting growth mindset…and students eyes wonder around the room anyway, why not have something on the wall to help inspire them to set goals and work hard to reach them?! Oh, and if you like them, they are on sale right now! Thanks! 🙂
I really wanted to write to you this morning. I know that this has been a difficult and trying time for you. This time of the year usually is. I have been thinking and trying to come up with some way to remind you how awesome you are and encourage you to keep going and keep fighting…and I did.
It is time for something I haven’t done in a while – a theme song post. If you have never read one of my theme song posts, all you have to do is click play on the video and read. If you can’t read with music on, listen to the song and then read. Got it? Good! Let’s go!
Teacher…no one really knows but us what it is like. Teaching is one of the roughest roads that someone can choose to go down. It has a bright destination, but it sure can be a dark path sometimes. There is no sugar-coating it. Teaching is tough.
As teachers, we are fighting for the lives and futures of our students. That is no small thing. With just that, we are battling some pretty scary and menacing enemies.
On top of that, add the fact that we have “friendly enemies.” Well meaning people who are trying to make education better are making it quite difficult to do what we need to do to reach those minds in our classrooms.
And then there is the standardize testing…and I will just leave that without comment. Too much to say…
It can feel like the job of teacher is an impossible task…and it is…it is for anyone besides you.
Listen, Teacher, you were and are cut out for this. You are amazing!
In everything mentioned above, you keep going. You keep trying. You keep fighting. Because in your heart of hearts you know that you were made for this.
You are a fighter and this is your battle.
It can be a long, grueling skirmish…the enemies surround you…you feel alone in the fight…
But something clicks in for you. You remember who you are fighting for…and it is not for you. It is for people, young people, who can’t fight for themselves. This sparks something deep inside of you and gives you the will and strength to forge ahead.
This is who you are. These are your true colors.
Not everyone can see them, but I do. They are shining through…and they are shining brightest in the lives of your students now and tomorrow.
Those true colors are beautiful. Like a rainbow.
You are making a difference, Teacher! The stands you make are worth it. The time, energy, and tears are planting seeds in the minds of your students. And those seeds are growing!
Don’t lose heart, Teacher. Don’t give up. You are fighting a good fight. Keep on fighting and keep on teaching! You rock!
You are beat up and beat down. You are worn out. You are worn down. This has been one of the toughest and roughest years of your career.
You don’t know if you can do this anymore.
Somewhere in and through the stress of students, parents, administration, and the system, you have lost sight of why you are doing this. You don’t see the difference you intended to make. You can’t see the forest. You can’t see the trees. You only see dwindling patience, one more student that doesn’t have a pencil, and another email about lesson plans that you haven’t turned in yet.
You are at the end of your rope and it is becoming more and more tempting to just let go.
You are losing your grip.
While you contemplate how much the fall will hurt, can I just tell you something…well, a few somethings?
First thing that you need to know is that you are absolutely, one hundred and fifty percent not alone. More teachers feel this way this year than don’t, I think. It is a common thought and feeling.
Even if it doesn’t fee like it, other teachers are going through exactly what you are right now. Probably other teachers in your school…most likely the teacher in the room next door.
I know it is kind of messed up that a lot of teachers are in the same boat…but at least you don’t have to be alone in this.
And that is great, but what do we do about it?
We need to remember that the education system is not why we got into this business…we went through the trouble of becoming a teacher because we actually care about students and their future. The system is what is wearing us out, but the students are who are keep us in.
Unfortunately, we are bound by the system. How do we work within it to make the biggest difference in the lives of those learners in our classrooms?
I think it all comes down to spending a bit of time before each school day remembering why we teach. It means thinking about each student (or some of them each day, if you teach multiple classes). We have to remember that each of those souls are people and that we actually care about them and where they are going in life.
If we do that, it will lead us to think more carefully about our decisions in the classroom. We will be driven to take stands for what is best for students. We will fight for what is right. We will truly differentiate for each child and what they need from us.
As that happens, our teacher heart will start to beat again. We will find our passion again for teaching. We will be ready to change the world all over again.
I know this is all easier said than done, but I think it is time we start doing what we know needs to be done. I think it is time to be brave and bold…for our students good and for ours.
You are a TEACHER! You actually do know what you are doing most of the time. You know your students and care about their lives. You know how to make classroom decisions. You are courageous! You are strong! You are intelligent! You matter to the future of your students and you are making a difference!
Remember why you do what you do and that you are not alone in this. Be brave and do what needs to be done. You will be happier in the long-run because you are doing what are made for!
You are amazing! You are awesome! Thank you for all that you do! Remember that you can do anything for a year, and this year is almost done. You’ve got this! Don’t give up! Keep on persevering and keep on teaching, Teacher! You rock!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!