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…

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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

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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

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

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Dear Teacher,

This is it!  Can you feel the excitement?  There is electricity in the air.  The sun is brighter.  The colors are more vivid.  The world just seems right!  It is a new school year!

This is what you live for.  This is what you do.  This is who you are.  You are a teacher!

Seriously, what better time of the year is there?

Your classroom looks amazing.  You and the other teachers at your school are buzzing about all of the wonderful new ideas you have had and learned about over the summer.  You have fresh supplies in your room…and not a pencil is missing yet!

Administration is happy.  They are presenting the new goals and thoughts about school culture.  PD makes sense right now!  You have heard quite a few times about how awesome your plans for the year are.  You feel supported completely (not that you aren’t later in the year…it just feels like more support now).

Oh, and I have failed to mention the students!

If they aren’t in your classes yet, they soon will be.  They are ready.  They are excited to be back.  They can’t wait to meet you or are very happy that you are their teacher.  They are expecting great and wonderful things.  They want to learn right now!  Aha moments are happening all over the place!

And the parents love you.  They know you are going to make a difference in their children’s lives.  They are ready to help from home and support what is going on in your class.  They are happy to give their children over into your care (because they have a fresh understanding of what it is like to be a teacher because the kids have been home all summer).

Everyone is on the same page!

This is the sweet spot for us, Teacher.  This is our time to shine.  Enjoy this time.  Take it in.  Savor it.

The memories of now are what will help get you through the slump that comes later…but don’t think about that.  Just bask in the glory of now!

Build those relationships with the staff at your school.  Share your new strategies and plans.  Help out another teacher in working through what they want this year to look like.  Write some notes of encouragement to yourself and others for later in the year when it is not so great.

And take every possible moment that you can to connect to those new students of yours.  It is worth it.  Don’t let trying to get too much content covered here in the beginning get in the way of that.  It is the relationship that matters.  Build it now while it is the best time for it.  The soil is ready.  Plant the seeds of connection so that you will have something to expand upon and grow later.

This is your time, Teacher.

This is your moment.

Let your awesome shine!

DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

And, Teacher, you are awesome!  I truly mean that.  You are an amazing teacher, and this is going to be the best year ever for you!  Keep on reaching those students and making a difference!  Oh, and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I want to close with a video that was share with me.  It was created by Remind (something I definitely want to tell you more about later because it is even more awesome than I thought!).  This video captures what I was trying to say today in an awesome way.  It really shows what being a teacher is all about…especially here in the beginning of the year.  Please share the video…it so needs to go viral!  Teachers need the encouragement from it and the world needs to see what being a teacher really means.  Enjoy!

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

Show ‘Em Who You Are


Dear Teacher,

You have a gift.  You have something to say.  You have something to offer.  You have something that the world at-large needs.

You are not “just a teacher.”  You are a great teacher.  Nay, you are an amazing teacher!

You have a way of connecting with your students and getting them to connect with what they are learning.

You are special.

There is not a lot of teachers out there like you.  There just aren’t.  And that is a good thing.

You have something to teach others who teach.  You have something to give back to the good of education.

Don’t be afraid to share the something that makes you great.

You have a spark to share that might ignite others to greatness in teaching.

Do not keep it to yourself.

Be proud and share it.

You will be nervous at first, but as you see the effect of your spark you will see that it will set others and their teaching ablaze.

Don’t hold back.

Share that uniqueness that is you.

You are awesome, never forget it!

Keep on teaching and sharing how you teach with others, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)
Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk

Year-End Close Out Pep Talk


Dear Teacher,

So, the old Earth is finishing up another trip around the Sun.  New Year’s Day is kind of like Earth’s birthday.  Another year is over and it is time to start a new one.  I bet you are reflecting aren’t you?  It is kind of the human thing to do.

Image: Wikipedia

How was this year for you?  What were the highs?  What were the lows?  How are you feeling about a new one starting?

Since you are in an introspective mood, I want to give a challenge to your inner monologue.

There is something you need to think about.  The year is over, but the school year isn’t even halfway.  This has been a difficult school year for most of us.  We have been beat-up, beat-down, and you just feel beat.

You need something to get you through the rest of the year.

You need one thought.

You need a reminder.

This is a reminder only you can give yourself.

You need to answer one question, and I think you should answer it right now.  Write down your answer.  Give some reasons why you answered the way that you did.  Put it somewhere to remind you for the rest of the year.

Are you ready?

Why are you a teacher?

I know, I know, this year you have probably asked yourself that a lot…with sarcasm and negativity.  That is not what I am talking about.  You need to reflect on the whole reason why you became a teacher in the first place.  You need to think about the heart of what and why you do what you do and deal with what you have to deal with.  There has to be a reason.  You probably have many.

Image: Wikipedia

I bet your reason has little to do with content.  It probably has everything to do with students and making a difference.  I know this is the case for me.

Let me give you my reasons.  This is more for me than for you…because I am a teacher and I need to do this as much as you do!

Why am I a teacher?

  • I have a huge heart and am filled with compassion for people that have little to no resources (aka…live at or near the poverty line)…teaching at a Title I school is a great way to have an impact and make a difference.
  • I want to help students, especially at-risk boys, start thinking through choices and become leaders in their families and communities.
  • I love to learn and pass that love of learning on to others.
  • I love the process of teaching and learning and I love to teach others how to learn better.
  • I am creative and obviously have a gift for teaching, I would be miserable not using my abilities and talents to help others.
  • Teaching is in my blood and I live for it…I would be bored doing anything else.

I can probably come up with 1000 more reasons, but I think this is a enough for now.  That was helpful to my teaching heart and teaching soul!  Thanks for letting me do that here!

What about you?  Why are you a teacher?

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

You are awesome and you are good at what you do!  I highly recommend some reflection on your reasons for teaching.  It might make you ready to endure more of what is wearing you out this year.  You have a reason.  You have a purpose.  You are making a difference.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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

A Little Reminder


Dear Teacher,

I hope that you have had a restful, resetting break so far!  I really do.

As the business of Christmas settles down I know that thoughts of school are starting to creep back in.  I know this is true because you are a great teacher.

This is why I am writing to you today.  I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being a great teacher.  Thank you for all that you do.  Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for your creativity.  Thank you for you!

You are amazing!

You are a gift to your students.

You are a gift to education.

You are a gift to the world!

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!

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You are awesome.  You are making a difference.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

A Message for the Voices…


Dear Teacher,

Today’s note is not so much for you.  Today I want to talk to the voices.  The voices that surround you.  The voices in your head.  The voices that are causing you to doubt what it is that you do.

Well, really, I only have two words for those voices today.  It is quite an easy message for them.

Shut up.

Stop talking for just today.  Your opinion is not needed.  Your thoughts do not matter.  You “knowledge” is not required.  Not today.  Not right now.

Okay.  Now I have some quick words for you, Teacher.  I mean these from the bottom of my heart.  Lets these words hang in your mind today as you ignore the voices.

  • You are doing a great job!
  • You are, really, a good teacher.
  • The students are listening…even if you can’t tell yet.
  • The time that you are taking to do all that you do is worth it…especially taking the time set up quality experiences for those kids in your classroom.
  • You are reaching them…even the toughest ones.
  • What you are doing matters…you matter…so much more than it feels like sometimes.
  • Keep going.  The hard work will pay off.
  • The students may be reluctant, but don’t give up.  You are getting through.
  • Your instincts are right, trust them.
  • You are awesome, and I mean really, truly awesome.

Teacher, the voices sometimes matter.  However, it is okay to take a break from them and celebrate what you are doing right.  Let today be one of those days.  Let the voices be quiet to your heart today and then look around and feel good about the good that you are doing.  It is okay to be proud of yourself.  Do that today.  See what is going well and feel good about it.  It is okay.

Make today a day about seeing how good of a teacher you are.  There are enough days for seeing what you need to improve on.  Don’t look at those issues….not today.  Choose to only see the positive today.

You can do it.

Remember…quiet the voices and only hear “Good job.”

You are amazing.  You are awesome!  I am proud of you!  I believe in you!  Good job!  Now, keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher