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:

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Posted in Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Mondays, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk

The Surefire Way to Make Any Day Better (especially Mondays)


Dear Teacher,

We all have bad days.  We all have good days.  And we all have lots and loads of mediocre days that are just kind of “eh.”  That is just the way life goes, teacher or not.

I know I am stating the obvious, but the good days tend to be the ones we enjoy more.  Duh, right?  We get more done.  We are happier.  We feel more accomplished.  But the good ones are not the majority of the days of our lives…life gets in the way and chokes out days from being memorable, let alone good.

We are busy – so much to do and so little time.  So many responsibilities to stay ahead of as a teacher.  There is school life.  There is home life.  The needs of your family.  The needs of your students.  The needs of you.

Not to mention, bad stuff does happen to good people.  The smallest thing can send us in a downward descent from the pursuit of good days.

Stuff happens.

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)

It is not reasonable to think that most days can be good.  That is not realistic.  And perhaps it is one of the reasons that good days are so good…they are rare and a treasure to find.

I get that.  I do.  I have been around long enough to know that it is true.

But…what if we could make any day better?

I am not saying make every day a great day, but I am saying you can make any day better.  You can make bad days better days.  You can make “blah” days less, well, “blah.”  AND you can make good days great days!  Bonus: it isn’t even hard to do and it is pretty much a guarantee (most of the time)!

I can make any day better?  Please, do tell, Teacher.  What is this simple way to make every day better?

Yes you can and yes it is very simple.

Get ready for it.

Here it comes.

Drum roll, please.

You can make any day better by making someone else’s day better.

I bet you have heard this before, but it is true.  I can tell you from personal experience from practicing it in life, running this blog for the last couple of years, and using social media that helping others be encouraged, happy, or just less sad has the same effect on you as you do it.  And it does not matter what kind of day you are having.

When you reach out to others, it does something inside of you.  It lets you see a little more color in the world.  It helps you to take the blessings and curses in your life in a different way.  It gives you a fresh look at the world.  It makes you more glad for the things that make you glad and less sad about the things that make you sad.  It makes you feel, um, better, even if you where already feeling pretty good.

If you make a practice of trying to find ways to make the day better for other people, you’ll discover that most days are pretty good or close to really  good.  It’ s all about perspective.  It is about seeing life as more than just about you and what is going on in your life.  It is about being better to other people.

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)

The cool part is, the people whose day was made better turn and do the same for others.  Sometimes you even get to see Pay It Forward kind of miracles happen around you, especially with other teachers at school.

So what are some of the ways I can do this?

That is the best part, there are as many ways as there are people in the world…but I will give you a few ideas to try today.  These are the ones I try to practice most, especially on bad days:

  • Smile more.  Smiling does something inside of you that makes you feel a little happier, and the people you are smiling at feel a little better, too.
  • High-fives.  More high-fives.  Kid President talks about this often.  “Let’s live in a world with more high fives.”  I have been poked fun at for it before, but high-fives to make people feel better and helps you take yourself a little less seriously.  Give at least 10 high-fives today…I bet you will smile a little more (back to Thing 1 🙂 ).
  • Tell someone how awesome you think something they are doing is.  This one is guaranteed to make all involved feel better.  Have a conversation with another teacher about something you think is amazing about how they teach or interact with students and ask them about it.  Hey, this one counts as personal PD, too.  Score!
  • Write a note to someone just letting them know what you notice and like about them.  This one is great to do for other teachers and students.  I have written to all of my students and other teachers at the school in the last couple of years (over time…not all at once).  People really appreciate that.  I find that when I did that for the most difficult students (or teachers) it helped me appreciate them more and helped build rapport and relationships.  Write a note to a fellow teacher that needs encouragement today and one for a difficult student.  Even good days get better with this one!
  • Write a note to yourself.  This one is best on bad days.  Write about what is going right.  Write about how you are making a difference.  Tell yourself a joke to make you laugh.  Remind yourself of what makes you a good teacher and what you should be proud of about you.  Keep the note and make yourself read it from time to time.  Days will be made better, I promise.
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)

There are many, many more, but this list will get you started.  Little things make the most difference.  I shared a video from Remind in the last post that was about the small things that teachers do that have the biggest effect on students.  They refer to it as “teaching small” and have an initiative called #teachsmall.  I love this concept so much, because it is so true.  I will talk about it in a future post (because my mind was blown by the idea), but I bring it up now because making students’ and other teachers’ days better are one of the small things that we do that are so important.

teachsmall2
Image Source: http://www.remind.com @RemindHQ

When you are having a better day, students are more connected to you and learning more.  Other teachers having better days has the same effect for them.  Most of all, when students are having a better day because of the influence of teachers, real learning happens and the world and future is changed for the better.  So teach small today, Teacher, and make your day and world better.

You are an amazing teacher, even on a bad day!  I know you try to make the best of every day…keep on doing that!  You are making a difference.  You are changing the world, I promise!  Keep on making days better and keep on teaching, Teacher!

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)
Posted in Change the World Challenge, General Inspiration, Pep Talk

Waitin’ on the World to Change


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

Dear Teacher,

Last Friday, I accidentally kicked off a theme that carried through for a week.  The challenge of changing the world.  When I wrote it, i did not know that it would resonate with people so much…one of those people being me.  It has stuck with me this week.  The idea that we, especially we teachers, can change the world is a powerful idea.  Not only is it powerful, it is true.

Anyone person can change the world.  Teachers have a chance to multiply their change almost exponentially…only the change is done person-to-person and one student at a time.  You, me, and every other teacher needs to realize this.  It is really what we do.  It is a part of the job,  It is really part of the focus of what we do.  We influence students.  We help them to learn, think, and stand on their own.

Students’ personal change while they are in our class, that change that will allow them to face a world that does not yet exist, is the goal.  The content is not the goal..though it is the medium through which we teach the skills they need for the world ahead of them…it is the means to the end, not the end itself.  We are planting seeds for the future, and the subject and details we teach are just the outer layer of the seed.

Students.  They are our “clients.”  They are who we work for.  They are the concentration area of our job.  They are the center of the plans we make for what we do.  They are the end goal of our work.  They are the work we do.  Pure and simple.  Students are the change the world needs.  We help them learn to be that change.  Period.  The end.  Students.

So…we change the world by focusing on students.

Now what?

The hardest part.  We wait.  We wait for the world to change.  We wait for the seeds to grow.  We wait for the plant to mature.  We wait for the adult plant to spread seeds of its own.  It is the life cycle of plants.  It is the life cycle of teaching.  It is the life cycle of world change.

It is more than waiting though.  When I say that we wait on the world to change, I am not talking about waiting like in the John Mayer song.  It is not sitting back and waiting for something to happen.  It is not waiting for the world to change itself.  We, as teachers, don’t wait that way…and we should teach our students not to wait that way.

We proactively wait.  We keep digging.  We keep planting more seeds.  We keep working on changing the world.  We influence more and more people.  We connect with more and more students (especially the difficult ones).  We keep on going day after day after day.  We never give up trying until start seeing some change in some way every where we look.

We work to cause the conditions of change.  We wait for change.  While we wait, we cause more conditions for change.  We wait.  While we wait, we…well, you get my drift here.  We keep going.

The world WILL change.  You are a part of it.  To quote from the Kid President song I shared last week, “The world can be better, and you’ll be the cause.”  Change is coming.  We just have to work and wait….and “keep going, keep going, keep going.”

(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 an agent of change for AWESOME…because you are awesome.  Keep going.  Just because you don’t see change, it doesn’t mean that it is not happening.  You are doing what it takes!  Keep doing what you do, you amazing teacher, you!  Keep going.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!  Oh, and keep going (did I mention that?)!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Feedback, You Are Awesome!!!

A Favor to Ask…


Dear Teacher,

Happy Saturday!  I hope you are having an awesome day with friends and family!

This is just going to be a quick post, and I am going to step outside of my normal posts and ask a favor.  I want some feed back from you, my readers.  This is aimed at those for whom this blog has meant enough for you to follow it via WordPress, email, and Twitter.  The blog has resounded with you and you get it.  We need encouragement as teachers, and we need challenges given with a positive spin.  I am more than happy to offer that.  Actually, it fires me up to be able to do that, and your comments and thanks for the encouragement has encouraged me.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Here is the feedback that I need.  I am approaching summer break.  I know that I have readers in the Southern Hemisphere as well as the Northern Hemisphere.  There are also teachers at schools that go year round.  I need to know what you would like from this blog over the summer.  If you don’t mind and have a couple of minutes, could you respond to the question that applies to you?  You can do it here or to my email: dearteacher@outlook.com.  If you do email, please give a subject that shows you are responding to this so I know it is not spam.

  • Northern Hemisphere-ers with a summer break:  What do you need/want from the blog?  Do you want some teacher encouragement over the summer?  If so, what kind?  How often (daily/weekly/something else)?
  • Nothern Hemisphere-ers that teacher year long and Southern Hemisphere-ers:  Would you still like me to post daily or would you be okay with a few times a week?  What kind of posts would you like to see most?

Thank you for your feedback!  I appreciate it!  I also appreciate all of the shares with others.  I want this blog to give encouragement to as many teachers as possible!  Please continue to share.  Thanks!

Once again, I hope you have an awesome Saturday and rest of the weekend.  I will close with a pep talk from the Kid President.  I am sure that we have all seen it, but it is still great encouragement.  Do something awesome not school related this weekend!

You are awesome!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

For more hope and encouragement: @DearTeacherLT (Twitter) and Dear Teacher/Love Teacher Facebook Page.