Posted in General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, More Than Scores, Note to Teachers, Uncategorized

Assesments, You, & Your Students


Dear Teacher,

It is here: Testing, Assessment, and Evaluation Season.

It comes around every year.  No one loves it, but it is a harsh reality that will probably not go away any time soon.

Students must be tested.  Learning must be assessed.  Teaching must be evaluated.  How else will accountability happen in education?  Right?

Why do I hear crickets after asking the question?

Oh yeah, no one wants to talk about it.  Okay, so I won’t either.  I just want to remind you about something.

You and your students are way more than just an assessment or evaluation result.  The learning and growing that happens in your classroom can’t be measured by a standardized test and/or rubric.

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

The true measurement of what happened in the classroom can only be experienced.  You have to know where the students were when they came to you in the beginning of the year…not just academically and according to standards, but also socially, emotionally, and ownership of learning.  These things are hard to standardize…no, they are impossible to standardize.

So…DON’T LOSE HEART ABOUT TESTING AND EVALUATIONS!

I know there is a lot tied to them…but breathe.  Relax.  Remember that the true worth in what happens in your classroom is in the results of the growth that is clear in the students that leave your classroom at the end of the year.

You can’t control the assessment process, but you can control how you react to it.

Don’t put all of your stock in the assessments and evaluations.  Instead, take stock of what has happened and the change you have seen in your students…even if it is just a little bit of change in some students, you can celebrate it!  A win is a win.

Reflect on what you have seen in each student.  Write it down.  Point it out to them.  Let them see the growth as you take time to see it, too.  Make sure they know that this is the true measurement of learning in your class.  This will help you and your students find a bit of joy here in the stressful season at the end of the year.

What have you seen and can celebrate? 

  • A student who asks questions more?
  • Someone who follows instructions more often?
  • Homework being done a little more often?
  • Effort being put in where it wasn’t before?
  • Finishing work and not giving up?
  • An increase in success for some students?
  • Waiting more often and taking turns?
  • Someone who has stopped being mean to others?
  • The list could go on and on, but I think you get it.

You are an excellent and amazing teacher.  I have no doubt you know how to measure the learning and change in your classroom.  This is just a little nudge to get back to what you know and to find joy at the end of what has been a trying and tough year.

You have done a great job this year!  Your students are changing.  They are different students than came to you at the beginning.  You are the one to thank for that!  You have stuck it out with them.  You have put in the effort and tears.  You have done whatever it takes to see that change.  Celebrate it.  You really are an awesome teacher!

Don’t let the testing and evaluations get you bogged down.  You and your students are more than scores.  You are learners and learning HAS happened this year .  You are the reason that it has…and this means that you rock!

Thank you for all you do!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

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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, Hope for Teachers, Mondays, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

[put your teaching heart in] Drive


Dear Teacher,

You know, what we do is amazing.  We are teachers!  We get to help students become the people they will be in the future.  We get to live in the teachable moments of every day.  It is a pretty great line of work!

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)

I have shared it before, but last year was a tough year for me.  I won’t get into it now, however it was a difficult year with students and then to top of it test scores might have been the lowest for me.  Even though I felt like it may my best year as a teacher after working through the challenges, I can’t help but wonder if it was a net loss of a year.  I don’t know.

I share that because I stumbled on a great song accidentally because of Twitter (by the way, if you aren’t using Twitter, you should be…I am working on a post on the whys…if you are on it, you should be following Sean Gaillard, Remind, Dear Teacher (of course), among many others!).  Through a random set of events, I was introduced to the music of Shayna Leigh and the song I am about to share.  When I heard it, I knew that I found the perfect song for the first theme song post of the new year!  That said, let’s get to the encouragement!

If you aren’t familiar with how theme song posts work, click play on the song (get through any ads if they play first), and then start reading.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  Let’s go!

We are teachers.

We carry so much with us from day to day, quarter to quarter, and year to year.

All careers have baggage, but probably none more than being a teacher.

We invest so much of who we are into what we do.

Sometimes it can be hard to recover from the hurt of some of the hard times that come with what we do.

That hurt can weigh us down and cause fear from stepping out to far outside of the box or outside of our comfort zone.

We fight against that fear, but it always seems to be there.  It is just on the periphery.  It stalks us.  It taunts us.  Occasionally, it overwhelms us.  Other times it drives us to push forward and do more.

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 anxiety does not define us, but it does hang out around us.

Some days and years are worst than others.

But there is a way to drive it away.

And it is so simple that it is hard to do.

Remember.

Remember who you were when you started teaching.

You were nervous, but when it came to students you were fearless.

Remember that new teacher that was ready to set the world on fire and change the future single-handedly!

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)

That person is still inside of you.  That person is still you.  You are still fearless.  You still have the fire.

Rekindle that fire and remember.

  • You believed every student mattered and you acted on that belief.
  • You did not care what other people thought, you did what counted most for students.
  • You did not worry about test scores because what really made the difference was your connection with students.
  • You focused on the teaching and learning process individually, not what you were being told worked best for all.
  • You let love and care for each of those people in your room drive your instruction and behavior.
  • You believed that what you did with each child truly made a difference.
  • You had confidence in yourself and your gifts/skills as a teacher.

All of those things are still true.  That never stopped being true.  The baggage of prior years and yesterdays mistakes do not define you.  Your drive and love for students does…and that is still there.  Remember it today!

Teacher, drive back to where you started.  That is where you live as a teacher.  And that is what will get you back on your feet to try again.

You are an amazing teacher!  Never forget that!  You are making a difference and what you do does matter!  It matters more than you know!  Keep on believing in yourself 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 Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Reason for Teaching, Reflection

It’s Grow Time


Dear Teacher,

Happy New Year!  And so a new one begins, huh?  I am not sure what this school year has been like for you so far, but you have a fresh start to the second half.  What are you going to do with it?

Image: Wikipedia

I can’t help but think of a new year as a seed.  It is something that is up to you on how it will grow.  Like I teach my students whenever I teach my unit on plants, seeds stay dormant until they have the right conditions to grow.

I moved into my current classroom and curriculum three years ago.  In one of the drawers, I have many as a science teacher, I found a bag of beans.  I had no idea how old they were and decided not to use them….until this year.

Image: Wikipedia

This year, I went a little “grow crazy” during the plant unit and tried to plant as much as I can using the big grow light set-up we have.  I remembered those seeds.  I did the germination in a damp paper towel thing, and despite the age of the seeds, they still germinated!

I planted them, watered them, and let time and nature do the rest.  As I said, I grew several things all at the same time.  I was disappointed that, though many things flowered, nothing came to fruit…or so I thought.

Another teacher came to observe in my room and we got talking about my plants and how the plants flowered by nothing else.  He knows a lot more about growing than I do, and he started looking through them.  And he found something…on the bean plants.  He found little bean pods.  Not only did they grow, they produced more seeds!  I was disappointed in the size until some students and I started looking through the plants and we found large bean pods!  It was a cool moment for this science teacher who is bad at growing stuff!

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

Though the beans were who-knows-how-old, they were still dormant and waiting for the right conditions to grow.

Why did I share this story?

Teacher, you may have had a rough school year.  Not much may seem to have happened for you or your students.  You may have seen nothing but seedlings so far…or worse, you just see empty soil.

Do not give up!

You have a fresh start coming up!

Your seeds may still just be dormant.

You just need the right conditions for growth!

I do not know what growth or the right conditions look like for you, but you do.  What will it take to make that happen?  What do you need?  What do you need to focus on?

Stop whining about what is going wrong this year and work on what is going right!  Give yourself and your students the light, water, and nutrients needed for growth!  Reflect, regroup, and regrow!

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

You can do it!

You know what it takes!

You have what it takes!

It time to get growing!

It is grow time, Teacher!

You are awesome and I know you have what it takes to get things growing this year.  You are an amazing teacher.  You are making a difference.  Don’t give up!  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!

image

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