A Call for Help – Let’s Raise Our Teacher Voices


Dear Teacher,

I have been working on this letter to you in my head for over a week.  I just haven’t been sure what to say.  Today I decided the best way to start is just begin.  Pretty easy, really.

So I have a pretty big podcast addiction.  I love listening to them.  I really like shows that cause me to think.  And because of this, last week I heard something that has inspired me.

There is a choral composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre, who had an idea.  He put one of his songs out on the internet and gave a call on Youtube for people to sing their parts on video and send them to him.  With this, he posted a silent video of him conducting the song.  He had a huge response and put together a video of his “Virtual Choir.”  This is the first video…

There has been subsequent “Virtual Choir Concerts,” and with each one the response is bigger and bigger.  The latest have had thousands of singers from around the world.

Think about that.  Thousands of people from around the planet singing one song together.

And it is beautiful.

Very beautiful.

And I am not just talking about the songs.  They are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the most beautiful thing about this is the thought.  People with a shared passion from different countries, different cultures, and different views all joining together for one song.  One thought.  One idea.  Beautiful.

This got me thinking.  Is there an application to this idea in education?  Can educators from around the country and even around the world come together and have one voice?  One message about something?  One heart and one passion?  And how would we share it?

The more I think about it, the more ideas I have, but it keeps coming back to the question, “What is our one thing as educators?”

And it hit me…we do have something beautiful to share.

This something is so beautiful that it might just change what people think about education…and maybe the way that the education system is viewed and legislated.

That beautiful thing is our students growth and change throughout the year.  It is our stories of the magic that happens in the classroom.  It is the knowledge of the changes that happen in the lives of our school kids when teaching and learning happens through hard work and relationships.  It is in sharing those amazing things that we see happen between day one and the last day of a school year.

We need to share these things.  We need to talk about them.  The world needs to hear them.

These are the things that cannot be standardized.  They do not show up on a test.  They cannot be measured.  They can not be quantified.

This is our song.

Let’s sing it together!

I want to start collecting stories.  I want to hear your voice and share it with the world.  Will you help me?

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

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

For now, I am going to collect the stories in written form via the contact form at the bottom of the post.  I may eventually move to video and/or audio format…but baby steps.  Lets start here.

What do you think?  Are you in?

So here is all you need to do.  I want to hear one of your magical classroom stories about student change and growth.  You know, those stories that you hold dear and that keep you going.  Tell the story how ever you would like.  Just remember to change names to protect privacy.  I will share the stories here.  Just let me know if you want to be kept anonymous or if I can share your name.  The contact form is at the bottom of the post.

Oh, you can share as many stories as you’d like…and please share this post far and wide so I can get as many stories as I can!

This is going to be awesome!  You are awesome.  I can’t wait to hear your stories!  You are an amazing teacher and I know that there are some beautiful things that have happened in your classroom.  Keep making those beautiful things happen and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Trial run…leave a story via Google Voicemail: (864) 660-3858).

 

 

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Sometimes it only takes one…


Dear Teacher,

We all have good days.  We all have bad days.  Most of the time the days are somewhere in between.

The worst, though, are the days that are great…until…that one student.  That one attitude.  That one event.  And the apple cart is overturned.

We don’t like to talk about it, but we all know that it happens.  One student, one administrator, one parent, or one situation…and our day turns south quickly.

Good days become bad days.  Mediocre days become awful days.  And bad days become the worst day ever.

Our attitudes are soured.  Our teaching becomes less effective.  We stop wanting to deal with people altogether.  And it only takes one thing to cause this.

Admit it, you know what I am talking about.

It is human nature.  It happens.  We deal with it.  We struggle to get better at not letting it happen the next time.  We do get better the longer we teach…but it still happens sometimes.

I don’t have a solution here…but I want to use this as a jumping off point.  One negative thing can turn our days negative.

Our students are people just like us.  And, like us, sometimes it only takes one thing to change their day.

Sometimes it only takes one…

  • smile to make a bad day into a better day.
  • kind word to make a mediocre day a good day
  • little time and attention to make a good day a great day.

One bad thing can make a day worse, but sometimes it only takes a good thing to make a day better.

We have no idea what our students experience from day to day.  We don’t really know what is going on at home.  We don’t know what happened on the bus.  We don’t know what they are always feeling.  We can’t control this.

However, we can control the experience we give our kids from us.

I am not talking about every thing in our classroom right now, I am just talking about trying to do one thing.  One positive for every student you can get one to.  Who knows if that one thing can be a catalyst to brightening up their day!

If you are elementary, try to reach each student in you class with a few positives today.  If you are middle or high school, try to reach each student with a couple of positives over a few days…and then start to cycle again.

It is hard some days…but you can do it.  I can do it.  We can be those “ones” that turn a day around (in a good way).

I know you can do it!  Are you willing to take the challenge?

Elbert Hubbard Quote

You are so awesome!  I know that you try to be positive every day…so keep going.  Try to give as many “ones” as you can today.  The more seed that you plant, the more is likely to grow.  Keep up those positives and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Tugging on the Common Thread


Dear Teacher,

So…this week I have been a part of writing curriculum for my district.  It has been fun.  Yes, I am a nerd.  However, more than fun it has been a challenge and quite enlightening.

We all come from different states (and possibly countries), and every area has their own set of standards and fight with or against new standards.  I don’t know how it is where you are, but the state I am from is in constant flux.

One thing is clear: nothing is clear.

We are “for” things one minute.  We are “against” things the next minute.  We have a plan for testing in one breath.  No clear plan in the next one.

I have been in education long enough to see that the only thing you can count on is change.  The change can last a while or be quick, but you can always know that things will change sooner or later.

There will be buzz words.  There will be “current” research.  There will be best practices.  There will be education trends and fads.

There will be change.

There will be unclear goals.

There will be a test at the end.

This is clearly the only clarity we get as teachers.

And that is okay.  I think.

Yes.  It is okay.  I know it.

You know why I know it?  Because there are teachers who teach well NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND THEM.

True.  It is not every teacher.  However, we all know at least one or two of them that are spectacular no matter what the trends and legislation going on.  They are consistent.  They are constant.  They are uncanny.

They are the great teachers.

What makes them great?

They found the common thread of teaching before it got cored.  They focus on what is always, not what is now.  The set their eyes on one goal.  Students.  Students and what it takes to help them grow.

Simple.

Students.

Growth.

Period.

Will the latest research and methods help them do this?  Of course.  Are these teachers life-long educational learners?  You bet.  Do they keep up with new ideas and strategies?  Most certainly.  Do they change and move from one generation to the next that comes through their classroom?  Yes, yes, and yes!

One thing remains the same throughout the change for them.  The students.

This is how you keep your sanity.  This is how you stay a great teacher.  This is how you stay the course even when the waters are choppy.  You keep your eyes on the point of teaching…students, growth, and creating learners.

Can you do this if your state is Common Core?  Yes.  Can you do this if your state rejects the common?  Yes.  Can you do this if the test changes every year?  Yes.  Can you do this no matter what?  YES YOU CAN!

Wonka

So what does focusing on students mean to you?  How can you make this your goal despite the ebb and flow of current educational mandates in your area?  What changes can you make to be more and more consistent in this focus?

You are awesome, and I know that you already have this focus!  You will grow every year in make student growth your goal.  Think more about this as the school year looms ever closer!  Keep on teaching, Teacher, and keep on focusing on what is most important!

You can do it!

Love, Teacher

Two Wonderful Minutes


Dear Teacher,

For two wonderful, glorious minutes I thought today was Friday.  Then like a slap to the face the shock set in that it was merely Thursday.  It was like a cold water wake up…but now I am away to my Thursday reality.

That reality is simple:

  • I am a teacher.
  • It is a school day.
  • I have a job to do.
  • I have minds to mold.
  • I have hearts with which to connect.
  • I have students’ needs to meet.
  • I have arrows to block from my students.
  • I have monsters that need to be fought for my students.
  • I have content to teach.
  • I have concepts to make real.
  • I have weight that I need to carry for others.
  • I have lessons that need to be lessened.
  • I have ideas that need to be thought.
  • I have thoughts that need to be communicated.
  • I have too much to do and prioritizing that needs to happen.
  • I have a future to affect.
  • I have a world to make better.
  • I have a difference to make.
  • I have students who need me.
  • I have me to be.
  • I am a teacher.

The thing is, no matter what day of the week it is.  You, I, and all teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world.  We need to embrace all that we are as educators.  I hear others (and myself) complain about all that we have to be for students.  I am not talking about standards and administration expectations…I mean all that we have to be for students.  We have to give them supplies.  We have to make sure the get to where they are going.  We have to remind, reteach, and re-give instructions until we  can’t take it anymore.  We have to be nurses.  We have to be moms and dads.  We have to be mentors.  We have to be protectors.  We have to be advocates.  We have to be forgiving.  We have to be patient.  Oh, and we have to be teachers.  We have so much that we have to be.  It is easy to be overwhelmed.

I need to spend more time embracing these all-too-many roles that I have.  I need to remember why I do what I do.  It is because I care for my students.  If they do not have what they need outside of school in these many parts we have to play, then we need to be those things and do so with pride.  This is why we are in this game to start with.  We are here to make a difference.  We need to make that difference and do so joyfully…even when we are too tired to do so much.

And even when it is not Friday.

You are so awesome.  I know you are better at embracing these things than I am.  One day I will be as good as you.  You are making that difference.  You are embracing those roles.  You are amazing!  Keep on teaching and making a difference, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

What is the point?


Dear Teacher,

I know, the title sounds a bit negative, but this is far from a negative message.  It is a question we teachers need to think about every day before every class or lesson taught in a day.  We need to ask ourselves this question because our students are going to come in with this question.  What is the point?

I find that my best teaching days do not revolve around activities planned.  They do not hinge on the minutia of my lesson plans.  They do not even focus on the details of my standards that I hope to address.  No, they have nothing to do with these things (though they help).

My best days hang on having a goal.  They have a “point,” so to speak.  Great teaching days come when I have a concept or idea (based on my standards) that I focus on in the lessons and activities.  I hang my hat on these things.  If the lesson goes another way than I planned, I roll with it.  If my students come in with too much energy to do what I hoped to do, I adjust.  I adjust to them and in a way that still focuses on my goal.

This, I believe, is one of the keys to being a great teacher.

You need to know what the “point” of the day needs to be.  Then, no matter what the day brings, you move hell and high water to meet that goal.  Have back up activities in mind.  Know some good real world examples that you can bring up.  Have some challenge problems you can have the students work through.  Know your materials.  Know your content.  Know your stuff.  Change an old activity to make it fit in the moment.  Roll with the punches.  Be flexible.  And beyond all else, make your “point” your goal and do not sweat the small stuff that got in the way of your plans.

Make your goal, your point, happen, no matter what!

I share this today because I need to hear this.  I have A LOT of things planned for my students.  I am a science teacher, so there are a lot of details for me to work out with activities.  However, I can not let these activities make or break my day.  I need to focus on what I want them to get (the relationship between electricity and magnetism that causes electromagnets in my case).  No matter what, I need my students to understand this one thing.

  • If I have to adjust my plans, so be it.
  • If I have to do demos instead of hands-on for a class, it is not a big deal.
  • If the lesson takes a turn I do not expect, I can roll with it.

I have one goal in mind.  I know what they need to understand, and this is what will make my lessons.  I do not have to stress over things not working out the way I planned.  I just need to get to my “point.”

I can do this.  You can do this.  We can do this!

So what is your point today?  What is the one thing you need your students to get by the end of your lesson?  How will you roll with the punches?  How will you get to the point?

You are awesome!  You’ve got this!  This is your day.  You will get to the point, I know it.  You are amazing.  You are making a difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

‘Twas the day before break…


Dear Teacher,

I hope you have the best break ever!  You deserve it.

I am going to leave you with a little poem.  Have a happy holiday season and stay safe, get rest, and get ready for 2014!

A Break from Your Classoom

‘Twas the day before break, when all through the classroom,
Each creature was stirring; the teacher, too, I assume;
The students were antsy and moving here and there;
In hopes that the clock would move faster if they stare;
The administration was nestled all snug in their offices;
With having visions of no calls about students from all of us;
And you in your holiday sweater and matching cap,
Just want to settle your brain for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the hall there arose such a clatter,
You sprang from your chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the door you flew like a flash,
Spun doorknob and moved the door with a crash.
The fluorescent light from the hallway gave off quite a glow,
You looked left and right to see what you could know,
When the noise that had traveled to your wondering ear,
Helped you realize that it was the bell that you did hear.
The end of the day really did come so  quick,
It was just like a present from dear old St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles the students they came,
And they hustled and shouted, and you called them by name:
“Now, students! bye-bye students! Bye you wonderful children!
Bye, students!  Do be careful as you leave this dear buildin’!
To the top of the hallway! to the top of the hall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As papers and dust in their happy wake fly,
When they meet with their bus they jump in not shy;
And back to their houses with them the bus oh it flew
With all of the girls and boys, and their energy too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard you so true
Your prancing and dancing to your door as you did shoo.
You got in your car without turning around,
Down the parking lot you and your car were home-bound.
The school, in your rear view got smaller by  sight—
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

Saw this on Facebook this morning…I had to use it!

You are awesome!  You are amazing!  You are a teacher!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

No Idea…(teachers have the upper hand)


Ready for the Day

Dear Teacher,

You are the one.  You have what you need.  You have plans, but you also have heart.  You are ready…even if you are not completely ready.

You have a mind and know how to use it.  You can roll with the waves and the punches.  This day…this week…this year will not dominate you.  You’ve got this.  Somewhere deep inside you know that you can handle this.

Your students have no idea what is coming.  Use that.  You can do something different today.  Take them off guard.  Show them that you know your stuff.  Show them that you care.  Show them that you are the teacher that they need you to be.

What do I mean by this?  That depends on you.  That depends on what you are facing today.  That depends on what you need.

Does that mean that I am being generic with my encouragement today?

No!  It just means that the message for today is whatever you need it to be.

You really do have this under control, even if you don’t feel like it.

No matter what is ahead of you, you can do this today.  You can teach.  You can make it through.  You can be who your students need you to be.

Be that teacher.

You are that teacher.

Do what you need to do today.

Need to change your plans?  Do it.

Need to review though there is little time to do it?  Review away.

Need to take a stand about an issue happening in your class?  Stand up.

Need to hold your ground on a school issue unrelated to students?  Do what you need to do.

Be who you need to be today.

Your students and those around you have no idea what you have in store today.  You have the upper hand.  You have the element of surprise.  Surprise them today.

You’ve got this!

Teach away!

You are awesome!  You can do this today.  Go.  Do.  Be the teacher!  You are amazing!  I believe in you!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher