Getting Back on Your Teaching Feet…


Dear Teacher,

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!

The holidays 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.

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

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!

 

 

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Ain’t No Tired Like Teacher Tired…


Dear 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.

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)

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!

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)

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!

Love, 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 believe 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!  🙂

DearTeacherLT2016 - The Motivational/Growth-Mindset ABCs (volume two)

DearTeacherLT2016 – The Motivational/Growth-Mindset ABCs (volume two)

 

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Every Learner Can Learn


Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, I presented the idea of the #HowToTeacher Rules and gave you Rule 1 (if you haven’t read it, go there first…this post will make more sense if you do).  I feel like that rule is key to being a great teacher.  All other things that great teachers believe and do stem from the passion for teaching and learning.  Rule 2 is tied very closely to the first, but it focuses on who you teach.  These two rules are the key to all of the others!

You know what?  Maybe I should tell you what Rule 2 is before I talk about how great it is.  🙂  Let me do that now.

#HowToTeacher Rule 2: Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn and they act on those beliefs.

Great teachers believe firmly that ALL students can learn an they act on those beliefs.  This is just something that is in the DNA of great teachers.  There does not seem to be any challenge too big for them.  They are relentless in the idea that every student in their classroom can learn.  It seems like they have a million tools in their bag of teacher tricks to try.  Nothing that students can throw at them will change their minds that every student can learn.

Students with IEPs?

No problem.  They have been to trainings, talked to other teachers, and read strategies for this just for fun.

ESOL students that have little to no English?

Great teachers have workbooks, translators, and are even learning the language the best that they can (almost enough to almost enough to say a couple of things to parents during conferences).

Class with five ADHD poster children all at once?

Multiple seating options, standing desks, a focus corner, and lots and lots of back-up activities for different learning styles.

Apathetic students?

They don’t know who they are messing with.  “I can’t” or “I won’t” are not words that great teachers understand.  They will find a way to reach those students (or die trying)!

I could go on and on, but you get where I am going here.  Great teachers are not stumped by students with difficult situations or difficult students.  Their belief in the ability of every student to learn trumps the challenges to make that happen.  They live for the teaching and learning process (Rule 1), and they will not accept that anyone is not able to be a part of that process.

You know the teachers like this.  They make other teachers frustrated with their refusal to think that any student student can not learn at the same level (with scaffolding) as the others.  These teachers make the other teachers want to try harder and find a way to reach each and every student.  They are relentlessly relentless!

This is the key to great teaching.  You must not only believe that this is true, but you have to act like you believe it.  Never give up on a student.  Never stop finding ways to reach them.  There is some way for each student to learn and you will find it!

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)

How to find paths for each student will be covered in other #HowToTeacher Rules, but the belief that every student can learn has to got to come first!

I know you are one of the never-give-up teachers!  You are one of the amazing ones that won’t take “I can’t” for an answer!  I applaud you for that.  You are an awesome teacher!  Thank you for all that you do to reach your students!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Passion for Teaching & Learning


Dear Teacher,

Throughout my time in the classroom, I made great efforts to meet, talk to, and observe as many teachers as I can.  In my role now as a STEM teacher at a Science Center, I see teachers with their classes everyday.  Through the process of observing and talking to teachers, I have been able to come into contact with some of the greatest teachers…and there are definitely some commonalities and trends among them.

I have decided to try and put words to what I have seen and experienced when it comes to great teaching, and I am calling these observations the “#HowToTeacher Rules.”  Take them for what they are worth.  🙂  With this post I would like to present Rule 1:

#HowToTeacher Rule 1: Great teachers are passionate about the teaching and learning process.

Great teachers know that the journey of learning is more important than the destination of specific content.  How students learn how to learn on their own is of the highest priority.  No matter what the system says, great teachers (like you) make this rule one each and every year and day!

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If you are reading this, something tells me you agree with this rule.  You are one of those great and amazing teachers.  You know that it is more about how to learn than rote knowledge.  You stand up for what you believe when it comes to this…and that is one of the things that makes you awesome!

Keep on believing in the heart of education, keep up the good fight for it, and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…I apologize for any typos – I wrote this with my phone. 🙂

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!

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