The Teacher and September, 7th, 2016


Dear Teacher,

I want to try something a little different and see if it helps you.  I want to write you a little note every day.  Just something to lift your spirits, get you pumped, remind you why you teach, or maybe just give you a little giggle about being a part of the world we call education.  I will try to organize the messages better so that if you need a certain kind of encouragement on any given day, you can go to the archives and find it.

We’ll see how it goes.  I really like this idea.  Do you?

Without further ado, let’s talk about today.

Today is today.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  It is just today.

And even though it is quite a cliche, it is nonetheless true…today is what you make of it.

In my life and in my experience teaching, I can’t get way from the fact that my attitude determines about 97.5% of how my day goes.  Circumstances are just what happens.  Attitude is how I happen.

There is a line in a song by a band called Superchic(k) that says, “Life doesn’t happen to you, you happen to life.”  I’ve always liked that line.  It is true.  It is about how we react to the ebb and flow of life.  We can let it wash over us and determine how we feel…or we can set our determination and make each day what we want it to be.

So, Teacher, what are you going to make today be?

What is your determination?

How are you going to happen to life today?

What is your day going to be?

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs
https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

You know I think you are pretty dang amazing, right?  You are a great teacher.  You’ve got this today.  Don’t let circumstances and small stuff (or big stuff) change you…change those things by being the awesome that you are!  Never give up and always keep teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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Are We There Yet? Exhaustion and Last Days…


Dear Teacher,

It is drawing ever nearer to the last days of school (if you aren’t already there).  You are tired.  No…strike that.  You are completely and utterly exhausted.  This school year has done you in.  You are so done with all of the chaos and drama.

And you deserve to feel that way…it has been a TOUGH year.

You have made it through, but only barely.

The last weeks and days of school are a light at the end of the tunnel, and you feel like your students do right before the buses come.  You are just watching that clock.

Image Source: Wikimedia (Wikipedia)

You keep waiting for the seconds to tick down.  And they feel slow incredibly slow.  Why can’t it just be over.  You need it to be over.

Let me remind you, it is almost time.  You are almost there.

You need this summer…and summer’s coming, friend.  Summer is coming!

It is okay that you’re worn out right now.  If you weren’t, I would be worried that there is something wrong with you or if you might actually be a superhero…or alien…or both.  This year has been rough, and you should be tired in every way shape and form.

And for this reason, it is also okay to be excited about your coming “break” – even with all of the work you have to do eventually over the summer…it still counts as a break.  You get to recharge.  You get to relax.  You get to unwind from the stress of this year.

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)

You have done well this year, my Teacher Friend.  You have made a difference this year, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.  You have earned the right to look forward to the summer.  You have my permission to watch the clock.  🙂

You are an amazingly awesome teacher!  You will always be.  Enjoy the rest of the year!  Keep on clock-watching…errr…I mean teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

Hello From the Other Side (of the school year)


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)

Dear Teacher,

It is almost the end of the year…I think it calls for a special post.  Theme song post time!

I have actually been thinking about this one for a while.  The song is “Hello” by Adele.  The song is great, but lately I have started to think about my teaching life and the different versions of my teacher self throughout the school year.

What if I could call and talk to myself at the beginning of the year?  What would I say?  What would I hold back?  Would I advise?  Would I apologize?  I don’t know…but I am going to give it a shot here.  Please “listen in” on my conversation with myself and think about what you might say to yourself.

Oh, and I realize that this is a just a  cover of the original song, but I really like this version…so click play  and then read on.

Hello.

It’s me.

We need to talk.

First of all, I would just like to say, you are so awesome!  Your ideas and energy.  It is why I teach.  You know that you are going to make a difference this year, and I love you for this.  Don’t lose that.  Never lose that.

However…

Hello from the other side.

This is going to be a rough year.  You are going to face trials and troubles like you have never seen.  You are going to have your teaching heart broken.  You are going to want to quit.

You will really consider it.

I wish I would have gotten in touch with you sooner.

I have needed your spark and light.

There are going to be times that the spark is going to almost be extinguished and that light is going to dim.

I am sorry to tell you, but you are barely going to make it through the year alive (as a teacher).

I have barely made it.

I am barely here.

Your full-on sprint at the beginning of the year is going to taper down to where I am right now.  I am crawling to the finish line.  And I can barely breathe.  I am barely teacher living.

I am sorry for what I have done to you.

I really am.

But..

Hello from the other side.

Let me just assure of one undeniable truth.  From where I am right now, it was worth it.

I can see where our students have come from and how far they’ve come.  We have made a difference.  We have changed lives.  We have done everything that your optimistic heart hoped and dreamed for this year.  We’ve done it!

You will be completely drained, beat-up, and exhausted, but you have affected the lives of your students for forever.  Amazing things have happened in our classroom this year.  There has been magic.  There has been wonder.

Do not give up the fight.

Keep going.

Keep running.

Keep fighting.

It will all be worth it in the end!

Hello from the other side…

Thanks for reading my little message to myself.  Did you see yourself in this?  Could you have the same conversation with your beginning-of-the-year-you?

You know, no matter what happened this year, beautiful things happened in that classroom of yours.  Magic and life change did occur.  Everything you went through was worth it for the sake of your students.  To help remind you of this, I want to close this note to you with a few more teachers stories of classroom beauty and magic that happened this year.  And if you would like to share a story of wonder from your classroom, you can do so here.

Teacher Michelle – Kindergarten

I work hard on creating a family out of my class of kindergarteners. They come from very low income homes and have very rough lives. In my classroom we work hard on creating relationships and bonding.It can get really hard, but the rewards are worth it.

Recently a child in my class won a ticket to Six Flags for being the only one who completed the required minutes of reading and turned the paper in. when i announced it to my class, i honestly expected to hear a lot of whining and “why didnt I get one!?” But INSTEAD… when i made the announcement my ENTIRE CLASS began applauding and shouting out “good job!” and “good for you!”

That was the day I knew we were a family.

Teacher Joanne – High School (Retired)

I retired from full time teaching and now work as an office manager for a national tax preparation company.
During the season, I was assisting a client who was accompanied by one of my former students, a friend of hers. She asked him if he had done his taxes yet, and he said, “Oh yes, Ms. Maura taught us all about it in finance class.” I wanted to hug him, but I said, “Thank God someone was paying attention that day!” I won’t also mention all of the greetings I get in the community (I live in the city where I taught for 20+ years).

Teacher Alice – High School

My first year of teaching was a challenging experience, as it is for many teachers. I was teaching 6-7 periods a day, and my classes were mutli-leveled ESL classes. In one class, I had everything from a level one (absolute beginner) to 5 (advanced, ready to transition to mainstream) in the same class. I struggled mightily.

At the end of the year, I assigned the students to write a thank you letter to someone in the building that had made a difference for them during the year. One sweet, upper level student, who had been an immense help to me in that challenging class, placed her note on my desk at the end of the class and told me to open it. The text of the note read, “thank you, thank you, thank you! One thank you for all you taught me this year, one thank you for being there for me, and one thank you for how you change my life. Always remember this, Miss: stars need darkness to shine. I may not know how to write a letter, but I know there is not a wrong way to say thank you.” I sat at my desk and bawled.

Teacher, you are making a difference and have done amazing work this year!  You are so awesome!  Please know that everything you went through this year was worth.  You have had a greater effect than you will ever know.  Thanks for all that you do!  Hold on…the year is almost over!  Keep on doing the incredible things you do and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

PS…Dear Teacher/Love Teacher is looking for a little help.  Check this out for more information.  Thanks!

 

What You Deserve, Teacher…


Dear Teacher,

You do so much.  I don’t mean that as a meaningless platitude because it is Teacher Appreciation Week.  I mean that as someone who knows.  Someone who has and is living the life of a teacher.  You do so very much!

It is almost inconceivable how much that you do for your students, your students’ families, your coworkers, your administration, your family, your friends, and…sometimes, every once in a while, on the rare occasion…for yourself…though, that is seriously not as often as it should be.  You live and breathe for others.  And you do it because you have a heart for others, especially your students.

You do so much!

And there is not much that you get in return; at least not tangible things.  This is something you are okay with.  You are because you are doing what you do for something bigger.  You are working for the lives and future of your students…which is what matters most to you.

You do deserve more, though.

In all honesty, you do deserve more money for all that you do.  You deserve more respect from others.  You deserve more recognition for the extra miles that you go.  You deserve more freedom and autonomy within the system because you do know what you are doing most of the time.  With that, you deserve the trust that you can make good decisions for the sake of your students.  And the list could go on and on.

You are a great teacher and you deserve more than you get!  

You deserve more and you know it…but this is not what is important to you.  What is important is that you impact your students lives and help them become the amazing people that they can be one day.  This is what makes you awesome.  You know you deserve more, but that is not what drives you.  Your students drive you.  And this is one of the many reasons you deserve more.

We both know that the “more” may never come.  But there is one thing that I can offer you.  I can offer you a thank you.

Really, really, really, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Teacher.

I thank you for all that you do.  I thank you for the things that you do that you don’t have to.  I thank you for your heart.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use this picture if you link back to this blog.)

(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use this picture if you link back to this blog.)

I thank you as a fellow teacher who you serve as an example for.  I thank you as a parent who has teachers that are like you and are influenced by you.  And I thank you as a citizen of the world because you really are making the future better.

Teacher, I can not give you all that you deserve, and for this I am sorry.  But I do promise to always try to thank you…even when it is not Teacher Appreciation Week.  A thank you is something you deserve every day!  I will do my best to try.

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)

You are an amazingly awesome teacher!  Thank you for teaching on even though you do not get everything you deserve!  You are making a difference and changing lives.  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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

 

 

The 800 Lbs Gorilla in Your Classroom


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Dear Teacher,

I so try to avoid this issue here.  It is something that we all deal with.  It’s something I think most of us feel the same way about.  It is a reality of teaching that we all just kind of “deal” with and try not to let it get us too down.

However, this time of year it is hard to avoid, and I think it is getting to a point that we won’t have any choice but to really talk about it.

Testing.

Standardized testing…state testing…MAP testing…testing to prepare for testing…benchmarks to help us test to prepare for testing…quizzing to help us no where students are before benchmarking progress towards testing…

Testing, testing, testing.

It is an unfortunate requirement of the teaching life in the system we are currently in.

I will probably one day have no choice but to write some of my opinions on all of this, but that is not my goal for the day.

No, my goal is you.

Testing season is one of the most trying times of the year for teachers…know that you are not alone in how you feel right now.  And, it is not because it is hard to test students or difficult to keep their attention during reviews (which it can be).  Testing season is tough because we have to separate our teaching mind from our teaching heart.

I heard someone say or read something someone said recently (I don’t remember which), “Why do we work so hard to differentiate instruction for each student just to prepare them for standardized tests?”  I think they were being tongue-in-cheek and making a joke, but it really is a good question!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) ... oh, and this was made using www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) … oh, and this was made using http://www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

If research shows that differentiated instruction leads to deeper learning, understanding, and memory, wouldn’t follow through that testing should be differentiated so students can show what they have really learned?

There is so much I could say here about this, but I will save it for another time.  I think you see what I mean.  There is this part of us that really wants to see our students succeed.  It is this drive that pushes us to find ways that help each student learn.  This is our heart.  We want our students to become the people we know that they can be.

Then there is this other side of us that wants (or is forced to need by the system) evidence to prove how much our students are learning.  This is where standardized testing fits in.  It is the way that we have been given to provide that evidence.  If they can answer questions the same way other students do, then they have learned…or so we are told.

Image: flickr.com

Because this is the measure we are using (whether we like it or not), we want to see our students do well on the tests…and this is where the problem lies…

In order for us to prepare our students for the tests so they can do well, we need them to take tests like the one they will take.  Some students do this better than others, so we scaffold and differentiate instruction in test taking.  We need to prepare for all variances in vocabulary on the test, so we drill, drill, drill.  We need to make sure that students know how to find wrong answers, too, so they can eliminate them.  So we practice, practice, practice.  Also, we need to see real results on how students are progressing toward the test, so we test, test, test…and so the cycle goes on…and on…and on.

All of this takes time.  We have to cut out some of the time we want to take for teaching content.  We have to cut corners and cut back.  We have to teach content in limited ways to buy time.  Differentiation of instruction becomes more and more standardized…

And this breaks our teaching heart when we realize this is what we are doing…but not doing this means that some students may not do as well on the tests…and we are torn.

I don’t have an answer for this.  I just want to let you know that you really are not alone in this.  We are all feeling this tension.  It is hard.  It make teaching less of a passion and more of a job…and our heart breaks more for this.

Don’t give up, Teacher!  Trust your teaching heart.  Do what is right for your students!  This is the only advice I know to give right now.  You can never go wrong in trusting what you know about your students and letting that drive your decisions.  Students first!

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs
https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

You know what your students need because you know them and have been fighting hard to differentiate for each one all year – don’t start doubting yourself now!

I know that you try to do what is best for those souls in your room everyday.  This is what makes you a great teacher!  You are doing a great job!  Keep on doing what you feel is what is needed.  Don’t doubt yourself!  You are amazing and doing an amazing job!  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Thank you for all that you do!  You are awesome and you rock!

Love, Teacher

Teacher, I See Your True Colors


Dear Teacher,

I really wanted to write to you this morning.  I know that this has been a difficult and trying time for you.  This time of the year usually is.  I have been thinking and trying to come up with some way to remind you how awesome you are and encourage you to keep going and keep fighting…and I did.

It is time for something I haven’t done in a while – a theme song post.  If you have never read one of my theme song posts, all you have to do is click play on the video and read.  If you can’t read with music on, listen to the song and then read.  Got it?  Good!  Let’s go!

Teacher…no one really knows but us what it is like.  Teaching is one of the roughest roads that someone can choose to go down.  It has a bright destination, but it sure can be a dark path sometimes.  There is no sugar-coating it.  Teaching is tough.

As teachers, we are fighting for the lives and futures of our students.  That is no small thing.  With just that, we are battling some pretty scary and menacing enemies.

Image Source: Wikipedia

On top of that, add the fact that we have “friendly enemies.”  Well meaning people who are trying to make education better are making it quite difficult to do what we need to do to reach those minds in our classrooms.

And then there is the standardize testing…and I will just leave that without comment.  Too much to say…

It can feel like the job of teacher is an impossible task…and it is…it is for anyone besides you.

Listen, Teacher, you were and are cut out for this.  You are amazing!

In everything mentioned above, you keep going.  You keep trying.  You keep fighting.  Because in your heart of hearts you know that you were made for this.

You are a fighter and this is your battle.

It can be a long, grueling skirmish…the enemies surround you…you feel alone in the fight…

But something clicks in for you.  You remember who you are fighting for…and it is not for you.  It is for people, young people, who can’t fight for themselves.  This sparks something deep inside of you and gives you the will and strength to forge ahead.

This is who you are.  These are your true colors.

Not everyone can see them, but I do.  They are shining through…and they are shining brightest in the lives of your students now and tomorrow.

Those true colors are beautiful.  Like a rainbow.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wikipedia Commons

You are making a difference, Teacher!  The stands you make are worth it.  The time, energy, and tears are planting seeds in the minds of your students.  And those seeds are growing!

Don’t lose heart, Teacher.  Don’t give up.  You are fighting a good fight.  Keep on fighting and keep on teaching!  You rock!

Love, Teacher