Posted in Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

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

Posted in Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, You Are Awesome!!!

Attention All Teachers…


Dear Teacher,

You have had a tough couple of days (or weeks…or months…or whole school year).  I get it.  Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world…and people who have never been in the classroom (or haven’t been recently) do not understand that.  On top of that, some years are worse than others.  It just so happens that this year is one of those years.

You are tired.  You are exhausted.  You are burned out or right on the edge of burnout.

You are starting to lose your edge.  You are starting to lose heart.  You are starting to wonder what other careers might fit your skill set.

Trust me, I have been there.  It sucks.  It really does.

But there is one thing that you can do about all of it.  It is not a magic key to unlock teaching happiness, but it is something.

You can ask yourself one question.

What are you going to do about it?

You can’t really change your circumstances.  You can’t make your students be different.  You can’t control all of your classroom dynamics.  You can’t force your administration to be different and you can’t stop the system from being what it is.

You can change one thing.

You can change you.

I wish I had the words to explain what I mean by that, but I would rather quote Maya Angelou who said it better than I ever could.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

We can control how we are affected by our situation.  We can adjust the way we react to things.  We can check our feelings before we make a decision.  We can change the way that we let things affect us.

I think the best way to do this is to refocus on why we are teaching in the first place.  We need to remember why we started this journey we call the teacher life.  What brought us here?  What brought you to teaching may be what helps you stay with it.

I do believe that answer is probably close to the same for all of us.  It is all about students and trying to make the world a better place for them.

I know that reality has made that difficult to keep a view of, but you can start over every day and find that target again.  We can ask ourselves, “How will I make today better for my students (even the tough ones)?”

I am not saying that we forget about standards and curriculum, but I do think it will help if we double-down on putting students and what they need in front of those things.

I don’t know.  Am I making sense here?

Anyway, the best way to survive is looking at ourselves and how things are changing us as teachers.  Are we doing what we are doing for the sake of students or for some other reason?  If it not for students how can we change our practices (within the system) to make sure that they are the priority.  When you and I can do this, I think how the toughness of any given day or year affects us will change.

I will close with another quote.  This is from Jaime Escalante (a teacher hero of mine who I think lived out what I am saying here).

You don’t count how many times you are on the floor. You count how many times you get up.

Rough days and years come and go.  What matters is what you do about it.  How will you learn and move on?

Get Up Quote

Get back up, Teacher.  You are great teacher.  You are getting through to your students.  You are making a difference.  I think you are pretty awesome!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Pep Talk

An Open Letter to Teachers…Don’t Lose Hope


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

Dear Teacher,

You are beat up and beat down.  You are worn out.  You are worn down.  This has been one of the toughest and roughest years of your career.

You don’t know if you can do this anymore.

Somewhere in and through the stress of students, parents, administration, and the system, you have lost sight of why you are doing this.  You don’t see the difference you intended to make.  You can’t see the forest.  You can’t see the trees.  You only see dwindling patience, one more student that doesn’t have a pencil, and another email about lesson plans that you haven’t turned in yet.

You are at the end of your rope and it is becoming more and more tempting to just let go.

You are losing your grip.

While you contemplate how much the fall will hurt, can I just tell you something…well, a few somethings?

First thing that you need to know is that you are absolutely, one hundred and fifty percent not alone.  More teachers feel this way this year than don’t, I think.  It is a common thought and feeling.

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)

Even if it doesn’t fee like it, other teachers are going through exactly what you are right now.  Probably other teachers in your school…most likely the teacher in the room next door.

I know it is kind of messed up that a lot of teachers are in the same boat…but at least you don’t have to be alone in this.

And that is great, but what do we do about it?

We need to remember that the education system is not why we got into this business…we went through the trouble of becoming a teacher because we actually care about students and their future.  The system is what is wearing us out, but the students are who are keep us in.

Unfortunately, we are bound by the system.  How do we work within it to make the biggest difference in the lives of those learners in our classrooms?

I think it all comes down to spending a bit of time before each school day remembering why we teach.  It means thinking about each student (or some of them each day, if you teach multiple classes).  We have to remember that each of those souls are people and that we actually care about them and where they are going in life.

If we do that, it will lead us to think more carefully about our decisions in the classroom.  We will be driven to take stands for what is best for students.  We will fight for what is right.  We will truly differentiate for each child and what they need from us.

As that happens, our teacher heart will start to beat again.  We will find our passion again for teaching.  We will be ready to change the world all over again.

I know this is all easier said than done, but I think it is time we start doing what we know needs to be done.  I think it is time to be brave and bold…for our students good and for ours.

You are a TEACHER!  You actually do know what you are doing most of the time.  You know your students and care about their lives.  You know how to make classroom decisions.  You are courageous!  You are strong!  You are intelligent!  You matter to the future of your students and you are making a difference!

Remember why you do what you do and that you are not alone in this.  Be brave and do what needs to be done.  You will be happier in the long-run because you are doing what are made for!

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 amazing!  You are awesome!  Thank you for all that you do!  Remember that you can do anything for a year, and this year is almost done.  You’ve got this!  Don’t give up!  Keep on persevering and keep on teaching, Teacher!  You rock!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Reason for Teaching

Stop Everything and Read this Blog Post Right Now!! Or don’t…


Dear Teacher,

I bet you might be thinking that the title of this note was just a gimmick to try to get you to read it.  It wasn’t.  Not that I don’t want you to read it…I do…I just have a point to make using the it.  However, not yet.  I want to tell you a little story first.

My little family and I had the awesome opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Break at the beach with my wife’s family.  I am not much of a beach person, but there was something pretty great about being near the water, hearing the crashing waves, and being able to walk the beach with my sons and wife.  I did, unfortunately, became a little obsessed with finding shells (and shark teeth).

There were plenty of common shells (clams, scallops, and the like), but I was after other game.  I really wanted to find conch or nautilus shells…oh, and did I mention shark teeth?  I kept looking for all of these, but all I found was a few broken pieces and thousands of common shells.  I would see something out of the corner of my eye, veer of my path, and find it only to see it was more of the same.

I outlasted my boys and wife with each trip out.  Still I couldn’t turn down the inner call to keep looking.  I just knew I would find something!

I kept chasing the bits and pieces that I saw in the distance sure that I would find something rare and worried that I would miss out on it if I didn’t go after what I saw.  No matter the disappointment, I kept chasing.

Until…

IMAG1872

My oldest son kept asking me to go back.  He wanted to just play in the sand.  I could see the other family members down the beach having a good time together…and off the other way there was something that I just knew had to be what I was looking for.  I had this moment where I knew that I just had to choose.  Chase something that was not assured or savor the moments with my family.

A thought came to me…

There will always be another shell.

I talked back to that thought (not aloud, of course)…what if I miss out on something good.

There will always be another shell.

What if this is the shell I am looking for?  What if it is a shark tooth?

There will always be another shell…and shark teeth aren’t that big, idiot!

I made a conscious decision to turn and go back.  I go spend the quality time I always want to have with my family when I can’t have it.  I went back with my son and had some fun on the beach.  I dare say it was much better than not finding shells!

It hit me that this is something similar to what happens to us in education.  I can only speak from a teacher’s perspective, but it seems like sometimes we are always chasing something off in the distance.  The latest strategy, the newest assessment-style, or the latest book that will change everything in education.  Not that any of these things are bad…they definitely aren’t…but it can be something we are constantly looking for all the while missing out on what is right in front of us.

Our students are here.  Our students are now.  They are why we do what we do.  Despite the latest and greatest trends, what makes some of the biggest effects on how students learn is us and our relationships with them.  We need to talk to them.  Learn how they learn best.  Help them learn how to learn on their own.  This has to be our priority.  It is the only way that true learning, understanding, and growth happens!

This means some serious thought into what we need to let go of sometimes.  It can be a mere change of focus.  It can mean putting things on the back-burner.  It often will mean that we have to not always chase every “new” idea in education…some books may need to wait until summer to read, some conferences may need to be unattended, and some blog posts may need to be bookmarked for later.  This doesn’t mean that these are not important things, it just means that some of them will have to wait for the sake of our students.

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So.  Back to the name of this post.  It is so easy to get caught up in what we are told needs to happen right now.  We can be led to believe that we need to stop everything to investigate what we might be missing.  Just like me and the shell hunt, there may be something back in the other direction that is more worthwhile – quality time really getting to know and work with our students on their level.

Hitting pause on the things that seem vital for our growth as professionals can be quite difficult.  But it is a reality that does occur (more often than we would like).  As an educator, sometimes the hardest thing is letting go…but often it is the only way to move forward for the greater good of our students.

Remember…

There will always be another shell.

There will always be another book.

There will always be another PD.

There will always be another blog post.

There will not always be another year with the students you have right now.  Don’t let it slip away!

IMG_0438

If I know you, though, I am preaching to the choir.  You do realize these things most of the time.  That’s what makes you awesome and an amazing teacher!  Keep on make your students the ultimate priority and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Theme Song

Fight Song [for Teachers]


Dear Teacher,

It is not even almost halfway through the year, but I am already tired.  How about you?  It gets busy fast doesn’t it?  So much to do…

I think it is time for a little rally.  There is a lot of year left and our students need us to be on our game.  It is time for a theme song post, and I think I know the song we need right now.  Click play and then read on.

Sometimes it feels so lonely as a teacher.

We are only one person, but we are trying to change the lives of our students each day.  We are helping to shape and mold their futures.

We believe in them.  We care about them.  We know what we do matters.  It is our nature, heart, and calling to do our best to make a difference.

We have ideas.  We have plans.  We have a drive.  We are committed.

But we can feel so overwhelmed sometimes.

There is so much to do in order to do what we need to do.

Some of the the stuff to do is extra and not from us, but some of us is from ourselves because we want to do the best we possible can do for our students.

We want them to see how great that they can be.  We want the experience in our classrooms to inspire them to move on and move deeper.  We want them to become learners that never stop.

We can’t stop.

We have more to give.

We have more to be.

We have lives to change.

Teacher, you have fight in you.  You have a warrior inside of you.  You are a monster, in a good way.  You have battles to wage for your students.  They need you to keep fighting and keep going.

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

Find those reserves.

Remember why you are doing this…

You may only have one match, but you can make an explosion in the life of a students!

You have a lot left inside of you.

Keep going.

You’ve got this.

Never stop.  Never give up.  Never lose hope for the difference that you are making.

Keep dreaming.  Keep moving.  Keep going.

Don’t lose the part of you that realizes how important what you do is!  I know that you have a lot to do.  I know that you don’t love all of the aspects of your job…but your students need you!  It is worth fighting through.  It is worth doing all that you can to keep going.  The little things you do matter more than anything.  Remember why you a teacher…the students.

You are not crazy to keep doing this.  Just focus on those lives behind the eyes that are looking at you.  You have a purpose.  You are needed.  You are vitally important to the people in your classroom and the world.

Keep fighting!  We all need you to!  Keep breathing and keep going!

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’ve got this.  I believe in you!  You are amazing.  You are making a difference.  You really are.  Keep fighting and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

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, Pep Talk

The Secret Ingredient to Being a Great Teacher…


Dear Teacher,

We live in an interesting time to be in the field of education, do we not?  This is not a set up to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a teacher or administrator in this day-and-age, though there are a lot of difficult and harsh realities for us right now.  There is another side to being an educator right now…

Resources.

We have some of the most amazing resources available to us.  Some teachers have more than others, but we all have more than teachers had at any time in the past.  We have the internet (if not readily accessible to student, you have access to it for planning…you are reading a blog right now, aren’t you?).  We have technology (very few teachers do not have the availability of some kind of tech).  We have each other (we can connect with educators around the world and collaborate and learn from each other).  The list is endless.

We have so much.

Yet, do we have more great teachers than ever before?  I am not sure about that.  It seems like we should, but there is probably the same average amount of great teachers as there ever has been (which is a large number…I am not saying this to knock education).  Great teachers will always be great teachers…no matter the resources.

So how do great teachers become and stay great teachers?

There are A LOT of factors here…

  • Studying education and the latest research
  • Workshops and staying in touch with other great teachers
  • Focusing on students more than content
  • Knowing when to teach more and when to teach less
  • Mastering the art of facilitation
  • And so many other things…

But there is one secret ingredient that I think matters the most and is common among most of the great teachers in history, and it is amazingly simple.

The secret to you being a great teacher is you.

What?

Great teachers know themselves.  They know their strengths and weaknesses.  They work on the weaknesses and play to their strengths.  They do not deny who they are as people, and this lets their passions for teaching and for life play themselves out in the classroom.  Their zeal for what drives them pushes students to strive harder and become interested and engaged.  Because great teachers are keyed into who they are, their dreams are big and they fight to achieve them.  They also know what they need and go after those things…for this reason fund-raising seems easy for them and  “personal PD” is not a new idea because it has been a theme of their lives!

Great teachers are aware of themselves and this makes the more aware of their students and what needs to happen  in their classroom.

Resources are not what make great teachers great…great teachers make all resources great because they are keenly aware of how to use them.  The type of resource or school “realities” are not limitations…they do not really know limitations!

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)

Great teachers know who they are and do not hide it.

Great teachers share their passions and interests and make them a part of their instruction.

Great teachers have a sense of what they need and this gives them a sense of student needs.

You are a great teacher…you just have to get to know yourself to bring the great teacher out!

You are the key to you being a great teacher!

You are a much greater teacher than you think  you are!  We can all be greater…so lets work on it.  You are amazing!  I know you are a great teacher!  You are making a difference because you are completely awesome!  Keep working at your greatness and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher