Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Poster/Graphic, Reflection, Thank You!

The Thankful Teacher


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

Dear Teacher,

I was going to take a break from writing over Thanksgiving break, but I had a rough day on Tuesday (the last day of school for me before break) so I have been reflective.  My reflections have been some thoughts that I really feel like I should write down.  Writing helps me process them and will make them real to me.  I decided to write them to you because, maybe, you are going through something similar and need some similar encouragement and thoughts.

This is one of those times that I am writing to myself and letting you listen in.  Eavesdrop away, Teacher.

Too often I let myself get wrapped up in the actions, behavior, and/or attitude of one or a small handful of students.  I let this small cluster change my day and change my attitude because of these students.  I let this affect how I am feeling and change my behavior, actions, and reactions towards other students and my coworkers.  I let this make me feel like a failure.  I let this make me feel like a bad teacher.  I let this make me doubt my choices the led to becoming a teacher at all.

These feelings do not last long, but they are nonetheless real.  The feelings do affect me.  They really do.  Even if they are short-lasted, they do take a toll on me from time to time.

I know I shouldn’t let this happen.  I know that letting one or a few students make me go down this road is not productive.  But it happens.  Every year.  At least once or twice.  The cycle begins and I have to work through it.

If I know that this cycle is not productive, why do I keep letting myself get forced into it?  Do I have to go through this cycle?  Do I have to let the few students affect how I am with the many other students that are learning and doing the right things every day?  Do I need to go through this cycle of doubt and wonder about my choices?

If not, how do I avoid it?

Don’t get me wrong, reflection and analyzing what we do and say is important.  It is vital.  I am not saying that.  I know that doubt can make you stronger when you work through it.  I am just talking about the cycle that a handful of students can take you down where this few makes you feel like a failure as a teacher.  Where your focus is on them and not the rest of your students who are thriving in your class.  (I guess I should mention that it is not always the student that makes you feel like a failure…sometimes it is a parent like happened for me last year.)

So, how do I avoid this?

Today being Thanksgiving gave me a thought.  Maybe one tool that helps here, one weapon in this battle, is thankfulness.  Gratitude.  The attitude of taking stock of what is going well instead of what is not.

Being thankful for the good things takes your focus off of what is going wrong.  It puts into perspective that things really aren’t that bad and you that you can build on those things that are going great.  It lets you see the “silver lining” and move on.  Thankfulness lets the not-so-great things roll off your back like water off of a duck.

Being a thankfully reflective teacher can change you…especially in the moment when one or few students make you feel like you aren’t doing a good job.

Really?  Can it be that simple?

I don’t know that this is all of it, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.  A big step in that direction.  As I have thought about this on this Thanksgiving morning, some of my stress from Tuesday has started to melt away.  Not all of it, but a lot of it.  It is changing my attitude.  It is changing me.  It is letting me remember why I do what I do and put up with what I put up with.

It is refilling my patience.  That is a feat that is hard to do in the thick of a school year!  I will be honest, it helps that I have a break from school…but I still needed a patience refill!

So, what can we be thankful for as teachers?

I am just going make a quick “Thankful List” for me.  You can be thankful for whatever you need to be thank for…it sounds simplistic, but I think it will make a difference for you as it has for me.  What are you teacher-thankful for?

My Thankful Teacher List

  • I have a job.  That is important.  Not all teachers have one right now.
  • I work at a great school with great teachers.  ‘Nuff said.  🙂
  • I am on the best team of teachers at a school of great teachers.
  • I have wonderful, amazing students.
  • I have students who actually care when I am having a bad day.
  • I have students succeeding in my class who have had little success in school to this point (and I teach 6th grade).
  • I have students whose behavior has improved immensely and they are really starting to take their job as a student seriously.
  • Almost all of my students are interested in science, even if they haven’t been until this year (I teach science).
  • Most of my students work, cause no problems, and are improving in their ability to think and learn on their own.
  • I get to teach science to middle-schoolers, which is an amazing job to have!
  • I have a few students who work hard just because they know I care for them and want them to succeed.
  • Even those giving me a hard time will come around at some point.
  • I work with teachers who will help me become a better teacher.
  • I know I said it already, but I have amazing students.

Wow, I am glad I wrote those out instead of just thinking them.  I feel so much better.  Thankfulness does change you!  Can you do the same?  Write out a list of what you are thankful for in your classroom and with your students.  You don’t have to do it here, but you can if you would like!

Let gratitude change your attitude.

I know that sounds cheesy, but it does work!  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, Teacher!  If you aren’t from the US…Happy Thursday!

You are amazing!  You are awesome!  You are getting through to your students.  Don’t give up!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk

Goodness No!!


Dear Teacher,

Today I want to talk about Pete the Cat (a character in children’s books).

I teach sixth grade, and I know how this post will look to those who teach middle and high school.  Just bare with me, though!  I think the message is a good one.  Please keep reading!  🙂

I have a four, almost five, year-old son.  He is in 4k.  I have been opened up to a whole new world.  A world filled with play-learn stations, camp songs, and kids’ books.  It has been a fun experience.  I never thought it would be life changing.

Last week, I overheard my son being read to by his Nana.  I wasn’t really paying attention until my son blurts out, “GOODNESS NO!”  The way he said it cracked me up, so I listened in.  It turned out to be a great little lesson for me, as a teacher (or human, for that matter).  I read, reread, and read this book to my son since this, and we are often found saying, “Goodness no!” to each other throughout the day.

I thought it would be a great story to share, especially on Friday when most of us reflect on the week.  Give a watch and listen, and the read on.

Did Pete cry?  Goodness no!

I love that!  I really do!

Okay, now that the story is over, what does this have to do with teaching?

We so very often get wrapped up in the “stuff” of teaching.  Our lesson plans.  Our classroom management.  Our pacing.  Our observations.  Our teammate.  Our administrators.  Our classroom materials.  Our pride in teaching.  Our students’ test results.  Our _______________…you fill in the rest.

When we get wrapped up in all of this and something goes wrong, it is so easy to fall into a “freak out” cycle.  We may not cry, but our blood pressure rises.  Our stress headaches start.  Our patience flat-lines.  We start to drop other things that matter because we lost something that has had an elevated priority for us.  We slowly spiral out of control.

We can regain composure and get moving again.  But then when something else goes awry, the cycle starts again.  An easier way to say what the cycle is to say that we “cry.”  Even if there is no tears.

This is, unfortunately, the norm for teachers.  Talk to anyone for a while and you will see that we all have our “buttons” that make us “cry” when we lose them.  We all have things that have become our focus that are important, don’t get me wrong, but still they are misplaced priorities.  We have let ourselves lose focus (which is sounding like a theme for me here the  last couple of weeks).

There are some teachers, though, that are more like Pete the Cat.  Even-keeled.  Stuff does not seem to bother them.  AND they are reaching and teaching students like a champ.

What is their secret?

Do they “cry” when they lose their “buttons?”

GOODNESS NO!

They know that the classroom “stuff” will come and it will go.

They keep on singing their song.

And what is their song about?

Their students.

I have said this a lot lately, but no matter how many times it is said it is never less true.  Students are our goal.  Who they are and what they need.  This determines everything for us.  They are who we are there for.  They are more than “buttons.”  They are the reason for teaching.

So, do we need to cry?

Goodness no!

The other stuff will come and it will go.

The students are our song and we can keep on singing no matter what.

Simplistic?  Easier said than lived out?  Works on paper and hard in reality?  Probably so.  That does not mean it is not true.  That does not mean it is not possible.

You can be “Pete the Cat.”

Keep on singing!

As you look back on the week, what buttons were lost?  Do they matter in the grand scheme of things?  Are you able to keep singing your student song?

You are awesome.  You are Pete the Cat.  Let those buttons go.  They will come and they will go.  Keep on singing, Teacher, and keep on teaching!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Challenge, General Inspiration, Pep Talk, Reason for Teaching, Reflection

The Lost Goal


Dear Teacher,

I am in the trenches with you!  This has been a long week.  I am tired.  I am beat up.  I am worn out.  I am not broken, but I am a little battered.

Do you feel the same way?  If not today, have you recently?

I talk a lot about the pressures and struggles of teaching and the difficulty in finding balance while juggling a thousand things at once.  I won’t remind us of that today.  We know what we have to do.  We know how hard it is.  We don’t need to be re-educated on those things we know oh so well.

I am in a reflective mood.  In this time of reflection, I am thinking a lot about what are really the roots of my frustration right now.  I really don’t think it has anything to do with the students.  I don’t think it is the burden of having so many responsibilities every minute of every day.  I don’t think it is the pressures form above me in the hierarchy of things.  I don’t think it is the content or curriculum.  I don’t think it has much to do with the job of teaching at all.  I think it has everything to do with me.

I don’t think I have focus.

I am not saying that I am not focused as a teacher.  I am not saying that I am not looking to the standards for direction.  I am not saying that I have forgotten my heart for students.  I am not saying I do not see my place in the span of things at my school.  I think I have a focus on all of these things, and everything else that I should.

And therein lies the problem.

The funny thing about focus is that it is very specific and pointed.  When you focus on something, everything around it is slightly more blurry, even if just an imperceptible amount.  You cannot truly have more than one focus.

What you focus on is the center of what you do.  Everything else gets a little less attention and energy.  It has to be this way.  If it is not, then you are not really focused on anything.

When you focus on more than one thing at the same time (or many, many, many things), your energy is scattered.  Your mind is scattered.  Your heart and your soul is scattered.

When you are scattered, you are all over the place.  You cannot sustain that.  It will lead to frustration, heartache, and burnout.  You can not run in more than one direction.  You can not have more than one main goal.  It just is not possible, at least not at the level it takes to be effective and meaningful.

So, that leaves me with the question, “What do I do now, Self?”

I find the goal that matters most.  The goal that I lost along the way.  I make that my focus.  I give that my energy.  I give that my all.

And what is that goal?

I don’t even have to think about the question to answer it.  My students are my goal.  Their growth, maturity, and becoming learners and people that care about other people is what I personally care the most about.  Their who I work for, in essence.  They are my reason for all that I do as a teacher.

What does this mean, then, to what I do day-to-day?

It means I weigh decisions based on what they need.  It means I get to know them so that I know what they need.  I means that I make sure I am not losing them for the sake of lesser goals (like following lesson plans to a “t,” sticking to a strategy that I am told is excellent when it is not working for my students, or staying “on-pace” when my students are falling behind).  It means that I work on finding strategies that work for them.  It means I am willing to have more than one lesson plan for the day because some students need a little more than others.  It means I differentiate,  I means I encourage and affirm them.  It means I write notes, make parent phone calls, and take time to just say, “Hi, how are you doing?”  It means that I never give up.  It means that I find a way to reach each and every one of my students.  No matter what!

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

If I find the lost goal…if I make the old goal my new one…if I commit to keeping my focus where it matters most…I will change the world.  I will change my students.  I will change myself.

I don’t know if this rang true to you, but it is an open and honest reflection for me.  This was needed.  Thanks for reading if you made it this far!  Do you need to readjust your focus, too?  Join me in doing that today!

You are awesome!  If you are here, it is because you are trying to be the best teacher you can be and looking for a boost of encouragement to keep up the fight.  I hope you found that today.  You deserve to be encouraged!  You are a great, awesome, and amazing teacher!  Your students are your goal.  They are what really matter.  Keep going.  Keep fighting.  Keep making that difference!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher