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!

 

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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

The Reset Button


Dear Teacher,

I hope that you are finally on break now.  If not, I hope today is your last day!  You need it!  You deserve a little break.

Today’s message is going to start a little differently than most.  I want to reflect a little on my childhood.  Keep reading, though.  There is a point that brings it all back to teaching.  🙂

I grew up in the golden age of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  It was the most wonderful thing in the world to me.  You could have adventures, solve mysteries, and just have tons of fun.  It was great!

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Well…it was great for a while.

After a few years, it started to run a little slower.  Before too long, it started having trouble starting the games.  This happened to almost everyone I knew.  We had to blow into the games.  We had to find creative ways to slide the games in.  We had to hope against hope every time we pressed the power button.

Near the end of the life of the NES, you got to know the reset button very, very well.

Each time the game messed up, we pressed reset.

When the game froze up, we pressed reset.

Oh, and there is also the we-did-not-do-so-well-in-the-game times, and we pressed reset.

Reset.  Reset.  Reset.  It was the stand-by that we always went to.

Well, Teacher, you are more than a game system, but you, too get worn down.  You are tired.  You are mentally exhausted.  You are emotionally worn out.

Sometimes, the game messes up on you.  Sometime teaching “freezes” up on you.  Sometimes you are not just doing very well.  These are especially true this time of year and most definitely this year…it has been a rough one for almost every teacher I have talked to.

You need what we relied on with the NES…you need a reset.

Winter break is our reset button built into the year.

I really do think that is the main reason that we need it.  We all need a reset here at the almost school year half-time.

We need a break.  We need a refresh.  We need the hope of a fresh start in the year.

That is what you need.  Don’t forget it.

The holidays are great!  Take the time to reconnect with friends and family.  Do all of the fun, holiday things.  That is all a part of it.  Just do me a favor and don’t forget about you.

Take some down time.

Do something you love doing.

TAKE A BREAK!

Just be.

Refresh teacher.

Hit that reset button…what ever that looks like for you.

Teacher, I hope you have a tremendous break and happy holidays!  Just remember that you need to recharge.  Don’t forget to reset.

You are awesome!  I know that you will take some time for you.  You are doing a great job this year, even if it does not always feel that way.  You really are making a difference!  Reset and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Ordinary Teaching Makes Extraordinary Teachers


Dear Teacher,

I don’t know what kind of day you have had or week you are having, but I want to encourage you.  Keep doing those every day things that you do.  The every-day adds up.  It is the day-to-day that builds into your awesomeness.

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (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!

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (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!

You don’t hear “thank you” enough.  So let me thank you.

Thank you, Teacher.  You do what needs to be done.  You are changing the future one day at a time.  You are awesome!  Never give up!  Keep on teaching and turning the ordinary into extraordinary!

Love, Teacher

(Unspoken) Words from Your Students


Dear Teacher,

You are amazing.  You know that, right?  You give your students what they need before they need it.  Almost like magic!

You work hard.  You make choices for the best that students disagree with.  You are patient.  You are kind.  You are nice.  Even when you don’t feel like you can be.

You will seldom be thanked…especially by the toughest of students.

They will appreciate what you have done and are doing…one day.

They do not always have the words now to tell you.

So…this note is for you.  Here are the words (unspoken) that your students aren’t ready or can’t say yet.  They are still true.

Take them to heart.  Be encouraged.  Let a smile rise to your lips.  It is okay.  You can feel the pride.  You deserve it!

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (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!

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (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!

Don’t give up!  Do all that you do and keep doing it well.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!  You are AWESOME!

Love, Teacher

PS…Pass this one one to a teacher that you know needs to hear this!  Also, please comment with a story about a time a student has been able to thank you for your hard work for them.  🙂

It’s Go Time…


Dear Teacher,

Movie break.  This one of my favorite scenes from the movie Tommy Boy.  Give it a quick watch and then read.  I promise, there is a point.  

“Why did I just watch this?”

I will be honest, when I went to write, I had this idea of writing about Monday being “Go Time” for teachers and I went looking for the scene when it was said in this movie.  However, watching the clip brought a message to mind for me that I need to hear (even if it is hearing it from myself).  This clip has a lot to do with teaching.

So often we feel like things are going well in a class or all of our classes.  We have done all of the right things, as far as we know.  We are using the best strategies.  We are integrating.  We are differentiating.  We are rigorizing (yes, I just made up a word).  We are doing everything a teacher should be doing…then…

BOOM!

Something hits us out of left field and destroys the classroom peace and joy that we thought we had.  It could be a student meltdown.  It could be a parent issue.  I could be an administration situation.  It could be a number of things that suddenly send us in a tailspin and weave us all over our little teaching road.

Before we know it we are in a fight for our teaching lives.

Then the chaos dies down.

We survived.

The dust settles.

Blame gets assigned.

Usually, the fight is with ourselves.  What did we do wrong?  What could we have done different?  Why did we not think of the issue that happened?  So on and so on and so on.

Sometimes the fight is with others.  A power struggle with students.  A disagreement with parents.  An accusation from administration or other teachers.

Who ever the fight is with, it usually starts at the blame game.

The part of the scene that hits me the most is when Tommy said, “I am trying my best.  I am not my dad.”

How often do we feel that way?  Okay, probably not the “dad” part, but we do compare ourselves to others, especially to the teachers that seem to make being a great teacher look easy.

When we get to that point where we feel like we can’t do better than we are because we are trying “our best” is when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and think before we act. 

This is where we are most defensive.  Because of that, we are also at the point when we can be the most stupid.  In this movie scene there was a literal fight.  But in teaching we can make bad choices when we feel this way…choices we may regret later.

Our “go time” needs to be different.

We need to make choices that will help and not hurt the situation.  Choices that we can learn from.  Choices that our students will see and learn from.  Choices that will help us not get to this point in the future.

Sorry for the vagueness here, but every has different situations and triggers that get us to this point in teaching on any given day.

Luckily, the solutions are pretty much the same for most scenarios.  

There are some steps to take to help us get in the right state of mind.

  1. Like I said, pause and breathe.  Most of the time, reacting immediately leads to those poor choices mentioned.
  2. Remind yourself that it is not as bad as it feels.  In the moment, things are blown out of proportion.  You need to keep them in perspective…even if the other person/people isn’t/aren’t.  When everything is sorted out in the end, you never regret having kept thing in perspective…but you almost always regret not doing this.
  3. Remember why you teach.  When the going gets tough, it is easy to forget that you actually love teaching.  Look for the silver lining or just remember that teaching is your passion…the little hiccups to teaching are always short and small in the long run.
  4. Take as much time as you can.  Delay making a decision or action on the situation as long as you can.  Be like the Ents in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The Ents are tree-based characters and they are known for the lack of moving quickly.  They try to never be hasty.  One of their leaders, Treebeard, said in the book The Two Towers, “But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it.”  When you move to quickly, your choices lead to more.  Stop and stay stopped before you move.  It really is much easier to say stop than actually do it once you are moving.
  5. Put the students and their needs first.  When you come to decision time, focus on the student/students.  What do they need most from the situation.  How can you turn a negative into a positive for them.

If you try to take these steps, your “go time” will be well thought out and meaningful in the end for all that are involved.

Teacher, things come up.  We face hard times.  Never forget that you love teaching, and the hard times never last forever.  The tough things will pass eventually.  Keep on teaching your teaching best, even in spite of the difficulties sometimes.

You are so awesome!  I know that the challenges don’t keep you down long.  I know that with every “go time” you have you get better and better at doing them well.  I sincerely hope that you have the best day ever!  Never give up and always keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

A Message for Those Rainy Days


(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)